Owais Mughal and Adil Najam
Like may others, we at All Things Pakistan (ATP; Pakistaniat.com) are extremely concerned that in all the ‘high politics’ of the Lal Masjid operation, the Chief Justice saga, the opposition parties meeting in London and so much more that seems to be happening in Pakistan today, we are forgetting the plight of thousands of people affected by Cyclone YemYeni in Balochistan (and related weather events elsewhere in Pakistan).
As a token of this concern and as a very humble contribution we at ATP have decided to donate the earnings from the ads you see on ATP to relief and rehabilitation efforts in Balochistan. Last week the Justices of the Supreme Court ruled that the government legal team (which had been fined for filing scandalous documents before the Court) should deposit a sum of Rs. 100,000 for the benefit of flood victims in Balochistan. Irrespective of the merits of that case, the decision to use the fine in this was was a thoughtful, important and worthy gesture by the Justices. Inspired by this gesture of the Court, we at ATP have decided that we will match that exact same amount (Rs. 100,000). We do not know if that fine has been deposited yet or not. However, we intend to have our little contribution disbursed as soon as possible; hopefully, within the next several days.
We share this decision with you because in very real ways this contribution is being made not just in the name of Pakistaniat.Com and its team of editors and contributors, but in the name of the greater ATP community.
All of you have, quite literally, contributed to this contribution. Every time you have clicked on one of those annoying ads, or explored an inline link, or ordered a book through Amazon by starting your search on this page, or used a service advertised here, you have contributed to this cause. In very small trickles – a few cents here, a minute percentage there – but things have added up. Originally we had no ads. We resisted them for a long time. Until a few months ago we carried them but only haphazardly. We put them up thinking they would pay for the monthly server hosting costs and no more. For a while that is all they did. More recently, as the traffic has grown so has the trickle of revenue. Not to a level where anyone of us can get rich off it, but more than we had imagined.
For the last 3 months we have been discussing amongst ourselvs what to do with this money. We decided some three months ago that after direct expenses of server hosting, etc., we will give away all of the rest to charity. We already gave away some small amounts while in Pakistan recently; these went towards supporting education for a few children and for medical assistance to another child born with disability. We decided last week that relief operations for the Balochistan cyclone was the most appropriate cause to contribute the large chunk of our contribution to. We are not alone in thinking that something needs to be done by citizens; an email list of Pakistani bloggers is also discussing the same. We are ignoring those affected right at the time when the needs of those displaced by this catastrophe is the highest. The 2005 earthquake should remind us that the needs of the vulnerable last well after people’s attentions have diverted elsewhere (here, here, here and here).
We believe that it is a cause that all of ATP visitors can identify with and support. We already have a number of leads on exactly who to give this money to, but if anyone has ideas please do share with us.
We realize that this is a very small amount that will make only a very small dent. But we believe that coming from the Pakistaniat community as a whole it has some significance. Not only for those few who we may be able to help, but for us as a community here at ATP. We know that Pakistanis are a giving people – one of us actually wrote a book on exactly that. We hope that our little contribution will make more of you think about reaching out in whatever way you can.
As you do so, we urge you to think not only about giving for immediate relief (which is the first and immediate priority) but also to support efforts aimed at rehabilitation and long-term development. The affected populations were already amongst the most impoverished and vulnerable in the country. Getting them back to where they were before this catastrophe wil not be enough. We need also to think about longer-term issues like why this cyclone caused as much destruction as it did. Writing in The News on this subject one of us (Adil) had written:
… The individuals who died, the families who have been rendered homeless, the dwellings that have been washed away, and the cattle that has been lost are not just statistics. These are real people, real families, real livelihoods that have been wasted needlessly.
Yes, wasted. Yes, needlessly. The heat, the rains, the winds and the cyclone are all natural phenomenon. But there is very little that is natural about the disasters that they have wrought. These were unnecessary deaths. This was avoidable destruction. Of course, the heat, the rains, the wind and the cyclone create the conditions that end up killing people, making them homeless and robbing their livelihoods. But the scale of the destruction is also determined by the impoverished conditions that people are forced to live in. The conditions of poverty makes people more vulnerable to the ravages of climate change than they should be. After all, not every roof collapses under the burdens of torrential rains. Some roofs can withstand the torrents; others cannot. That poverty forces some people to live under weak and vulnerable roofs is as likely to be a result of ‘policy’ disasters than of ‘natural’ disasters.
… This is not to suggest that better policy could have stopped the heat, the rain, the winds and the cyclone. This is to say that better policy could — and should — have curtailed the impact of the heat, the rain, the winds and the cyclone. Reliable energy supply could have curtailed the death toll from the heat wave. Better housing could have saved lives as well as livelihoods. Accessible health services would have helped tackle the injuries and disease that could eventually take as big a toll as the climatic events themselves.
But let us also accept that ‘policy’ is not just a function of what government’s do. It is also a function of what societies do. What citizen’s do. Let us think, for just one moment, about what we as citizens can do. We may just find that we can do so much more than we think we can.