Though humans might have little control over natural disasters, the centuries of encounters have equipped a modern man with effective disaster management strategies. Proactive disaster and risk reduction strategies are established keys for keeping the losses of disasters at a minimum. Empathetic leadership as well as swift relief, rescue and rehabilitation response ward off humanitarian tragedies in countries across the globe. However, ossified incompetency and epic mismanagement characterise Pakistan’s disaster management history, as no amount of calamities could dare teach the country’s leadership the lesson of pragmatism.
Unlike the world where stakeholders do not back down from risking their lives for their people, Pakistani leadership prioritises toxic politics, wealth and power over anything else. Now that the flood is ravaging almost every nook and cranny, the apathetic government response has been adding to the wreckage and human tragedies. People’s lives, hard-earned possessions and sources of livelihood have been destroyed — as if they are none of the ruling elite’s business. It’s always the disadvantaged subjects that suffer implications of natural disasters and incompetency. Ironically, the country’s elite is the ultimate beneficiary of the catastrophes.
Disasters multiply the challenges of the leadership around the world, but the same adds up to the riches of our ruling elite. This is also evident from the fact that instead of altruistically assisting the flood victims of their respective constituencies, the aristocratic class displays the agonising plight of the victims to attract more international aid. Most of the funds, relief goods and rehabilitation projects end up in the bottomless pockets of electable, feudal and bureaucratic henchmen. Whatever little that luckily escapes heist goes to the pressure groups comprising local media factions, sycophants, clergy and officialdom. The country, in general, and Sindh, in particular, are notorious for these ghastly practices. The hapless victims almost get nothing except what altruistic individuals and organisations directly hand over them. The inclusive relief services of the JDC Foundation are worth mentioning.
Apart from being opportunists, the country’s power elite is the epitome of callousness. They have billions for bargaining into power through trading electable, but nothing to help the poor in navigating the troubled waters. They finance conveyance for hundreds of thousands of followers in their political rallies from public exchequer, but none for the stranded souls left at the mercy of raging waves of water. The heart-wrenching death of five persons in KP and the stranded people of Johi and Khairpur Nathan Shah are the two instances of epic apathy of our leadership towards the countryman.
Duplicity is yet another inextricable trait of our hybrid elite who specialise in masking their incompetency and criminal negligence under falsified narratives. They display the hypocrisy of the finest type in tracing the causes of the havoc: for the rational and scientific world; they blame climate change; for innocent and systematically subjugated masses, they peddle conspiracy theories framed around religion and superstition.
For instance, ‘divine wrath’ as retribution for the underprivileged’s sin is one of the most popular rhetoric during calamities in the country. By so doing, the responsible authorities absolve themselves of public accountability. Moreover, such narratives exonerate the elite-owned and sponsored ruthless encroachments in the natural flows of the waterways and mismanagement, resulting in the periodic flash flooding. This keeps the chronic dynastic and hybrid elite glued to the power corridor almost unchallenged.
However, the continuing flood mismanagement should serve as a wake-up call to our dead political conscious. The coming general elections should serve as the elections of public accountability. Only compassionate and competent leadership can lead the country towards sustainable prosperity and security.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2022.
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