Ambassador Alam Brohi talks about the alarming situation in the country
The alarming situation in the country and a columnist has put it succinctly that “Pakistani elite live in a state of denial believing that the status quo in which they live an affluent life insulated from broader society is permanent. It is not. The bubble is collapsing, and the result will not be pretty”. This may strike pessimistic to some of us but the current spell of torrential rains and deluge has once again brought home the bad consequences of the decades-long corruption and callousness within the federal and provincial administrations and the ruling elite. It is starkly so in Sindh. It appears that since the devastating flood of 2010 nothing has been done to strengthen the protective dykes, canal banks, saline water drains or to ensure the unhindered drainage of flood waters through the natural passages into lakes.
The social media is awash with news that the provincial administration is trying to channelise the flood relief to IDPs through their MPAs and local leaders who have priority lists of clans, voters and supporters for distribution. There are videos showing the real flood affectees ransacking factories, godowns and public buildings to forcibly take the unlawfully stored relief goods. The displaced populace is becoming unruly, stopping the motorcades of Ministers and looting the vehicles with relief goods on way to camps.
Large portions of the Indus National Highway is under water; it has been cut at many places to give way to the swelling water levels; the interior Sindh is almost disconnected with its megacities – Karachi and Hyderabad. The intercity and farm roads have either been given big cuts or washed away by gushing waters. There are also persistent complaints that big landlords divert the flow of water to villages in order to save their lands and farm houses. The district administration is helpless remaining at their beck and call.
The response from the international community is slow, stingy or parsimonious. According to our announcements some 33 million have been displaced. This population is 5 times more than the people internally displaced by the Ukrainian war. As put by a columnist, “this constitutes 90% of the population of Canada; more than the entire population of Australia, and 3 times more than that of Portugal. And the United States with its $30 million donation –has given less than $1/person to the people displaced. That is not even a drop. It’s an insult and that Canada, which contributes an annual 15.5 metric tons of carbon, meaning it is actively setting the earth on fire has given us $5 million in aid. That is less than 50 cents/person. Pakistan in any way is not as responsible for climate change as the US, China, Russia and Europe is”. The UK has contributed 1.5 million sterling pounds.
The lesson to be learnt from the stingy contributions by donor countries is that we have to stand up for ourselves; we have to say no to the slave mentality; we have to rebuild our economy by waging a war against corruption, wastage, mismanagement, luxurious way of living by our elite or the ruling class. This is the time for our elite to shake out of their complacent state of denial. The poor is becoming restless; the social media is exposing the elite’s callousness and their capture of state resources. The society is sinking in despondency; the administrative decadence and bad governance is endemic; the economy needs immediate structural changes and tax reforms shifting the burden to the affluent segment of the population. We have to do it today. Maybe, tomorrow may not be available to us.
We have withdrawn subsidies from agricultural inputs, electricity, gas and oil for IMF loans subjecting our poor section to miseries. We were self-sufficient in food with bumper crops of rice and wheat. Now we have become one of the main importers of wheat from Ukraine. We are still having bumper crops of wheat but the smuggling of it to neighbouring countries, massive pilferage from official godowns and wastage of hundreds of thousands of wheat bags as shown by the social media have rendered us to the status of importers of the grain at par with Indonesia, Egypt and Sudan. With the soaring prices of the agricultural inputs and marooned land, this year the crop of wheat would be scanty and too insufficient for our burgeoning population. Its import from Ukraine would pose formidable challenges due to the ongoing war. I fear famine and hunger in Sindh and Balochistan.
The federal government has imposed ban on the import of luxury items. Even then, the trade deficit for the outgoing fiscal year- 2021-2022 was touching $50 billion notwithstanding our exports going up to $30 billion for the first time in our short history. We import edible oil and oil-seed meals to meet our domestic demand. During the last financial year, 86% of domestic edible oil was imported. We never seriously thought of encouraging our farmers for cultivation of soybean and production of palm oil. In the free currency exchange, the Pak Rupee has been continuously shedding its value against dollar which is hurting the middle and lower middle class, salaried people and pensioners. The affluent have dollarized their savings and the falling rate of Pakistani Rupee makes no difference in their luxurious living.
The coming times will witness helplessness and resignation or abrasiveness in the people depending on the social political undercurrents. The nationalists and leftists would like the people to rise against the centuries-old tribal stronghold and the continuous bad governance of the PPP in Sindh. The PTI is mobilising the people for immediate elections while the federal coalition regime and its allies in two provinces would drag on the current political dispensation as long as they could. The political polarisation is getting intensified by every passing day because of strong-arm tactics indulged in by both sides. The tension is high; the people seem to be politically charged, and angered too by the inflationary pressures brought about by the withdrawal of subsidies. The havoc wreaked by the floods would stoke the flames of public anger. TW