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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The devastating floods in Pakistan

Pakistan is in the midst of a humanitarian disaster after extreme flooding prompted by "monster monsoon" rain this summer has led to a staggering number of casualties and damage, as well as stunning building collapses throughout the country.

Pakistan is going through extremely high inflation and price hike for about three years due to the Coronavirus followed by the Ukraine War, the trade war between the US and China, climate change, and extreme political polarization and political instability. The whole world is suffering from man-made and natural catastrophes.

Pakistan’s economy is running on foreign loans, and the government is striving hard to save the country from default and bankruptcy.

Read more: Flash floods and food shortages: issuing import permits for onions and tomatoes

The poor are groaning under the ever-increasing weight of poverty and the lower middle class is finding it difficult to make two ends meet. The middle class is also hard-pressed since it is becoming difficult for them to run their household expenses, pay heavy utility bills and meet the cost of expensive fuel. The upper class including the big business tycoons as usual are indifferent and are concerned about the margin of profit only.

The heavy rains and floods have devastated the country

The destruction caused is much bigger than what was incurred in the 1999 to 2003 drought, 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods.

About 1100 have died and over 1500 injured. 2,18000 houses were destroyed, 452000 were damaged, and some villages were completely swept away. Two million acres of crops and orchards have come under inundation, and 7,93,900 livestock died. 3000 km of roads and 145 bridges as well as some dams destroyed or damaged. 5773063 people have got affected by the rains and floods.

The civil administration has almost collapsed. The provincial PDMAs lack the capacity and resources to deal with the natural calamity.

The assistance of the armed forces, philanthropists, donors and the international community is seeking to help Pakistan in its hour of distress.

The response of the armed forces, in which the army is playing a pivotal role is praiseworthy. The army chief and other senior army officers visited the calamity-stricken areas to cheer them up and that they are not alone in their hour of grief. The NDMA is working zealously round the clock. Gen Bajwa made an appeal to all the local influentials, Pakistan ex-pats and friendly countries to provide assistance. The PM also undertook visits to the flood-affected sites and gave a Rs 250 billion grant with Rs 25000 to each affected family, and a Rs 10 billion grant to Baluchistan.

Relief camps and medical camps have been established by the Army, Navy, PAF, charity groups and volunteers all over the country.

Read more: Lessons from 2022 floods in Pakistan

Apart from vehicles, rescue and relief operations are being done by using helicopters. All the marooned people have been rescued and shifted to safe areas.

Some of the helicopter rescue missions were beyond dangerous

The doctors in camps are providing medical aid for 24 hours. 51276 people have been rescued and 498442 people sheltered in relief camps.

The response of the world community is encouraging. China has so far provided Rs 15 million and has promised to provide all-out support to the flood victims. Azerbaijan has donated Rs 440 million, UAE sent 16 planeloads of goods for support. Turkey has also sent planeloads.

The USA, Canada and France have announced support, our ex-pats in the US are raising funds, and Imran khan’s telethon has also collected large funds. PCB is donating funds, the donors, philanthropists, business communities, charity groups with AlKhidmat in the lead, veterans groups and the general public are generously donating funds, rations, tents and items of clothing. Many have offered their vacant farmhouses, schools and mansions for the shelter less.

While the rescue operations are almost over and the people living in relief camps are being looked after, their rehabilitation process will be very long. Even all the families that were uprooted in the 2010 floods have so far not been completely rehabilitated.

Pakistanis once again proved their generosity

The spirit of the people of Pakistan during testing times is amazing and deserves kudos. Even the poor are making donations.

Notwithstanding the spirit and the generosity of the people, what is painful is that our leaders do not learn lessons from history. No lesson was learned from the 2010 floods, in spite of the NDMA’s detailed report including long-term recommendations on what to do. No action was taken.

Unlike earthquakes which are unpredictable and occur without warning, floods are predictable. The systems in place provide early warning for the incoming heavy rains, floods, cyclones and blizzards to undertake protective measures.

Read more: Stop blaming God, environment, and India for floods in Pakistan

Pakistan, not being a riparian country and blessed with five rivers, faces heavy rains and floods in each monsoon. The gravity varies. The vulnerable spots are the Northern Areas, parts of KP, South Punjab, interior Sindh and Balochistan.

The civil administration and flood control organizations have been going through flood relief operations for a long time but have so far not been able to build their capacities and haven’t streamlined their drills and skilled responses. Each time, they raise their hands and seek the support of the military to carry out flood relief operations for which none of the services is trained and equipped.

Whenever there is a natural calamity, human and material losses are huge and Pakistan appeals to the international community for material assistance.

The rehabilitation work is done at a leisurely pace and most of the work is again done by the military. ERRA had been created after the 2005 earthquake to resettle the affected families.

Politics amidst calamity

Who doesn’t know that dams are one of the remedies to combat high floods? Who can deny that Kalabagh Dam (KBD) by virtue of its location and technical feasibility is the best option to contain floods and meet our energy needs?

The ANP in KPK and the nationalists in Sindh have doggedly opposed KBD. ANP leaders threatened to blow it up and the nationalists including the PPP said that the Sindh lands would dry up and Palla fish would die.

The Pakhtoons say that Nowshera would drown in water if KBD is built and have stuck to this myth in spite of the fact that the city had come under water in 2010 flood water. This time a whole lot of people had to abandon the city in the nick of time, thanks to the singlehanded effort of a lady before the water gushed in.

Read more: FM Bilawal requests funding from the IMF to combat floods

The Sindhis have been brainwashed by the Waderas to the extent that they are convinced that the KBD would deprive Sindh of its rightful share of water. In the current floods, Sindh has got much more water in one go than their due share.

KBD has no bearing on Balochistan, but the Baloch nationalists, under the influence of India, teamed up with the opposers. The provincial assemblies of the three smaller provinces passed resolutions against the dam, well knowing that Pakistan was becoming a water-scarce country and all its arid lands would become barren.

None raised any objections to the dozens of dams built by India over the three Pakistan-specific rivers and their impact on Pakistan.

Gen Zia ul Haq and Gen Musharraf had all the levers of power, time and resources to build KBD but they wilted under political pressure. Imran Khan has emerged as the most popular leader in 2018, fast-tracked 7 dams excluding KBD, but those would be completed by 2028.

There is no secret that India from day one has been hatching one conspiracy after another and devising plans to undo Pakistan. Modi and his henchmen stated several times that Pakistan will be split into three parts. It has used various methods to destabilize and unravel Pakistan.

Other than wars, conflicts, military standoffs and economic coercion, India has been using proxies and hybrid war to achieve its sinister objectives.

In addition, it is resorting to water terrorism to force Pakistan to bend down and accept its hegemony. More than 60 small and big dams have been built over the three western rivers in complete violation of the Indus Basin Treaty signed in 1960.

India is now in a comfortable position to stop the water flow in the three rivers or to flood them both in peacetime and in war. It is a potent blackmailing weapon in India’s arsenal.

Well aware of its wicked designs and dangerous plans, it will not be out of place to suspect that India might have opened the gates of the dams in IOK intentionally at a time when Pakistan is facing multiple crises. India is infamous for exploiting each and every opportunity to inflict pain on Pakistan.

India, being the arch-rival of Pakistan, which has not reconciled with its existence, will continue with its malicious acts. What is important is what our responses are to counter India’s overt and covert threats.

While the military threat has to some extent been taken care of by Pak armed forces equipped with conventional and nuclear power potential, Pakistan has so far not done much against covert operations aimed at subversion and cloning of minds which are much more threatening.

Read more: How the floods caused heavy damages to Pakistan

We are deeply concerned about the hybrid war which is multi-dimensional, but little has been done at the national level to checkmate its negative fallout effects.

Above all, the behavior and conduct of the elite class, the politicians, bureaucrats, Waderas, feudal lords and Mullahs leave much to be desired. In these trying days, three delegations were on official visits abroad enjoying the hospitality of their hosts. IK is collecting funds for the flood affectees but he refused to withhold jalsas and continues to throw stings and arrows against his opponents. The PTI leaders and Shaukat Tareen played dirty by scheming to stop the IMF from providing much-needed financial installment.

There has been no let-up in political vendetta, with each side registering FIRs and making arrests. There is little scope for political reconciliation since the PTI refuses to sit down and have a dialogue with the government unless it announces the election date. Government is desperate to remain in power and the PTI is hungry to regain power.

In the ongoing power tussle, there is little attention to the large segment of the society who have lost their homes and hearths and their means of livelihood.

Several cases have occurred wherein the bigwigs in Sindh were caught stealing the relief goods and storing them in their godowns. The poor tenants in Sindh were told to swear by Qur’an to vote for the PPP to get aid. Some influential families in Sindh were found saving their agricultural lands and orchards by diverting the flood water towards the nearby villages. All these are inhuman and criminal acts but the rich are above the law and cannot be touched.

Read more: Why PTI refuses to suspend its political activities despite floods

The delusion of Naya Pakistan has gone into oblivion and we are back into the moth-eaten Old Pakistan in which the vultures have a field day and the have-nots are at their mercy.

May Allah bless Pakistan and protect it from all natural and man-made catastrophes, and the termites eating up the vitals of Pakistan.

 

 

The writer is a retired Brig Gen, a war veteran. He took part in the battle of Hilli. He is also a defense & security analyst, an international columnist, and author of five books. His sixth book is under publication. The writer is also the Chairman of Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS. He can be reached at:  asifharoonraja@gmail.com.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.