September Issue 2010

By | Editorial | Opinion | Pakistan Floods 2010 | Published 14 years ago

The recent floods in Pakistan have been described by the UN as the worst disaster in human history, eclipsing the 2004 tsunami that killed 220,000 across Asia, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. And yet, international response to these floods has been slow in coming and much less than in the case of the other disasters.

The reason is not hard to find. This government suffers from a major crisis of credibility. When the president of this country traipses off to London and France for no apparent gains — unless you count the shoe-throwing incident as one — at state expense, abandoning his beleaguered nation in its hour of need, what message does it send across the world?

Further, if the country’s first lady can shop 40 cartons full at Harrods and then have the national airline (which is reportedly facing a severe financial crunch) fly them to Islamabad without paying a penny in freight, why should the donors pitch in? A country that boasts people who own chalets in France and shop at London’s most ritzy store should be dipping deep into their pockets before going around with a begging bowl.

As if the leaders hadn’t done enough to drag Pakistan down, our cricket heroes have queered the pitch further — and this in the UK, a country that has committed 64 million dollars for flood relief.

The News of the World accusations of spot-fixing at Lord’s against four of Pakistan’s best players — one of whom has been cleared for now — couldn’t have come at a worse time. Cricket is a sport that has revved up and united the nation in times of despondency, such as the present, so this allegation comes as a severe blow.

But it should not come as a surprise. Pakistani cricketers have been allowed to get away with match-fixing, doping, misbehaving, politicking and much more. Pleas for strict accountability are coming in from all quarters. And this must be done at all costs. However, some livid fans, in anger or jest, have recommended that they be shipped to Sialkot.

Our anger with cricketers aside, let us not forget that the Sialkot incident is never to be treated lightly. It was not exactly our moment of glory. Far from it — the grotesqueness of it remains etched in memory. Hundreds of shameless men watched two teenaged brothers being lynched ­— for an alleged crime — in the most ruthless manner, paraded through the streets of Sialkot and then hung upside down. No one protested, no one intervened; even the custodians of law (several cops, including an SHO) stood by impotently. The DPO stayed put in his office till the crime was over. What does it say for the moral fibre of a nation?

One expatriate Pakistani e-mailed a channel to ask why anyone should contribute to flood relief to save Pakistanis when they were, in any case, killing each other.

A harsh reaction, but an understandable one when one looks at the sordid headlines Pakistanis are making — the latest being the three suicide attacks on a Shia procession in Lahore on the 21st of Ramadan in which 37 people died and nearly 300 were injured. Instead of brushing aside these incidents as a conspiracy against Pakistan, we need to take a long hard look at ourselves and acknowledge our own acts of omission and commission. Or soon we may be living out the nightmare of a failed state.

The floods have brought out the best and the worst in us. Let us nurture the best to avert that nightmare.

The September issue of Newsline is now available at bookshops and newsstands across Pakistan.

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