IT seems that Pakistan will remain hostage to petty politics, even at a time of grave national crisis. Initially it was said that a ‘trust deficit’ was the root cause behind the international community’s slow response to the ongoing flood relief operations in this country. That was possibly a fair assessment given the mismanagement and lack of transparency that are the hallmarks of Pakistani officialdom. Donors have every right, after all, to expect that the funds they provide will go to the needy and not line the pockets of government functionaries. Facts must be faced: Pakistan’s reputation when it comes to honest governance is poor and it is understandable that foreign countries, at least until UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit this month, were reluctant to hand over large sums of money directly to state-run organisations.
The world’s view of Pakistan is one thing. What is more deplorable is the trust deficit that exists between the centre and the provinces as well as the federating units themselves. PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif stressed on Friday that the provinces should on no account be bypassed when funds are disbursed for the flood relief operation. The message is clear: Mr Sharif doesn’t believe that Islamabad will treat his province, Punjab, fairly in its time of need. He has also called for a meeting of the Council of Common Interests so that each province’s rightful share in relief funds can be ascertained and distributed accordingly. This is a welcome proposal and should be pursued without delay because the suffering of the public is immense.
No province should be left believing that it has been hard done by, either at the hands of the centre or another unit of the federation.
Political parties of every hue — and that includes both the PPP and the PML-N — apparently want direct access to flood relief funds so that they can build up their political capital. They want to be seen as the people personally handing over money because that could win votes at the next election. But a greedy, distasteful scramble over cash is the last thing that Pakistan needs right now. Why, for instance, should we have a multitude of flood relief funds set up by offices as disparate as the PM House, the army, the National Assembly speaker and the Punjab chief minister? The activities of individuals and NGOs are a different matter altogether and every rupee or sack of flour they raise ought to be commended. But the key players that constitute the state must show unity and act as one. This is a time for giving, not politicking.
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