Pakistan Disaster Relief Management

in Relief
Islamabad Nothing should be more disconcerting and humiliating than to have a donor show distrust in ones ability to deal humanely and fairly with those stricken by a natural disaster that has wiped out their homesteads and their livelihood. For Pakistan this is a disaster twice compounded with the Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani not helping matters by confirming that money given by donors for distribution as relief would be siphoned off by the distributors. He was clearly accusing the NGOs, many of them front organisations for religious groups including those whose main mission is to promote jihad.

That these organizations did not cover themselves with glory during the earthquake of 2005 is a matter of record but that none of them has been brought to accounting is also a glaring fact. These are institutions that government has banned and watched as they metamorphosed into other entities with new names but old agendas.

They are products of the Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence who uses them to spread terror in the immediate vicinity in India and Afghanistan in the name of religion and are behind the targeted killings of Shias and minorities. How does one expect such organizations to be equitable in the distribution of the necessities of life to persons and whole families rendered wretched by the widespread flooding in almost all corners of Pakistan.

The National Disaster Management Authority has been pilloried for failing miserably to contain the damage even after being forewarned by the Met Department that this year rainfall would be well above normal. The organization set up after the earthquake has yet to find its feet and perhaps several types of disasters will give it experience and confidence to deal better with disasters both in the preventive stage and in the amelioration of its effects.

But it is still difficult to see how the NDMA could prevent the massive destruction of river training works like bunds, ditch and earthworks by influential landlords who ripped these up to ensure that their own properties were not inundated . Most of these landlords are politicians belonging to either the Pakistans Peoples Party of President Asif Ali Zardari or the Pakistan Muslim League of Mian Nawaz Sharif. Worse, and this was noted by the Senator from Balochistan, protective bunds were deliberately breached so as to send the floodwaters into Balochistan. Someone was clearly trying to get even with the Baloch tribes for supporting the Balochistan National Army which regularly blows up the pipelines carrying gas out of the Sui gasfield to Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (formerly NWFP) causing frequent and long blackouts throughout Pakistan.

It is not without significance that the Pakistan Army has cornered praise and encomiums for its handling of the disaster evacuation and provision relief. It has made full political capital of the fact that it controls some of the best earthmoving and disaster management equipment that money can buy because the taxpayer and foreign donors have been overly generous in keeping the Pakistan armed forces happy.

As the influential daily DAWN has pointed out collecting charity for flood relief should be the exclusive responsibility of the Government but as it pointed out one sees the Pakistan Army floating its own fund to collect money for flood relief which speaks volumes for its intent and purpose,

As DAWN pointed out Political parties of every hue and that includes both the PPP and the PML-N apparently want direct access to flood relief funds so that they can build up their political capital. They want to be seen as the people personally handing over money because that could win votes at the next election. This is how political parties work but what is the Pakistan Armys agenda?

Rehabilitation is going to be a major activity in Pakistan over the next six months and all the four provinces are clamouring for a fair share of whatever is coming in from foreign sources, the UN and from private donations such as the money being collected at the PMs House and funds set up by the Speaker of the National Assembly, and the Punjab Chief Minister. Nobody dare ask how much and where the Pakistan Army will spend what it is collecting.

Pakistan is at a juncture where the world does not trust its government and its politicians with the money they donate for disaster relief . Simultaneously, each province in Pakistan has made it clear that it does not trust the Central government in Islamabad to be equitable in the distribution of all that is being delivered by way of assistance for the flood ravaged.

That is why it was suggested that a Council of Common Interests comprising eminent non-political personalities to oversee the allocation and monitor the utilization of flood relief funds and food and reconstruction material be set up.

Nobody trusts anyone to do what is right in Pakistan. Strange.
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Suryakant writes about Indo-Pak conflict, for more info on India Pakistan conflict log on to http://www.himalayanaffairs.org/

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Pakistan Disaster Relief Management

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This article was published on 2010/10/22
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