COMMENT: Flooded out —Mujahid Eshai
We must thank the IMF for its immense ‘contribution’ and tell them to take a hike. Pakistan’s priority today, more than ever, is to reconstruct and rehabilitate its people
Boots, shoes, whatever. Who cares? There are enough gigantic issues facing the country because of the seemingly unending deluge sweeping away everything that came in its way. The tales of woe notwithstanding, one has to earnestly start thinking about the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected. Local resources being non-existent, help in terms of money being nothing more than a trickle from donor agencies and countries worldwide because of the global recession, speculative estimates in terms of damage, without actual verification becoming a farce, the matter needs a team of leaders who can stand up and be counted upon. Do we have them? The answer, unfortunately, is in the negative. But at this moment, one’s sympathies are with the prime minister who has to deal with all of this and more. Can he do it? Maybe, if he finally gathers a team that has the potential to deliver. The solutions will be tough and the old ways will have to be given up. Do our leaders have the capacity to move systematically seems to be the million dollar question. Only deeds will prove what they are capable of and what not.
In this time of immense crisis that has given rise to gigantic short- and long-term problems, certain matters need to be categorically and clearly stated. The first is that we must thank the IMF for its immense ‘contribution’ and tell them to take a hike. We should tell them and other such merchants of debt that they should forget what they have given us for a very long time, as Pakistan’s priority today, more than ever, is to reconstruct and rehabilitate its people. Those who threaten us are welcome to do so but we have finally been made to understand our responsibilities and where they lie. They only lie with the people and economy of this country, as it has to be helped back onto its feet, preferably through self-help and proven selfless friends.
This country cannot do without a system of union and district councils, suitably empowered and monitored, as envisaged in the devolution of power programme given by the last regime. The members of parliament cannot deliver to the people what is required in such circumstances. At such times, the affected want their local leaders to be with them and attending to their woes. These people are part of the community and are also affected, whilst the MNAs and MPAs mind their own matters in the federal and provincial capitals. Whether it dilutes the perceived authority of the MNAs and MPAs or not, the local governments must come back at the earliest.
Because of our past reputation, there is hardly any ‘friend’ of Pakistan prepared to trust the government with hard cash. Most friends are looking for an agency that can be entrusted with funds to be genuinely spent in putting the people out of their misery. All government agencies are being bypassed in the process. Credible practices and behaviour need time to be established and transparency, honesty and good practices need to be seen to be followed. This has to be an opportunity for our government and leaders to turn over a new leaf.
The political and religious parties should stop the business of one-upmanship and mudslinging, and gather round with the federal government to chalk out plans about how to get back on track. At this time we need unity in thought and action. Let us not look at the armed forces as the messiah, as their hands are already full dealing with the war on terror even though they are doing more than what should have been expected of them in saving people, providing food, medicine and shelter to the dislocated. Where are the civil administration and its machinery? If the democratic forces in the country do not get together with the government at this critical time, then it will be obvious to all and sundry — if such evidence was still required — that they are incapable of governing and attending to the problems of the people.
Last, but not least, the government should immediately set up three widely constituted committees, one for strategising and planning relief efforts, second to attend to rehabilitation issues and a third for the reconstruction of swept away infrastructure. Enough experts with all kinds of skills are available within the country. Those with a proven record of achievement, regardless of colour, creed or political affiliation, should be taken on board. They shall have to determine ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions as demanded by the situation. And, finally, the government needs to immediately start working on an emergency budget, as the one announced earlier is no longer valid. The budget must incorporate facts that are staring us in the face: loss of infrastructure, time required to rehabilitate fertiliser factories, power plants and gas fields currently inundated, absolute decrease in tax revenues, shortages of various revenue earning and food crops, agricultural inputs, and providing people with food that they will not be able to afford at the extremely high prices it is likely to be sold due to actual, perceived and man-made shortages.
The situation today is such that if the government, political and religious leaders and the wealthy and well-to-do of this country do not come to the rescue of its ordinary people spread in all four provinces, it is extremely likely that a situation of such anarchy, looting and mayhem may be witnessed, the likes of which have only been read about in the annals of history. If we again go to the merchants of debt to provide us succour, we will be making a regrettable mistake. So, let us vow to stand up together and do for our people and our country what is expected of any civilised nation in this world. Let us show to the world that we are capable of honourably and successfully coming out of this natural disaster of immense proportions with our own efforts. Anyone wanting to assist, with no strings attached, will be welcomed.
The writer is a fellow and former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan. He also served as a member of the Federal Ad Hoc Public Accounts Committee