Tens of millions of people across Pakistan have been affected by relentless rains that have lashed the country, with almost one-third of the country reeling under severe floods. The official estimates have been pegged at about 1,200 However, the actual situation on ground is likely to be much worse. Countless homes have been washed away, vital agricultural lands destroyed, and the country’s main river is on the brink of overflowing, which may lead to even more destruction. The severity of the situation can be judged by the statement of Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman who proclaims it as a “crisis of unimaginable proportions”.
Foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has pleaded to International Monetary Fund, international community, and a host of other international agencies to truly grasp the level of devastation, with an unambiguous aim to seek funds. And the world must respond to this unforeseen and unfortunate calamity by donating funds, which will be utilised for immediate relief to the affected people, or so we are being made to believe. The actual intention, however, cannot be farther from the truth.
An editorial in the ‘Dawn’ newspaper of Pakistan stated last week, ‘As a natural calamity (floods) engulfs Pakistan, many members of the political class remain preoccupied with their power struggles’. No amount of calamity or disaster affecting the ‘awam’ can dissuade the apathetic political masters from jostling for power.
The actions of the other bastion of Pakistan, the Armed Forces, is even more disengaged from reality. Considered the present day ‘Aristocrats’, it is business as usual for the forces. The Pakistan Navy notoriously shines in this moment of pain and continues to send its ships to various countries without batting an eyelid on the national situation in the backdrop of dwindling foreign reserves. The political class continues to extend the perpetual begging bowl, with countries like UAE and Qatar being magnanimous in extending a helping hand by pledging billions. With the recent pledge of $1 billion by UAE and $ 2 billion by Qatar, one would assume that the country’s ecological disaster would be prime concern for the rulers. Instead, the Navy continues cruising to visit foreign lands at state expense. The ships spending millions on fuel, purchase of supplies at foreign ports, organising events onboard and exchanging gifts. It effectively costs much more, especially considering that these are paid for through the meagre foreign reserves held with the country.
It is high time that the Armed Forces of Pakistan step down from their aristocratic pedestal and lend a helping hand to the citizens who have been footing the bill of their extravagant lifestyle. There is an immediate need to stop foreign visits of warship, which benefit no one, as these flag-showing missions are in no way connected to or impinge upon the defence of the country. It would be prudent if these monies are saved to provide succour to the flood affected population and a flagging economy.