IT rained, rained, and rained in Karachi ferociously, upsetting the applecart of national disaster management plans, and while it also exposed the limitations of civilian administration, country’s armed forces, Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Para-military Rangers, did a tremendous job in rescue and relief operations. Their timely and cohesive action, discipline and the will to come to the aid of the suffering humanity was a lesson for those entrusted with management responsibilities, Governor, chief minister, former mayor Mustafa Kamal all were on pilgrimage, performed in Saudi Arabia on 31st of August, according to Islamic calendar date in the Holy land.
But credit is also due to chief minister Murad Ali Shah who, immediately on learning of the tragedy ordered his ministers to be on their toes. Information minister Nasir Hasan Shah, in company with cabinet colleague, holding local government portfolio Jam Shoro, went round the affected areas, but two more ministers, including Imdad Pitafi, joined them on the second day. The point to ponder however, was whether the provincial administration, with headquarters in Karachi, was ready to deal with such eventualities. The rains brought disaster and deluge in its fury, which is rarely seen and whose precedence, though there in 70s, and couple of other occasions, was surely beyond the capability of a government, suffering from fund shortage, and lack of preparedness.
The answer to the sensitive and important question is a big “NO”. Murad Ali Shah, had also commanded his cabinet colleagues to take Mayor Waseem Akhtar on board. But coordination was found lacking, No point indulging in blame game at this juncture of crisis. It is time to show that whatever could be done in such situations, must be done without hesitation or slightest reluctance. The kind of crisis, witnessed by the persistent rains for two days, Thursday and Friday, demanded undivided attention. But truth has to be told in words plain and simple. No point in sheltering behind octrich-like attitude. Warnings were issued by weather pundits well in time. Even the Mumbai deluge with the storm in Indian ocean, and simultaneous downpour in Badin and Thatta costal belt on our side of the border, was enough to demand complete preparedness. That it was found lacking should be a lesson for the future.
Natural disaster could not save a developed city like Houston in the American State of Texas. Nothing like it was witnessed in the coastal area of Houston in United States in recent years. Hurricane Harvey was compared with a similar disaster like Katrina. Luckily Karachi did not experience 41 inches of rain, and tidal waves of 30/35 metres, experienced by the city in a super power, equipped with most modern means of crisis management. Here the cloud burst, despite all its furry, was much less, but precautions were not taken in time. I I Chundrigar Road,Share Fasial, Airport Area, and adjoining Malir localities, Burns Road reputed as oldest food street of Karachi, and still being favoured by many, were flooded well upto knee deep water, motorists, buses, motor cyclists, and even pedestrians, bore a brunt which they perhaps will remember for a long time.
Mayor’s complaint that of the 127 development schemes submitted for Karachi’s development to the Sindh government, not one were approved, and that a city of over two million, had a mere 13 pumps to drain the rain water out, of which only 9 were in working conditions. Cries for provincial government help in solving the city problem, fell on deaf ears, need to be rectified. In such pathetic conditions when Hub Dam too is over-flooded, and could burst its seams to add to miseries of the people, instant action, and round the clock efforts for relief and rescue are required. It was heartening to note that the cabinet minister had cancelled eid holidays, ordering the staff to be on duty to atleast reduce the difficulties of the sufferers, some fo who had to take refuge over roof tops of their houses.
A visit to the city, could only provide a bird’s eye view. A comprehensive picture of the tragedy striking the city and its populace was virtually impossible. Some systematic guesswork could well be relied upon, which showed that the city and provincial governments, were ill-equipped and ill-prepared for such eventualities. A they need to plan comprehensively to avoid similar crisis in times to come. Jawans of the Pakistan Army, Navy men, air fore C-130 and helicopters, mobilized their resources, credits for which goes to corps commander, Lt-General Shahid Baig Mirza, DG Rangers Maj-General Mohammad Saeed, and the Commander Karachi, Pakistan Navy, who again is a two-star officer, but deeply dutiful and conscious of his obligations.
They all combined together, to rescue people. While army men were engaged in providing relief to people, Pakistan Navy boats and their men, came really handy, and the Rangers performed their duties extremely well. Citizens knew now that it was their national army, professionally competent, and ready to help them whenever called upon to do so. Salutations to them.
Haider, Salahuddin. Rains exposes limitations of civilian administration but armed forces, Rangers help was huge relief. Pakistan Observer, September 5, 2017.