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Forcing us to look inward

The writer is a lawyer based in London

Our opposition parties, in particular, and sections of our press, more generally, have tried to give the impression that international donors are stingy with Pakistan because of the government’s lack of credibility. I disagree and suggest that those arguing this position should read some of the comments to articles in the foreign press urging donors to aid Pakistan in its time of need. Even progressive publications like The Guardian and MSNBC’s site have plenty of comments suggesting that Pakistanis are terrorists so who cares if they drown.

It is this association with the Taliban’s image that has hurt Pakistan far more than the government’s credibility, for Pakistan is not the only developing country with corrupt leadership. There are ways around that if international donors are serious about helping out.  There is no compulsion of going through government channels. Aid can be sent directly to trusted Pakistani charities. Moreover, internationally-known NGOs, such as Oxfam or Medecins Sans Frontieres, working to collect funds for Pakistan’s flood victims are way behind in their targets. There should be no credibility issue here as these groups have excellent track records. It is simply that Pakistan has suffered from such bad press in connection to terrorism in recent years that the few opinion-makers and journalists who are writing about the need to help innocent Pakistanis are simply not being heeded.

On the other hand, some charities that have managed to collect sizeable funds are those that evoke feelings of sympathy among fellow Muslims, names like Islamic Relief. Saudi Arabia’s private telethon collected $110 million, which must be lauded as the largest private contribution from any country yet. However, other oil-rich Gulf countries, such as the UAE or Qatar, have given virtually nothing, while Kuwait has only offered about $5 million, which incidentally, is the same amount that India has offered. As a comparison, Kuwait gave $500 million when Hurricane Katrina struck, while Qatar gave $100 million.

This is however no time for holding on to ego. Pakistan must accept funds, no matter where they come from. Otherwise we would be wronging our own people. This is no time for attitude towards old enemies or sifting through agendas (whether right-wing or left-wing) of potential donors. The immediate need is to feed, provide shelter for and curb the spread of disease among the hundreds of thousands that have lost everything. The threat of recruitment by extremist forces among those displaced is also perhaps misplaced. In the immediate aftermath of this catastrophe, most flood victims are simply too concerned about the very basics of life to think about ideology. They may riot for lack of basic amenities but it is unlikely they will be lured into fundamentalism at this stage.

Later, when we are in a position to reconstruct, coordination will be the greatest challenge. The lacklustre response by the international community may present only one silver lining:  it will force us to look inward and tap indigenous resources. Haiti was promised much more than Pakistan by the world but very little of it actually materialised. Since we are not promised much to begin with, we need to look actively at Pakistani sources. This includes not just wealthy Pakistanis in the country but also those abroad who are willing to help, including those who may be dual or triple nationals, but see themselves primarily as Pakistani. The government needs to bolster its role as facilitator and help channelise these resources. Without involving itself in fund collection, it needs to nevertheless help identify those who can contribute large sums of money and encourage them to pick NGOs of their choice to work with. The media can help cover these efforts to maintain transparency.

Pakistani embassies abroad should be actively seeking out and preparing lists of large donors of Pakistani origin. There are some who can spare a million dollars each, others half a million, and perhaps many who can give a quarter of a million. These people need to be brought on board and partnered with various NGOs and government authorities to help rebuild.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2010.

Ayesha Ijaz Khan August 20, 2010

Reader Comments (24)

  • I agree, our bad image has more to do with the army’s strategic assets than corruption of the politicians.

    faraz 3 months ago
  • “It is this association with the Taliban’s image that has hurt Pakistan far more than the government’s credibility, for Pakistan is not the only developing country with corrupt leadership.”

    Thank you for telling us that corruption (and the lack of govt’s credibility) is not a problem but the Taliban.

    Dr Qaisar Rashid 3 months ago
  • Now that media persons have created fund for flood hit people and they claim that they have collected more money than the government, I would suggest them to make a media political party. Doing this they can fulfill all their ambitions of throwing the government out and cleanse the society of all menaces, since the military and opposition have given cold shoulder (for obvious reasons) to their woes.

    Ammar 3 months ago
  • First you insist that there is no government credibility issue and then explain how to go about with out involving the government in collecting of funds.
    Come and work ‘hands on’ then decide.

    A Naheed 3 months ago
  • I totally disagree with your column. “Credibility is no doubt a major problem for the govt, even the UNO spokesperson have to say that world is reluctant to help pakistan because of the doubt about the aid funds. We are corrupt and working under a total corrupt govt. the govt relief work is no where only private NGOs and Army and the US is working, all the heads are on abroad tours and enjoying. Taliban also is not a problem the real problem is Corruption only corruption. The govt will embezzled all the funds got in the name of poor peoples of flood victims. Shame…..

    Amanat ali 3 months ago
  • @Dr.Qaisar Rasheed: If you have to choose between the devil and deep sea, where do you go? The West(and the rest of the world) perhaps don’t feel they have much of a choice. That is why they are reluctant to come to the rescue of the Pakistani people. Ironically the people of Pakistan seem to be as indecisive (helpless?) if not more, as is the rest of the world to make any clear cut choice between the two ‘evils’: corruption/inefficiency/indifference/lack of vision and will and obscurantism/extremism. Donors of every kind should perhaps err on side of the ‘lesser evil’. There are so many ways to help without going through govt or the Taliban way. And for the international community to win the Pakistani population and drag them away from the extremists, this is perhaps the best opportunity. The Americans, who have not been faring well in terms of reputation in Pakistan for quite sometime, have been winning hearts and minds through their generour rescue effort in the current floods. That should be a model for other people around the world if they have genuine interest in the welfare of humanity and who have the rationality not the bracket a whole nation of 180 million with some extremists in their country. That surely is not the case. Conservative thinking might be prevalent but Pakistani people like the rest of the humanity are biologically capable of rational thinking, progress and development. Indifference on the part of the international community on one pretext or another will push millions of people to the extremist camp, who will be more than happy to jump on the opportunity.

    Muhammad Ilyas Khan 3 months ago
  • @ Dr Qaisar Rashid, A Naheed and Amanat Ali—at no point did I say that corruption is not an issue. In fact, I acknowledge early on that our leadership is corrupt, which is why I am suggesting ways to work around it. I am simply saying that the reason the international community is not being generous with funding is not due to corruption but due to Pakistan’s association with the Taliban image in the foreign press. These are two different things.

    Ayesha Ijaz Khan 3 months ago
  • Finally someone says it upfront and clear without the lens of corruptophobia. Thank you for the article.

    Noman 3 months ago
  • Well i think this is not the true picture which u r trying to portray it is basically lack of confidence over govt and its institutions that is why not only people from out side Pakistan are not contributing but people within the country are also shy and not willing to come forward, with regards to to people comments in publications like guardians that “they have plenty of comments suggesting that Pakistanis are terrorists so who cares” so where is their so proclaimed humanity and these are the people of Pakistan who are suffering not the terrorists and mind you it is the Pakistani nation which has suffered the most against this war on terror.

    samee khan 3 months ago
  • “It is this association with the Taliban’s image that has hurt Pakistan far more than the government’s credibility” Thank you for stating the obvious.

    ArifQ 3 months ago
  • “However, other oil-rich Gulf countries, such as the UAE or Qatar, have given virtually nothing, while Kuwait has only offered about $5 million, which incidentally, is the same amount that India has offered. As a comparison, Kuwait gave $500 million when Hurricane Katrina struck, while Qatar gave $100 million.”

    Who ever was dreaming of the Ummah and the Caliphate can kiss it goodbye. Pakistan has alienated all its neighbours. The one neighbour it is friendly with will give nuclear weapons, missiles tech, tanks, fighter jets for free or atleast throwaway prices but wont give much aid to the Civilian leadership. 2nd largest economy in the world, largest foreign reserves and $7 Million?

    The only explanation is if it gives weapons to Pakistan it can satisfy the only set of people who matter,i.e., the armed forces and have immense influence in Pakistan. It also satisfies its strategic objective of arming Pakistan against India. But, what will aid bring China? Nothing. As long as the Army is happy the Chinese Govt is happy.

    If one has such friend who needs enemies!

    Anoop 3 months ago
  • I tend to agree with the author. In India i do not see any civil society movement to help the flood victims. Things were quite different in 2005 earth quack. India has given $1 billion to Bangladesh and $1.5 billion to Afganishatan.. $5 million looks too little too late..and there is no protest from the civil society.. except some famililar voice..

    Things have completely changed on my side of the border after Mumbai.. common man has seen 48 hours of cold blooded murders of innocents live on TV.. and Pakistan establishment’s initial months of denial.. and then not even doing bare minimum to punish the culprit.. but protecting them as an strategic assets to for future killings..

    Even best of “Aman ki Aasha” supporters ( including me) are on backfoot.

    Amit Kumar 3 months ago
  • @Muhammad Ilyas Khan. There is a stage just before the choice is given to one to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea. We should respect that stage. Had Pakistan’s image been better, a swift and qualitative better response of internatinal community could have been there in this hour of crisis. Just a few days ago, the same newspapers, mentioned by the writer, were criticizing President Zardari. At that time, the corruption face of Pakistan was in the forefront. The state of credibility of Pakistan is such as the donor countries prefer to bypass the government. Kerry-Lugar Act is a major example in this regard. Nevertheless, the writer has now explained that according to her view corruption is the major problem of Pakistan. Let us make her stick to that view for her subsequent write-ups.

    @Aisha Khan. I understand that the Taliban and corruption are two different things/phenomena and you meant to compare them but what prompted me to comment was the last part of your that sentence “for Pakistan is not the only developing country with corrupt leadership”. The section of the sentence spoke clearly what the writer meant to defend. Nevertheless, thanks for acknowledging importance of the menace of corruption, an enemy of international aid.

    Dr Qaisar Rashid 3 months ago
  • Thank you ayesha for contribution.The above comments argue only on the emotionalism of our nation. you rightly indicated the nature of leaderships in developing countries and the curroption allegations. unfortuanately in this tough situation we are on debate to decide the credibility of the Government. I only know one thing,there is elective government in Pakistan this time and the persons in all governments (federal and provincials)are Pakistanies. I trust on them plz trust the government, trust teh democracy,and trust the state. we are watching the debate of curroption from first Benazir government and certainly you can sustain this discussion for next several years but please get pitty on the victims of flood this time please

    Ayub Buzdar 3 months ago
  • Is Haiti Govt. very credible. Even if Govts dont want to help why arent common people of other countries coming forward. Point is when hurricane Katrina came i heard Mullahs saying that its Punishment of nature for US. we hate them, take them as enemies since long, the diffrence now is that they have also started taking us seriously as enemies.
    Congrats Theocrat Regment.

    hakeem 3 months ago
  • @ Dr. Qaiser Rashid–the sentence you quote is not meant to defend corruption but again to point out that corruption is not the main reason for lack of funding to Pakistan in this crisis. Incidentally, nor do I think that linking Pakistan with Taliban should be a justifiable reason for stopping/minimizing aid, but unfortunately that is what influences the international community. Have a look at this fairly representative sample of how people outside of Pakistan think and decide for yourself whether it is corruption or something else that is stopping the aid flow:

    Ayesha Ijaz Khan 3 months ago
  • @Ayesha Ijaz Khan. I went through the initial twenty comments (in the section if you are not donating, comment), the link of which you posted. I found the points you were emphasizing on.

    Having said that, one thing I must appreciate that you made up your mind and wrote after consulting the poll (which I also consider authentic and reflective). Most of the Pakistani writers do not bother to do that. They just write and then keep on defending their views. They don’t admit that their write-ups were their judgement. You did research and informed us. Thanks.

    Dr Qaisar Rashid 3 months ago
  • Miss Ayesha ,
    I agree with every sentence you wrote. You couldn’t have been more truthful while writing this article. However, the world seems to have woken up to the magnitude of tragedy in Pakistan, thanks mostly to the efforts of Mr.Ban ki moon. But, even if Pakistan receives the the entire pledged aid (which never happened before) the future seems to be bleak.
    I dread to imagine the possible scenario where millions and millions of displaced people who are hungry and desperate, bordering on to the insanity, descend upon the towns and cities of Pakistan, once the flood waters abate.
    Pakistan was in a state of chaos and lawlessness even before the catastrophic floods. What, the young and educated Pakistanis like you are going to do to stop the possible anarchy? I, someone who is commenting on your writing, should have been suggesting something. But, believe me my senses are numb. I may be offending you and your countrymen if I share one of my old fantasy about Pakistan. Nevertheless, I will share it with you.
    When Musharraf took over Pakistan and declared Kamal Mustafa Ataturk as his idol and revealed his policy of ‘enlightened moderation’ I along with millions of fellow Indians, instantly forgave him for his notorious Kargil adventure! That is because Pakistan of 1999 resembled exactly with Ottoman Empire of 1919, a defeated, decadent and dominated by corrupt clergy and bureaucracy (today’s Pakistan is no different, may be even worse). But, alas! he proved to be no different from the other dictators including Zia ul Haq! Today, when Pakistan is in such a grim and seemingly irretrievable situation all I can wish you Pakistanis is, a genuine Mustafa Kamal Ataturk.

    Neeraj, India 3 months ago
  • Sadly, Madam, even this catastrophy will not compel us to raise our domestic resources. Sure they will slap on a regressive and inflationary flood development surcharge or something of that nature. But there will be no taxation of the rich and powerful.

    Indeed, as the aid starts to pour (in and it seems to be accelerating in recent days) it will — as in the past — diminish any will we might have had to tax. Aid will simply supplant any domestic effort.

    Meekal Ahmed 3 months ago
  • @Neeraj. Your problem is not with the flood but with the ouster of General Musharraf. You gave a big statement that you forgave him for his Kargil adventure. I can comment on that but this is not the appropriate forum. By the way, why don’t you people invite Musharraf to your country, give him a portfolio, or make an Indian ambassador of goodwill?

    Dr Qaisar Rashid 3 months ago
  • @Dr Qaisar Rashid,
    Technically speaking floods in Pakistan shouldn’t be my problem as I am not it’s citizen, however, as a fellow human and an immediate neighbor it is my problem. As for my ‘big statement’ about Musharraf, I advise you not to point fingers at others until and unless you understood others’ statement in the context it was written or spoken.
    I am all for democracy in Pakistan {yes, I am implying there is no democracy in Pakistan } but I don’t see it ever taking roots in there. Ask educated Indians to name India’s current army chief, I am sure at least 50% of them would be staring blankly at you. Whereas Gen. Kayani is a household name in Pakistan. That is the difference between India and Pakistan and that is why I firmly believe that Pak Army is the only institution which can bring a real change to it’s future.

    Neeraj, India 3 months ago
  • @Neeraj. 1. You are not a citizen of Pakistan then why are you commenting. You know Pakistan better or I?
    1. The Indians do not the name of their army chief but you are suggesting that General Kiyani can bring a change. Why don’t you advise your fellow countrymen to learn the name of Indian Army Chief so that he could also play some role in Indian politics?
    2. How do you know Gen. Kayani is a household name in Pakistan?
    3. By the way, don’t you think Pakistan Army can also contribute to a change in India?

    Dr Qaisar Rashid 3 months ago
  • @Dr Qaisar Rashid,

    I think I understand where Neeraj is coming from.

    When the Civilian govt is in power, it has no powers! The Military takes care of the Foreign Policy. It is more hawkish when behind the background and we suffer as a result. But, when in it is in the forefront like in the times of Musharaff, it is less-hawkish and we know who to talk to and whose opinion really matters. It is no coincidence that India and Pakistan almost reached an agreement on Kashmir during the last days of Musharaff.

    This present set up is really bad for everyone. Civilian govt has no powers but is expected, wrongly by Paksitanis and the world to weild power and satisfy their needs. The military to maintain its primacy is hawkish on India. Look how the Military reacted to Kerry-Lugar bill, when Mumbai was attacked,etc.

    Dont you wonder why KLB was opposed? It challenged the primacy of the Military. It sought to deal with the Civilian govt regarding aid and made the right noises of delivering aid if Pakistan takes the right steps towards democracy, Civlian Supremacy and against all forms of Terrorists not just anti-Pakistan ones.

    So, India would prefer either of the 2- Military dictatorship or genuine Democracy in Pakistan. If the set up is something in between the 2 it hurts everyone- India, US and especially Pakistanis.

    Since, I dont think Pakistan is going to be democratic anytime soon I think Military dictatorship would suit India. Even Mullahs seem to want it. What do you see 10 years from now in Pakistan? I see the green of the Military in power. US wont care(after leaving Afghanistan), China wont care, Saudis will love it. There is a very high possibility that Military will come back to power. Infact it really is in power, but in the background. Not much will change.

    I ,as a fellow neighbour, am scared.

    Anoop 3 months ago
  • @Annop. It is interesting to find comments of the Indians at this forum. It is just General Musharraf that captivated you people. Do you know where is Edware Road, London? I used to visit that area to sip Kahva and taste Arabian dessert. Ah, Musharraf must be rueing the day he made possible March 9 (2007). Invite Musharraf to South Hall and provide him the company of Indians. Just don’t plead for Musharraf, you will be making his case worse.

    In your argument, you are keep banking on the pre-2007 era. Kindly update yourself.

    You said “When the Civilian govt is in power, it has no powers!” Don’t ask anyone. Ask Musharraf who was in power on March 9, 2007. He was ousted when he was in full control.

    The incumbent government is a legitimate and representative government — a product of transparent elections in 2008.

    Kindly wipe off your fallacies. When the military reacted to the Kerry Lugar Bill, do you know much reaction from the civil society was surfaced against the military? You have no idea. The Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) was also condemned by the civil society. Nevertheless, the KLB was not opposed by the military for the reasons you mentioned. Kindly read the KLB and you will find the answer.

    The foreign policy of Pakistan is managed primarily by the foreign office. If the military gives its input, that is always welcome. The military does not take care of the domestic policies either. These are decided by the people of Pakistan, especially now.

    I tell you one thing, it is not the military, it is the people of Pakistan that do not like hegemonic deeds of the Indians. The military has to follow the inspiration and wishes of the Pakistanis only. If the people of Pakistan side with the people of Kashmir, what can the military do: they have to follow suit. In March 2009, do you know how the military followed the dictates of the people of Pakistan and facilitated restoration of the deposed judges? Now, in Pakistan, it is the will of the people that matters.

    Kindly keep on reading the Pakistani newspapers and you will find how the Pakistani society is evolving. Keep on visiting this site (of the Express Tribune) and exchanging comments.

    Now rest the case and let the writer of this article write on something else. The last word, just plan to have a cup of tea or dinner with me in Lahore.

    Dr Qaisar Rashid 3 months ago