After a week of wrangling with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, on August 19, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced the formation of the National Oversight Disaster Management Council (NODMC). The body will be jointly appointed by the provinces and the federal government and oversee all relief and rehabilitation efforts. The decision to set up the NODMC was obviously influenced by what the UN has called Pakistan’s “image problem”. Still, the creation of the agency simply adds another layer of bureaucracy without ensuring transparency.
Earlier accounts in the media suggested that the prime minister had been advised that flood relief work should be carried out by the National Disaster Management Commission. In many ways this still makes sense. The setting up of new bodies when these exist already amounts to wasting precious resources. Of course, ideally speaking, there should be no need to set up any commission because, after all, there is a government in place and it has all the resources at its disposal that a commission would. And the best way to deal with the ‘image’ problem would have been for the government to get on with the job that it has been elected — i.e. to provide relief and aid to those affected. After all, no better organisation or institution is suited for this kind of job than the government itself. Yes it may be riddled with corruption and inefficiency but having an altogether new mechanism in place is not really going to help because no single body or institution can replace the role of the government. Having said that, if the idea behind the commission is to lend some credibility to the government’s overall relief, aid-gathering and disbursal process then one can understand such compulsions. The scale of the crisis means it is important political parties work together and that everything possible be done to avoid discord. This also implies that all efforts should be streamlined and coordinated to prevent duplication and ensure quick delivery of relief to those who are in genuine need of it.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2010.
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