[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=Hunza&iid=8881192″ src=”c/7/e/3/A_girl_cries_3444.jpg?adImageId=13007367&imageId=8881192″ width=”500″ height=”354″ /]
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?
[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=Hunza&iid=8768649″ src=”8/9/9/c/Workers_load_supplies_cb37.jpg?adImageId=13007307&imageId=8768649″ width=”500″ height=”361″ /]
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.
[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=Hunza&iid=8881193″ src=”d/0/f/e/Villagers_march_during_c46b.jpg?adImageId=13007331&imageId=8881193″ width=”500″ height=”351″ /]
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.