We should be grateful

Published: August 23, 2010
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Desperation takes hold of starving flood affectees.

We should be thankful. We should be thankful that we are a resilient nation, where those who had nearly nothing, have now lost everything, are probably better positioned then the state itself to recover from the floods.

Our politicians, generals, bureaucrats, landlords, industrialists and people like myself, should be thankful that we live in a country where the vast majority of those who suffer in poverty ask so little from people like us.

That I am able to sit in London and write this blog, to be published in an English language newspaper in a country where a small majority speaks English, says volumes of how people such as myself have divided and fragmented society between the haves and have not’s. Regardless of the best of my intentions, I can by no means come close to claiming to understand the suffering of the 20 million or so for whom the floods are an ongoing calamity.

Pakistan seems to have become a hornet’s nest of terrorism, militancy, political instability, infighting and natural disasters. In this chaotic flux it’s not surprising that our government has come up short in offering relief. What is surprising is that society in general has come up short in helping their fellow Pakistani’s.

Years of conspiratorial twists and religious intolerance seems to have shredded the notion of the “fellow Pakistani”. After all, for many Ahmedi’s deserve death rather than full citizenship, Christians deserve to be deprived of relief goods, Punjabi’s are superior to Sindhi’s, those in uniform are better Pakistani’s then everyone else. The divisions and fractions have been magnified by the intolerance spewed in the media, around our dinner tables and in our schools.

Years of blaming everyone for our problems, years of pointing fingers at the nefarious and malicious designs of the CIA, RAW, Mossad and MI6 combined, has projected globally an image of Pakistan that is hostile to the West, its neighbours and anyone that offers an opportunity to shift Pakistan’s problems upon. Is anyone surprised then that people in America have not overwhelmingly supported Secretary Clinton’s donation appeals? And this isn’t the first time; a similar appeal to help IDP’s from Swat was also met with similar disinterest.

That we would rather toy with the lives of millions of people rather than accept aid from India, speaks volumes of the disconnect between those making decisions and those who have to bear the consequences of such callousness. Could someone elaborate as to how Pakistan was better served by dilly dallying over whether to be choosy on whose aid to receive? If security is an issue, we should have nothing to be worried about. As an online “rating” site has claimed, the ISI is the best intelligence agency in the world and RAW is only at number nine. We have nothing to fear, even if the Indian donation adds up to something nefarious.

As for people like me, we are part of the problem rather than the solution. We uphold a system which treats flood victims as political props and backdrops for photo calls. We uphold a system which calls for breaching dykes dependent on the political affiliation of the inhabitants of the area rather than common sense.

Most importantly, we uphold a system that is neither compassionate not empathetic. That in the face of terrorism or natures fury, the best we can do is to call on international support to act as a bulwark against militancy, rather than a humanitarian concern we ourselves frame aid as a security concern. The human side of this tragedy is lost on us, as we have little in common with those who suffer, those who are homeless, those who have lost their possessions.

For that we should be thankful. We should be thankful that we have a resilient population, while we call for international aid and debate why its not forthcoming; that while donor conferences are planned, and politicians and military leaders survey the damage cocooned within their security bubble, the people of Pakistan will go on living their lives, helping each other and make the most of what little aid they receive.

We should expect little of our elite. For whatever they do pales in comparison with the efforts people like the truck drivers who volunteer for days driving Edhi ambulances, the nurses who work a week with a few hours of rest, the overwhelmed doctor doing his best to offer support, and more importantly hope, students who travel great distances to offer support, the young men who wade through chest high water to gather what little food they can to bring back to their stranded community. At the end of the day we should be thankful for such people, for they save us the embarrassment of looking at ourselves in the mirror. We probably would not like what we see.

nadir.eledroos

Syed Nadir El Edroos

Nadir teaches Economics at Bellerbys College, London and is interested in Pakistani politics and current affairs. He tweets @needroos (twitter.com/needroos)

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