Building settlements in the subcontinent 8000 years ago, the Indus civilization remains one of the earliest in history. The ingenuity and foresight of these people enabled baked water-resistant bricks, systems to harvest and supply water along with elaborate measures to prevent flooding. Mohenjo-Daro, built about 5000 years ago in the Larkana District, boasts what was the world’s first planned sanitation system.
It remains the most sophisticated city of those times. The remains at Kot Diji and Harappa also bear testimony to the character and acumen of those long-gone dwellers. Thousands of years later, Sindh bears a stark contrast to its forebears. Like much of Pakistan, it remains a forsaken land. Nothing symbolizes this travesty better than Karachi, once the metropolis that welcomed all cultures and ethnicities into its magnanimous fold.
Flooded, potted and totally gutted, it has regressed into a crumbling favela land that inches its way to oblivion. Calamities are natural and global; their fallout is directly proportional to honest human endeavors. Foremost are the formulation of coordinated administrative measures and on-ground infrastructure to minimize the fallout of disasters.
Ignorance is Bliss
Globally, the mightiest of rivers and waterways have been tamed by well-planned dams, dykes and barrages. Earthquake-prone countries like Indonesia implement strict building controls to mitigate damages. Here, the horrendous aftermath of calamities bears testimony to the unholy nexus between governance and corruption.
It has seen successive rulers choosing to remain oblivious to the destruction of earthquakes, floods and droughts and the crucial need for remedial measures to minimize the fallout. This criminal negligence has thousands dying and millions losing their meager belongings year after year. Those responsible should be charged with murder or manslaughter for their criminal negligence and corruption that causes devastation on these humongous scales.
Failure to hold the powerful Lords of Misrule accountable means a continuation of our unending danse macabre. What can be more unfortunate than the perceived certainty that the billions received now shall only end up where aid and donations of previous years have disappeared?
After the 2010 floods, recommendations of the Judicial Commission under the then Lahore High Court and present Supreme Court Justice Mansoor Ali Shah were confined to the dustbin. Had the recommendations been implemented, the loss of precious lives and damage could have been greatly minimized in 2014, 2019, and the present deluge.
The Commission also appropriated responsibility for the devastation of the 2010 floods on the criminal negligence of government departments, especially that of the Punjab Irrigation Department. It is pertinent to note that Shehbaz Sharif, the present Prime Minister, has ruled the roost in Punjab for decades.
In a stinging indictment, the report also declared the (photo op) visits of the then Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his cohorts a hindrance in flood relief activities. The Commission had proposed a comprehensive ban on construction in areas close to the rivers.
The unending criminal culpability of the monitoring agencies and their corrupt political masters made a mockery of this proposal by allowing properties to mushroom along riverbeds. The report also pointed out that there was no law to regulate farming in riverbeds or risk-prone areas. Another contributing factor pointed out was dams built by powerful landowners despite the dangerous consequences they entailed.
The Commission held the then Punjab Secretary Irrigation and two Chief Engineers directly responsible for factors that greatly exacerbated the loss of lives, property and crops in the 2010 flood and recommended the filing of criminal cases against them. In what is an epitome of the unaccountable mafias that have mercilessly lorded over us, all three were subsequently promoted.
On 19 November 1863, Abraham Lincoln honored the Union soldiers of the American Civil War who fell at the Battle of Gettysburg. Known as the Gettysburg Address, it remains the most famous speech in US history immortalizing the words defining a true democracy. Lincoln said, “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
Each year, thousands perish in Pakistan due to preventable diseases, road accidents, collapsing buildings, deforestation and an absolute lack of management to neutralize or counter the fallout of calamities. The major contributor is the corruption and criminal negligence of our successive “for the people” regimes.
For the still naive, what can be more empathy personified than Shehbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto sitting on the ground with the flood affectees or the portrayed agony of a tearful Bilawal as he views the devastation from the Prime Ministerial plane? The question remains, can these tears undo the preventable deaths and misery during PPP’s 14-year watch in Sindh?
What could be a more clouded mind than a politician callously reminded of Venice while viewing a flood-ravaged Kot Diji from his would-be gondola? Is it not a gruesome reality, repeated with gay abandon, that part of this destruction is caused by his ilk diverting floodwaters to save their own lands while killing and displacing thousands of poor people and destroying their livelihoods?
Charged with Criminal Negligence
Each year, our tragedies are nothing but photo-ops for the perfectly coiffed and dressed arriving in cavalcades or from the sky. The unending collage of tragic images is enhanced by hundreds which are even more heart-rending. All because those who come for the eulogies and deliver the head-pats were charged with our destinies but chose to perpetuate personal power rather than answer their call of duty or honor their dime-a-dozen promises.
Done and dusted with the ritual of empathy, the heartless charade awaits another ever-looming tragedy. What could be more ironic than Nawaz Sharif, an absconding felon, seeking help for flood affectees on national television? It could have been a comedy if not for the tragedy it entails. Three times Prime Minister, he had Shehbaz Sharif trying to make a Paris of Lahore for decades.
Were orange trains, red buses and asphalt roads leading to Jatti Umrah more important than disaster management projects, dams and modernization of crucial yet criminally neglected sectors? PMLN and PPP, the chimera coalition of today, along with military dictators have remained the masters of our destinies since independence. All they bestowed were trials and tribulations on our collective lives. What could be a starker and graver indictment?
Our Lords of Misrule
In medieval Europe, the crowning of the Lords of Misrule was a traditional Christmas celebration. The peasantry drew lots for the title. We are told ad nauseam that our “prosperous” future lies with the Sharifs, Zardaris and Fazals in power, the ultimate talisman for all that plagues our lives. When elected, wearing a paper crown and dressed like a jester, the Lords of Misrule had the authority to change or make rules.
He also had carte blanche to enjoy any pleasure he desired. This insatiable desire is the only thing that our dictators and so-called democrats, the true Lords of Misrule, have to show for their unaccountable decades in power. Nietzche defined the state as the coldest of all cold monsters. He lamented, “Coldly lieth it also and this lie creepeth from its mouth: I, the State, am the people”.
Let down day after day by our Lords of Misrule, all we ask of them is to spare us the hand-wringing, chest-beating, tearful eulogies. We have had enough of these to last for generations. Abandoned by the state, we have suffered the ravages of alien wars – the wages of our servitude, calamities, disease and excruciating impoverishment thrust upon us. Through thick and thin, we the abandoned people of a beggared motherland have fended for ourselves. Allah Taala willing, we shall do it yet again.
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