As the flood kept on ravaging Pakistan’s provinces relentlessly – and especially Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa more violently of late – rather than fully committing to the task of providing urgent shelter and food to the flood affectees, the federal and KP finance ministries were busy elsewhere: shooting arrows at each other.
The surfacing of such ugly political developments in the midst of a deluge of biblical proportions makes one think that the greed of the politicians retained its vitality even when the people were in such deep misery. Although the supporters of such two-faced politicians easily forget their idols’ faults, their leaders can’t see beyond their own self or think beyond their own vested interests.
Sadly, the much-needed IMF loan program for the attainment of which the current government struggled arduously, faced a momentary barrier when KP’s finance minister Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra was accused by the federal finance minister Miftah Ismail of sending a letter to the IMF to sabotage the deal which was close to being finalized. This row was followed by the harmful audio leaks of the former finance minister Shaukat Tarin. However, the deal was saved despite the attempts being made to sabotage it and the IMF approved the disbursement of a $1.1 billion tranche for Pakistan.
Pakistan has reached the age of 75 while seeing a corrupt political environment ever worsening. Before this latest Jhagra-Miftah-Tarin fracas, Pakistan’s history has been a witness to many such dishonest games-of-interest. One can’t forget the politicising of the Covid-19 pandemic. The opposition used the government’s coping with the viral outbreak as a weapon for weakening the party in government, claiming that the government failed in containing it; while the government used draconian measures in the name of containing the virus to silence the opposition which would have been hard for it had the coronavirus not presented itself. This is how a crisis is handled in Pakistan.
Not only this, but when rations were given out to the people in the flood affected regions of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab, the drive looked more of a photo-shooting session of the politicians than an actual relief program.
Perhaps the politicians have forgotten that it is the people who have allowed their time in public office. And moreover, they fail to understand that their indifferent and authoritarian treatment of the people might enrage them and as result end their merry days in office.
It was outrageous when parts of KP were overwhelmed by the riverine floods and the provincial administration was busy arranging a venue for Imran Khan’s political rally. One wonders that when a figure like Imran Khan – who boasts about being concerned for the people – forgot that the province where his party has been governing for nearly eight years was submerged by the flood water while he was bent on upping his political stature, what of those political characters who aren’t much enthusiastic about their constituencies and harbour no open sympathies for the citizens? Imran Khan took a U-turn a little later, knowing that remaining stubborn on continuing political activities while the flood inundated huge swathes of land could damage his image and popularity.
In catastrophic situations like the one we are witnessing now, recourse to political games of the vilest nature is an unforgivable and punishable act. Where vast tracts of lands have been rendered useless by the floods, crops destroyed, roads uprooted, livestock heads wiped out and houses swept away, the need is for instant relief and not dirty politics.
Although the flood relief drive has started, it is mainly people-driven and disorganised in nature.
According to one news report, the estimated flood damage stands at $10 billion. But such estimates don’t capture the overall extent of damage that the flood has caused due to a lack of access to many regions. Roads have been destroyed and internet services disrupted. As things settle down, roads reconstructed and the internet restored, then the true scale of destruction will surface.
Seeing the plight of the Pakistani people in the wake of the deadly floods, the international community also stepped forward and pledged aid. The United Nations came forward to help Pakistan in its flood relief program and made an appeal of $160m to its members.
Only recently, the former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan raised a fund of Rs 5 billion by conducting a telethon. Other domestic political and non-political figures pledged sums as well.
Aside from all the fundraising and aid collection, some questions need answers too: will the collected funds and aid reach those who deserve them? Or will they be diverted elsewhere? It isn’t surprising if the funds and aid intended for the relief of the flood affectees is whisked away from them and used for other purposes—including political. History has taught us that many such funds and aid for the afflicted were used to add to the wealth of those who were assigned the duty for their distribution.
Since the dishonesty and insincerity of our leaders is well-known and boundless, we have to think before giving them the supervision of the funds collected for the flood victims. We have to look for an alternative if we want the funds and aid to reach the deserving. There should be a body consisting of a number of persons to supervise the distribution of flood relief fund, and this body should be under check of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Moreover, the data in this process should be digitalised and closely scrutinised, and in case of any discrepancies between the pre- and the post-distribution data, the members of the body be held accountable.