August Issue 2010

By | Editorial | Opinion | Pakistan Floods 2010 | Published 10 years ago

The MQM is in the PPP-led ruling coalition, as is the ANP. Yet over 55 people were killed, more than 155 people injured and several shops, buses and cars torched in two days of ‘mourning’ following the murder of an MQM parliamentarian from Sindh.

If those ensconced in the portals of power indulge in acts of violence and lawlessness themselves, incurring a loss of Rs 3 billion to their own city, which is also the country’s economic hub, they should be asked to tender their resignations en masse, with immediate effect.

Karachi has suffered enough as a consequence of the tussle between these various mafias that are being backed by their masters in the ruling coalition.

Instead of engaging in turf wars in Karachi, the MQM and the ANP should have been helping the victims of the worst floods in Pakistan’s history. Nearly 1,400 people have lost their lives and tens of thousands rendered homeless and penniless. There were heart-rending stories of deluged families going without food and drinking water for days, with some taking shelter on the roofs of their houses. TV channels continued to air distress calls from the mobiles of the marooned.

The floods, once again, brought to the fore the state of “preparedness” of the National Disaster Management Authority and the inadequateness of other relief agencies. As always, they were caught unawares and wanting.

This chaotic response to emergency situations in Pakistan was also in evidence at the site of the Airblue crash. Had the area been cordoned off, neighbouring villagers would not have been able to walk off with the valuables (gold bangles, rings, chains, etc.) and mobiles of the dead.

The scene was worse at PIMS, where the bodies from the airplane disaster were being brought. There was no information desk to assist the grieving relatives who didn’t know who to approach to secure possession of the bodies of their dear ones and where to go for DNA tests to help in the identification process of the remains that were charred beyond recognition.

Adding to the confusion were dozens of cameras zooming in on the body bags, and TV anchors blocking the passage of the hospital staff, demanding sound bites and, worse still, censuring them as they tried to cope with a difficult and traumatic situation. And that was not all. They thrust cameras and mikes in the faces of grieving family members and wanted to know how they felt? (“Aap kay taasuraat kiya hain?”)

How is one expected to feel when one has lost a parent, a sibling, a spouse or a child in an unexpected plane crash? When will these rising stars of the electronic media learn to show some respect and empathy for those in mourning and stop asking silly questions?

There is a way of addressing tragedy, disaster and violence. And it is unfortunate that those who need to be the most sensitive at such times — the journalists, the parliamentarians, the political parties and the public — end up being the most insensitive.

The August issue of Newsline is on newsstands now. Get your copy today.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.