EDITORIAL: Gathering support - Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\08\17\story_17-8-2010_pg3_1

With one fifth of the country inundated by the worst floods in its history, there are some glaring truths that demand a wakeup call. The prompt visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has triggered some stark reminders about our situation. As the head of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon has swiftly stepped up to his position by personally visiting the flood-affected areas and showing the masses that the UN is with them. Citing that in all his years, visiting different disaster-struck zones, he has never witnessed a catastrophe of a magnitude such as this, he has urged the world to step up and meet the “waves of flood with waves of support”. He also highlighted that the international community is donating generously and swiftly to calamity-struck Pakistan. This should serve as one of the country’s wake up calls. Even though the spectre of donor fatigue is looming in the forefront of a drastic cut in aid — compared to the 2005 earthquake response — and the world is being cautious with its money as the recipient is a Pakistani government with a controversial reputation, it must be acknowledged that it is the Western countries, with the US leading the way, that are at the top of the donor list. With this acknowledgement should come the realisation that the Muslim ummah the world over has failed to respond in the same manner. It is shocking that the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) has yet to voice strong support to Pakistan in its darkest hour and it is astonishing that Muslim countries Pakistanis defend with such passion (such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, etc), have contributed so poorly. When they have contributed it has largely been through organisations like the Red Crescent.

The UN General Assembly will convene a meeting on August 19 for the rehabilitation of flood victims and the reconstruction of the affected areas. This meeting aims to mobilise further international efforts to generate significantly more funds.

Meanwhile, whatever relief efforts we can manage are still underway but the situation is dismal indeed. Aid convoys are being attacked because the instinct for survival is making animals out of human beings. This is hampering the distribution of goods and food. Looting and plundering is a sickening reality in areas that are cut off from rescue and relief. Children are now dying of starvation with five cases reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa so far. Balochistan is bracing for a fresh onslaught of floods. The UN has claimed that some 3.5 million children are at risk of dying from diseases such as cholera (of which one case has been confirmed), hepatitis, gastroenteritis and typhoid. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has stated that a “second wave” of death by disease is eminent if clean water is not provided to the affected. Such harrowing statistics ought to serve as another wake up call for not just the government but also every Pakistani who is in a position to help. The international donors and humanitarian agencies will come, assess, donate and leave once their job is done. However, it will take years for this country to stand on its feet once again. In the long run, it is up to the people and rulers of Pakistan to give and rebuild as generously and as humanely as possible. We must overcome our hesitation, we must resuscitate our giving spirit and we must prevent the further calamities the world has predicted for us.

This visit by the UN’s Ban Ki-Moon and the home truths he and the UN have driven home need to serve as the basis of our priorities. We need to stick by our people, not countries that have donated only political strategies and verbal promises — just because they share the shame religion — as we have in the past. *

Shoe throwing craze

It seems that the penchant for shoe tossing has caught on, with a shiny brown shoe being hurled at Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK) Chief Minister Omer Abdullah during the Indian Independence Day ceremony. It has come close on the heels of such an action against President Asif Ali Zardari in Birmingham, UK. Although the state security forces claimed that Abdullah had become the victim of a mentally disturbed policeman, in the context of the ongoing intifada in IHK, this incident was immediately dubbed as protest against the draconian state policies. However, when a large part of the Kashmiri population is out on the streets to express their anger against the Indian government in full force, this unsavoury act hardly added any significance to their voice.

The history of shoe throwing is not very old, and the first such incident in recent history took place against the US President George W Bush on his visit to Iraq. It was then considered an act of sheer defiance and the voice of the powerless against an occupying force, which had done immense damage to the Iraqi nation. Since then, several political leaders worldwide, including a Chinese premier, have become targets of fancy footwear by people who found it a happy outlet of their resentments. However, this cannot be applauded and made part of the civilised, democratic conduct, as it is deteriorating fast into a grotesque expression of dissent. Instead, there is a need to discourage this trend, which is reflective of increasing intolerance, at the public level and promote a culture of healthy debate, which allows for dissenting opinions. It seems that now all public leaders, popular or unpopular, will have to adopt better security measures while venturing out into the public to avoid becoming victims. Moreover, who knows the idea catches the fancy of some deviant mind, who hurls more deadly stuff than a harmless shoe, which in any case is directed at the leaders’ ego and honour rather than their person? In Pakistan, political leaders are already using bulletproof shields as a protection against terrorist attacks and the tragic incident to Benazir Bhutto’s assassination lends weight to their precautions. *

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