One year after the floods

Published: July 29, 2011
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A year has passed since the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history. Last year’s floods caused by monsoon rains, submerged close to a fifth of the country’s total area underwater, directly affected about 20 million people, destroyed livestock, crop, property and infrastructure with a death toll of nearly 2000. The total economic damage was estimated to be close to 43 Billion U.S dollars and the occurrence was termed by the UN Secretary-General as one of the worst disasters he had ever seen.

Before Pakistan was called the world’s most ‘dangerous’ country by the western media (after the May 2nd incident), it was called the world’s bravest country during the 2010 floods. I could go rant about how the media somersaulted but that can be done another time. What I want to bring to attention here is what a brave nation we are indeed. It is the duty of the government to care for its people, if not ever at least in times of despair. As the floods hit, our president embarked on a trip to England, not long after the United Kingdom’s prime minister stated that Pakistan “exported terrorism”. Some donations to the government were lost through corruption –  leaving some donors confused, villages which had people who had access to people in power or had people which had links to people in power were built faster and secured better as opposed to villages that didn’t and are still in dire conditions.

It has also been widely reported that aid was refused to some Ahmadi, Sikh and Christian victims. This lack of empathy is very disturbing.

The global response to the tragedy was regretfully a little slow, and sadly not as generous as it was to preceding disasters (which affected fewer people) but it was a response none the less and should be praised instead of compared.

A disaster is a disaster.

Stand out donations were by Saudi Arabia who allocated over $362million and, Iran with $101.2million and the United States with over $216million. What ‘hurt’ frankly was the work done or not done by those in power back home. People came to the point where they didn’t trust the government and its allies with their money anymore and took the task upon themselves.

I had the pleasure to travel around the state of Illinois working together with some amazing people trying to do what we could for the sufferers of the floods. Community centers, mosques, schools, community colleges and universities were working in tandem collecting donations and making individual life saving kits.

Just within 30 miles of the city of Chicago and through the help of some remarkable individuals we flew out 1000 life saving kits and $20,000 worth of donations in some of the most fulfilling hard work I have ever done in my life. I have no doubt that similar work was done in areas all around North America and any part of the world where there was patriotic youth – about $6million was donated to the Imran Khan foundation by November 2010.

It is absolutely undeniable that Pakistani people are amongst the most charitable in the world, and when it comes to helping their own country, they’re incomparable. But no matter how much we thrash about, without good governance, such a disaster can never be surmounted completely.

My questions to current and past governments are as follows:

– Did water levels in water bodies in Pakistan never rise to alarming levels before the 2010 floods?

– Were there not floods in 1973, 1976 and 1992?

– What has the Federal Flood Commission done since its establishment in 1977?

– Where has its allocated budget been used?

– If not then, then why has there not been more dams built now?

–  Why haven’t specific flood absorption dams been built?

– Why haven’t there been embankments and spurs built?

– Has there been spending and improvement in the flood prediction and meteorological systems?

– If any, what steps have you taken since the 2010 disaster to ensure that there would be better damage control in the case of another event?

I assure you, just by doing a little research you’ll find that it is simply corruption that has played a monumental part in how appalling last year’s disaster was.

The floods may have been a natural disaster but they turned into a man-made one soon after. There is unquestionably blood on someone’s hands and you would think that if anything, after what happened, at least some action or measures would be taken now. But sadly, I don’t see anything.

A year on, 800,000 families remain without a permanent shelter and 1 million still need food. $11billion is still estimated to be needed for construction (which is a quarter of the nation’s budget).

I ask you to not forget this crisis just because a year has passed. Please continue your hard work and donate generously and pray that someday our leaders wake up as well and realize that action is the antidote for despair.

Those who do care must out-number those who do not care or as Thomas Berry puts it:

“If the earth does grow inhospitable toward human presence, it is primarily because we have lost our sense of courtesy toward the earth and its inhabitants”.

Thoughts and prayers with all those affected by last year’s floods.

Do you think Pakistan is better prepared for floods in 2011?

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Abu Bakr Agha

Abu Bakr Agha

A software engineer, musician, writer and activist from Islamabad, currently based in Chicago. He tweets @AB_Agha (twitter.com/AB_Agha)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Saad Durrani

    I am a big fan of your articles. Keep it going dude.Recommend

  • parvez

    Good article, you have spelt it out correctly.
    If God forbid we have another catastrophe like 2010 our ministers, government babus and their flunkies will rub their hands in glee and think ‘ O thank you Lord for sending another billion my way ‘ all the while keeping a sad, concerned face for the TV. Recommend

  • No Name Plz

    It was a flood of tears not rain when heavens cried from west and east.
    AbuBakr Agha watch this before putting the word ** in your articles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXtZvOjC5k4 . They need no media coverage.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    The repercussion of 800,000 families destitute are mind boggling all variety of evil can sprout from it terrorism, suicides, sex trade etc etc. Right now I am askin’ myself what can I do about it …How can I make their suffering less ? The only answer I get is donate some of my money to them, collect some of it from others get some honest distributors and help them out. Walk the talk. Recommend

  • Ali R

    I know for a fact that the donations given by the Saudi government were very wisely distributed through the Saudi ambassador rather than given to the hands of Zardari. This possibly prevented a great deal of mishandling of that money.

    It was widely known that PPP’s corrupt past and leadership played a significant role in the lack of donations given by the world and Pakistanis themselves to the official governmental account. Not that Pakistanis didn’t donate, as you said yourself, they donated more than 2 billion rupees to the one person they trust in Pakistan; Chairman of PTI, Imran Khan.

    If the government can not positively answer any of your questions regarding the floods then it is precisely doing the opposite of what the government should do–Govern.

    Once again nicely written AbuBakr :)Recommend

  • http://djdurrani.blogspot.com Saad Durrani

    How come no one would read this? Only five comments for a quality blogpost. It seems floods are not “sexy” anymore.Recommend

  • Rida

    Floods? What floods?Recommend

  • Kaleem

    Deserves more comments and more shares but it just shows what kind of stuff people like to read these days..Recommend

  • Maham

    Write more often AbuBakr! This was really nice to read. Its worrying how careless people can be when so many lives are at stake.Recommend

  • Leena

    How did i miss this? The hot writer does it again =PRecommend

  • Iftikhar Raja

    Good read. Important facts at the end. We can’t relax because there is still so much devastation.Recommend

  • Sarah Khan

    Thank you for all your hard work! I hope more people like you represent us abroad.Recommend

  • S Butt

    The damage is massive. How many years will it take to recover. The average man in the street care not a hoot. Its it not the politicians it is everyone. Its is too easy to blame them. No body cares.Recommend

  • Shoaib

    Sir, after the devastation that is happening in Sindh now, i am so impressed by this. You knew it was coming and just like you said the government’s incompetence shows..Recommend

  • Abu Bakr

    @Shoaib:
    Thank you. It was inevitable. I’m appalled by the constant lack of concern. You can’t blame nature for losses of life any more. Recommend

  • waqas

    Excellent article that has been proved correct over time.Recommend