Stories about floods

Can Pakistan learn from Katrina?

This weekend, as my home state of Mississippi prepares to memorialise the five-year anniversary of America’s worst natural disaster, Pakistan will mark a month since the start of the floods. Because of this post-Katrina milestone and my upcoming travels to Karachi, I’ve been considering the scope and response to both of these catastrophes. The two floods have superficial similarities, despite the fact that Hurricane Katrina was a smaller event in a better-equipped country. This means that on the fifth anniversary of Pakistan’s worst natural disaster, things will probably look even less rosy than they do now in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina formed ...

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Too scared to be happy?

Fun, in Pakistan, is a debatable issue. Being an Islamic republic, the idea of fun somehow ends up sparking a debate on “shariah compliant” ways to take pleasure in anything. Opinions clash, sentiments are hurt and the concept of entertainment is trashed before it can become a threat. The concept of ‘having fun’ tends to be viewed as an attack on the sanctity of our religion. Everything is assessed for the label of ‘haraam’, whether it is pumping up the volume and tapping our feet to a song, sitting in an integrated gathering, indulging in a conversation with a member ...

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Mohammad Hanif is (not) my hero

Mohammad Hanif has scored again in terms of developing a ‘soft image’ of Pakistan for the world to lap up. His recent article featured on the BBC website, Pakistan flood victims ‘have no concept of terrorism’ has been making the rounds online, with us desi-folk going all teary-eyed, fist raising and shouting, ‘yeah Hanif! Sock it to the world! Show them we’re more than terrorists’. This is quite comic. Here on one side of the proverbial boxing ring we have ‘the world’ all hissy and mean and saying we’re all terrorists floating in floodwater and on the other side we have ...

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Packaging hope in the flood crisis

Reminiscent of the spirit of volunteerism witnessed in the wake of the 2005 earthquake, scores of youngsters are gathering at Imperial Lawn at Shahrah-i-Faisal since the past two weeks to pitch in their part to help the 20 million affected by the floods that have wreaked havoc across the country. The spirit at the ground where packing of relief goods was taking place was infectious. One was automatically drawn into the swarm of people who were moving about in circles collecting supplies from the stalls lined around the ground and depositing them at the packaging table. To use the words of ...

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How NGOs can really help

Although Pakistan has a long and tragic history of devastation through natural disasters, the Government has never developed any substantial programs to prevent or monitor the possibility of future destruction. Pakistani and international NGOs as well as international donors are often left making up for the incompetence of national institutions, raising funds and resources to save the poorest of the poor in dire situations. Currently, international aid to Pakistan is arriving slowly, but it’s clear that a substantial amount of money will be coming into the country in the next few weeks or months. Most people who have donated to ...

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We should be grateful

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 ...

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How to feel when you have lost everything

It’s hard to resume normal life after coming back from the flood zone. Vivid images of victims haunt me as the human toll begins to stack. Lately, I’ve been asked to explain what the situation in Khairpur is like and what individuals can do to help. First, allow me to explain a few Sindhi terms which have forcefully made their way into vernacular and will feature prominently in any discourse about floods in upper Sindh. Boodh: Sindhi term for the floods. Ironically, some people, Masi Aqeela leading them, still believe that at the end of the day floods are a ...

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Sharing links is not ‘helping’

So, The Express Tribune decided to run a report on all the fantastic mobilisation that is being witnessed online toward helping out flood victims. Wow. So, before I start ranting about this topic, let me first say that there are a few online voices who are making a genuine difference by coordinating efforts and collecting funds, and that is commendable. But then there is everyone else (and you know who I’m talking about); the other 90 per cent of armchair Twitterati and time-pass Facebook people who are busy sharing links and decrying the ‘awful floods’ and doing absolutely nothing to help. So ...

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As I head to the flood zone

I have fallen in love with Pakistan once again. Anyone heading from Lahore towards Multan across the lush agricultural heartland would. Bollywood tunes sung by popular Pakistani artists are playing in the bus and remind me of the great talent this country possesses in every field. You cannot but agree with the Prime Minister that manpower is the biggest asset of the country. This manpower however, is crying at the moment. The mighty Indus has brought nothing but destruction for them this year. Monsoon rains that usually last one month or so have come down in just about a week. Result? One in ...

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Crisis fatigue

“We request the people to stand united in these trying times.” I hear this lingo on news channels during problems, crises, disasters and catastrophes. But now it seems people don’t want to stand united. They don’t want to have anything to do with the problems engulfing the country. My mother practically groans, “Please switch off the news channels. It’s so depressing.” It’s called crisis fatigue. We are sick of our country’s miseries. We are tired of hearing more bad news – even about the national team’s losses. So instead of doing something about it, we choose repression and escapism. We run away, find ...

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