Hunza's internally displaced people


May 23, 2010

The prime minister’s trip to Hunza, to meet displaced persons and take an aerial look at the lake that has unexpectedly disrupted their lives, constitutes a positive step. It conveys to the terrified people that they have not been completely abandoned and the government has an interest in their welfare and safety. But we must hope that the promises of compensation and assistance made by the PM are delivered. In the past such offers have often not been followed up on in practical terms and forgotten days after they were made. The persons displaced from Hunza-Nagar need immediate help. Many have been forced to leave homes that have been rapidly disappearing under water with only a miniscule proportion of their possessions. They need clothes, medicines and food delivered in a manner that is respectful of their dignity and their agony. There have been reports of those who are ill and women who are expecting in urgent need of medical aid. At present many people have moved in with relatives.

The unique construction of Hunza homes, with only a single central room housing on average five to seven people, makes the influx of new persons especially problematic. People complain of extremely poor facilities at the 18 camps set up for the displaced. These issues too need to be addressed practically and with sensitivity.

For the future the focus must also be on rehabilitating people. It is unclear if submerged villages can be rescued or areas prone to landslides made safer. But experts need to be called upon to look at these questions, so that in the weeks ahead a plan for the displaced people of Hunza can be worked out with their active participation as well as that of the NGOs and development organisations that work there.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2010.

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COMMENTS (2)

Arsalan Leghari | 10 years ago | Reply I hope the tragey ends soon.
Waqar Raja | 10 years ago | Reply Unfortunately, each passing moment is adding to the problems of affected people of Hunza. Despite the commitment made by the PM himself, it is not a simple task that can be completed in a week’s time. To handle this massive issue of rehabilitation of large number of people in an inhospitable terrain and weather and in the absence of an effective Disaster Management Organization, I think it is a nightmare. If we recall, prior to earthquake of October 2005, National Crises Management Cell (NCMC) under Ministry of Interior (MOI) assisted by Emergency Relief Cell (ERC) and Civil Defense etc, was responsible to handle national emergencies and disasters. During October 2005, ineffectiveness of this organization led to the creation of Army dominated Federal Relief Commission (FRC) which was subsequently subsumed into Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority (ERRA). While ERRA was entrusted to continue in the region affected by earthquake and soon National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was created to have one organization at the national level to handle all national emergencies and disasters. However, all these organizations except FRC/ERRA failed to deliver efficiently. The success of FRC/ ERRA can be attributed to Pakistan Army whose whole hearted contribution by providing a Corps size troops and by undertaking the biggest ever aviation operation in support of nation made the difference. On one hand I am totally opposed to Army’s intervention in other national matters except for the defense, nevertheless, I support their role in national emergencies in addition to their primary role. After all, armies are meant to support nations in times of crises. Also, our history reveals that that in all the national emergencies if there was no direct involvement of Pakistan Army there was barely any success. Current crises at Hunza involves a Relief package for the people, a comprehensively worked out Early Recovery Plan so life is run at normal until opportunities return to usual and an extensively thought out Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Plan worked out to finish in minimum possible time. This all is not as simple as it appears. It cannot be done in a week’s time. It is dependent on a combination of skill, community participation and a greater Civil and military Cooperation if we want to rehabilitate our brothers and sisters in an earlier timeframe. I fully understand that Kayani,s hands are already full, but an Army Chief is suppose to cater for such eventualities and I am sure a man like him must have already thought about it. Finally, I request Express Tribune to help us in knowing the truth of: • Why have so many different organizations under a single roof and with a same purpose to manage disasters and emergencies? • Why NDMA is yet to become effective?
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