Yes, this is now an old picture. But it is not an old issue, and we should not act as if it is.
This haunting photograph is from last year’s earthquake. Everytime I see it I shudder. Yet, I keep it on my screensaver to make sure that I do not forget the severity of what happened in teh mundane minutia of life.
Yet, even as elections were held in Azad Kashmir yesterday The News (12 July, 2006) was reporting: that the monsoon is complicating life in the disaster zone:
With the monsoon rains setting in and raising alarm bells of chain reaction of landslides across the earthquake zone, the reconstruction effort are set to face a serious setback after continuously soaring steel and cement prices. The onset of early monsoon rains across northern Pakistan is already causing concern for the many families who have returned to villages devastated by the earthquake. Rain-soaked mountainsides are posing an increased risk for landslides…. While the entire country is in grip of severe hot weather, the rains have come early in many earthquake-hit areas. Smaller roads are blocked, and because the hillsides are already damaged by the earthquake, landslides will inevitably take place in larger numbers this year, UN officials said. The tiny roads leading to villages are already in a bad state and will get blocked off soon. The relief situation has already faced serious obstacles due to severe funding cutbacks due to discontinuation of helicopters operations.
We often complain about the Western media not paying enough attention to our tragedies, but our own silence on the Earthquake rehabilitation is deafening. I did a quick tally of op-eds published in major English newspapers over the last 2 months, and strikingly I found op-eds on every subject under the sun, but none at all on the Earthquake reconstruction efforts. In terms of public discourse, at least, we seemed to have ‘moved on.’ That is itself a tragedy.
I do not wish to belittle all the good that is being done. In my professional life I happen to work on these issues, so I know that a lot of good work is being done by various nongovernmental, intergovernmental and governmental organizations. For example, right here in Boston, Pakistani-Americans are working as I write on organizing more fundraisers, so much more is happening all over Pakistan.
These commendable efforts notwithstanding, the public silence is still disturbing. In our own little way, we must keep the public conversation alive. It will not only provide an honest, ongoing evaluation of what is happening, it is also needed to keep the momentum for action. Without it, the efforts on the ground will die sooner than they need to.
P.S. I guess that the brutal train attacks in Mumbai have something to do with the mood I am in today. But the attacks have not only highlighted the senselessness of the violence, they seem to have also highlighted the goodness in the heart of ordinary citizens. I hope it will remain so, and the designs of those who would wish to create civil and sectarian violence will continue to be thwarted. As with the earthquake in Pakistan, the most valiant relief response in Mumbai has also come from ordinary people. The connections were brought into focus for me by the action of my friend iFaqeer whose immediate response to the 2005 Earthquake was to set up an informational Wiki to keep the information and conversation flowing; he has just done the same for the Mumbai blasts.