Pakistan first, elections later | By Shahnoor Waqas Malik

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Pakistan first, elections later

UNPRECEDENTED floods caused by torrential rains in Pakistan over the course of 2 and a half months is a massive humanitarian crisis — causing not only billions of dollars in damage but millions of people left homeless.

Access to major cities and villages all across the country have been disrupted – and although the official death toll stands around 1,500, the true ground reality is much worse.

While we are witnessing the effects of climate change and global warming – interestingly, Pakistan only contributes to less than 1% of global greenhouse emissions despite having 220+ million citizens yet 1/3rd of the country is under water.

Over 40 million people have been affected by the floods, out of which an estimated 16 million children account for – from which a reported 3.5 million children require immediate life support according to UNICEF.

Satellite imagery after the heavy flooding shows a massive 100km-wide lake in the middle of the country.

The damage caused by these floods will take years, if not decades, to recover from with accurate data of the damage yet to be properly calculated.

The amount of aid that’s been collected so far is remarkable and a testament to the people of Pakistan’s heart to help — logistically speaking however, provision of aid to the affected areas is slow and extremely difficult.

Trucks charge 3 times the price to transport goods yet offer no guarantee of delivery – cost of essentials have risen with demand but lessened in supply.

There has also been an increase in hoarding, especially with medicinal supplies, with over 48 million tablets of Panadol found/confiscated in a warehouse in Karachi.

Crops and livelihoods have been washed away, homes have collapsed and people’s life-belongings gone – children have no proper access to education with schools washed away and friends separated – another major cause of concern is water-borne diseases spreading with shortage of foods/essentials.

Aid is still required on an emergency basis to help the country deal with this crisis, yet certain political parties and their supporters have politicised the very act of donating – advocating against donating to the current governments relief fund or to donate to their party.

At the same time of dealing with natural consequences accelerated by man’s actions, Pakistan is also facing man-made actions creating division of the people politically.

Balochistan, governed by BAP, had lost communication with the rest of the country after rains affecting signal towers and transmission lines, roads leading to Quetta had been sealed off — KP, governed by the PTI, had declared an emergency in the province with dozens of bridges collapsing from the rain and an increase in landslides destroying hotels and roads, with people trapped on days-end – Sindh, governed by PPP, had its highway flooded and multiple villages evacuated with some areas absolutely inaccessible and completely washed away – Punjab witnessed not only educational institutions submerged but also basic health centres and hospitals.

Yet people are demanding immediate elections in Pakistan based on a political narrative of we are right and you are wrong despite neither party showing any real commitment to help make a difference in these crucial times, ignoring the real narrative that their country is dying.

On 14 May 2022, Jacobabad, a city in Sindh, recorded the highest ever temperature at the time in Pakistan of 51 C with people suffering from heatstrokes and the drying up of nearby canals — by the end of August in the same year, the city of 200,000 people experienced flash floods displacing 40,000 people.

Karachi, a city of people who used to look forward to monsoon rains that would occur 3-4 times a year has experienced rainfall for over two months — climate change is real.

Holding Jalsas and rallies to keep up political relevance is short-term — the real respect and relevance goes to those who are actually making a difference for the people, those on the ground helping, volunteering and sacrificing their life to help others.

The amount it costs to hold one jalsa is enough to support multiple villages — the amount of time people spend attending the jalsa is enough to help collect ration, supplies and spread awareness.

Using a political platform is meant to help the people you serve, not to create other parties as an enemy and further divide the people in such times.

Criticising government performances is reasonable, demanding justice is a right but dividing Pakistani’s based on whom they support and refusing to work with them on such basis is a problem as relevant as climate change.

Climate change is only going to get worse – elections can wait, but if the world does not start making a difference now, elections are the last of the people’s concerns.

—The writer is Lawyer, Businessman.

 

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