Editorial Note: For the last few months I have been responsible for Thursday posts at Homeland Security Watch. Starting this week I will begin posting on Friday. But I am sometimes impatient. Below is a Tuesday editorial from DAWN – a leading newspaper in Pakistan — it captures what has been on my mind and is so much more credible than anything I would offer. The consequences of the floods are still morphing. The strategic implications of the floods — as well as the very tough human outcomes – are still emerging. Shame on us if we do not engage the emergency while it might still be channeled in a roughly positive direction. If catastrophe is what emerges and we have failed to do what we could — when we could — what would this prove regarding our commitment to justice or care for neighbor or, more simply, a reasonably cynical recognition of near-term self-interest?
The lead editorial in the Tuesday, October 5 edition of DAWN
THE FORGOTTEN FLOODS
This summer the worst humanitarian crisis to have hit Pakistan — a country which has seen earthquakes, floods, droughts, insurgencies small and large and the loss of territory to date — in its entire history took place. But listen to the comments of politicians, glance through a newspaper or watch the news on television and it would seem like nothing of the sort took place over the summer.
Instead, political non-events, a judiciary-executive ‘clash’, a sporting scandal and sundry other, more minor, issues have combined to push the floods and their aftermath off the national radar. Where once politicians rushed to be seen among the ‘20-million’ flood victims, where TV anchors jostled to report breathlessly on the damage caused to hundreds of thousands of homes and rural infrastructure, where newspapers reported gravely on the destruction of millions of acres of standing crops and hundreds of thousands of livestock lost, now there is nothing. And ‘nothing’ is really not an understatement.
With the floodwaters having receded in most areas, excluding some significant parts in downstream Sindh, the emergency relief phase ought to be moving into the medium- and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction phases in most flood-hit parts. But Pakistanis at large, other than the actual victims of the floods one presumes, know very little about what is being done by the state or international aid agencies or even the private sector here. It is as if the greatest natural disaster to hit this country, or most other countries for that matter, never really happened. Surely, with the nation’s attention diverted towards the theatre (or is it farce?) of politics in Islamabad, the on-ground realities of the flood victims and their future is being adversely impacted. To say this is not gratuitous criticism, but to know that even where the full attention of the state and society is applied to a problem, the desired outcomes are rarely achieved.
The point here is not to specifically criticise a particular government, a broken bureaucracy, an apathetic state, a disillusioned public or a cynical media. It is a collective failure that something so spectacularly disastrous as the floods was unable to jolt nation and state into paying close attention for more than a few weeks. The failure here is of the national consciousness. Investing in improving the human condition, especially of the underclass, has never been a priority in Pakistan, be it in terms of health and educational facilities, economic opportunities or life-saving interventions to recover from disasters, natural and man-made. State and society need a radical reorientation, a revolution of the mind, as it were, more than of the system.