Hunza: Avoiding A Crisis


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First appeared on the Dawn Blog

There’s nothing new about the fact that the response of authorities in Pakistan to emergency situations is habitually delayed . We let the water rise way above our heads before even trying to do something about it. In simple words, every problem is ignored until it becomes chaotic and we have a crisis at hand.
So there is nothing surprising about the fact that the plea of the people of Hunza went unheard for months. On January 4 , an artificial lake emerged as a result of a massive landslide, blocking the Hunza River. The landslide killed 20, and left about 25,000 people stranded. According to a report :
Some local experts are of the opinion that early use of powerful water pumps to ejaculate the water at the blockade site and subsequent start of work to make spill way across the debris could have saved Gojal from turning into a water bomb. As the situation deteriorates, the people are left in psychological trauma as they see their houses, properties, crops and plants getting submerged. Desperately they wonder why the authorities declared the disaster a minor issue in the first place. After outburst of the lake, will the people of Gojal survive along with remnants of their properties or would it be a desperate battle for survival?
The report aptly summarises the Hunza crisis and the authorities’ indifference that has resulted in creating mayhem. The government response is now that of sympathy. But is sympathy enough after months of indifference and exposure to psychological and financial trauma?

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For over five months, the people of Hunza have waited for the authorities to respond to the deteriorating situation, to save their property and to rehabilitate them, but to no avail. Now, over 40,000 people are at risk of being displaced as a result of the flood. Adding insult to injury, the Hunza IDPs will now join ranks with the millions of internally displaced people who have had to leave their homes due to militancy in the past year. The striking figures presented in this report suggest that in 2009 over three million Pakistanis were displaced as a result of the ongoing offensive in the country’s tribal belt; the most in the world and three times more than the Democratic Republic of Congo, which falls in second place.

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Despite these shocking, painful, and distressing revelations, the authorities remain apathetic to displacement crises. Instead energies and attention have been focused on political games and power tussles. The voice of a common man is too often snubbed or only heard when the damage is irreversible. On Saturday, hundreds of people in Hunza held a 20-hour long protest against the government’s apathy toward the situation. Most of them chanted anti-government slogans after being disappointed by Prime Minister Gilani’s failure to announce relief for the affected people.

The Hunza disaster is yet another failure of the civilian, popularly elected government. Once again, the army and international relief organisations have been requested to step in.  This tendency to pass the buck makes one wonder whether there is any sense of crisis management in the country, or if the government even feels remotely responsible or is aware of its role in such a situation.

If we look at the history of crisis management before this, whether the crisis was caused by war or natural disaster, the government’s role lacks transparency. The Hunza crisis is a ticking time bomb both in terms of the unpredictable flood and the bottled up anger of the people. If the government does not take this opportunity to address the pending issues of crisis management now, it is only a matter of time that we witness yet another exodus.

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7 thoughts on “Hunza: Avoiding A Crisis

  1. I been through your article which is commendable …..the current situation is really worse ……the increasing level of water is submerging the upper stream villages like Shishkat, Gulmit, Hussaini, and its moving towards the oldest settlement of Gojal Passu……God knows what will happen next……….their is still hope and I am optimistic enough that one day we will come out of these traumatic condition…………some facts which is in peoples heart and mind is that, the Ex-chief of NDMA Gen. Farooq played a sinful role during his era…………… i don’t know how he had recruited to Pak Army ironically her served at highest rank…. he got pretty arrogant approach towards FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance Pakistan ……. Gen. rtd. Farooq told that the AKDN must help the locals we are not responsible they have money n so n so ……….during Kasmir earthquake relief operation FOCUS was the only Organization who stand at the front and helped the effectees and even in Islamabad when the Marglla tower collapsed FOCUS was there to help……..at that time the Gen. Farooq was pretty surprised any said who is leading and at the same time he was unhappy because the FOCUS org. is sub-part of AKDN………the local are demanding for judicial inquiry of the ignored worse situation in the area……….but they haven’t such media coverage, political, bureaucratic, and economical backup…….but still there is hope i pray that May GOD turn their homes into Hell………..
    FOCUS is helping the poor local but has got limit resources ……one thing more he was the sick Gen. retd Farooq who restricted the media and international NGO’s working in the area….his statement was ” we have the ability to handle the situation”…..now where is ability??????????????????????

    u know Madam the locals are so peaceful and i am in age of 27 but i haven’t seen any murder of big robbery case in my home town……u can verify my words from the local Police station…..we are living in most strategically important area…..but there is no army looking after the border…….their are three valleys Khunjrab, Chipursan, Misger, and Shimsahl…..every valleys has end attached to the international border of Afghanistan. China , and Tajikistan ……..but their is no uncertainty in the border area……….no army needs to live there…….people are so humble and hospitable ……. potato is the major cash crop and the only source of livelihood ….but sadly its been destroyed completely ……… don’t know how the locals will earn the money to support their children to continue their studies the literacy rate is 90% in the area………. i am feeling that we going back to the stone age which will take almost 150 years to stand back.

    now the Govt. has announced whatever so the ground realities is pretty different….the average house need almost 9 lacks to build which is favorable for all season especially in winter …… no on has got even a penny till to date from the announced 5000 PKR. so would like to request the readers don’t comment without knowing the ground realities…..
    i am feeling that Mehvish and Rubina are over optimistic or Pro-government ….they must re-consider their words

    I hope you’ll consider my side coz i myself going through ma bad days ……

  2. These massive landslides are globally infrequent events. Usually happen in logistically remote areas. The amount of debris is HUGE and any real breach needs effort on dam building scale, which needs years with full force.

    Before constant criticism on all matters one has to be logical.

    Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has already unveiled a package to provide compensation to the people affected by the Attaabad lake in Hunza. Announcing the package at a news conference, the prime minister said Rs 200,000 each would be given to all those who had lost their land, Rs 400,000 for completely damaged houses and Rs 160,000 for partially damaged houses. Gilani said each family affected would get a monthly cash grant of Rs 5,000 for six months. The prime minister said the wheat and flour stocked in Upper Hunza by the government of Gilgit-Baltistan would be distributed free of cost to the victims for two months in accordance with the existing scales.

  3. I think you’re looking for conspiracy theories if you think that the Pakistani government is looking for a crisis! Why can’t you realize that the slow response of the officials to problems is reflective of Pakistani culture and in the bigger picture, all Third World countries who are slow to make plans for any emergency. The US still hasn’t managed to bring the BP Oil Rig explosion under control in the Gulf of Mexico after 1 month. That too with all of their resources! Give Pakistan a break man! They have known about the problem and have been working on it the way most people work on any problem in Pakistan! Our army and government have given statements on handling the issue. Maybe they could have done better but I think that they have done a reasonable job!

  4. Dear Sana …..i really appreciate your conribution and for being the voice of Hunza Gjal affectees ……..May God bless you …..Keeeeppppp rocking

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