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Charity begins at home


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When calamity strikes our part of the world, it strikes with a vengeance. Even the forces of nature have no mercy left for a land misruled for decades. Nature’s fury too unleashes itself on the hapless victims of bad governance; it leaves the poor destitute and the miserable wretched. This is no divine intervention, rest assured. We have elected our own leaders to lord over us. It is they and not God whose intervention we need most in bettering our affairs.

Praying to God to alleviate the sufferings of the flood victims in Sindh and those laid infirm by the Dengue virus in Punjab, as President Zardari so earnestly requested the nation on the eve of his departure for England, was clearly the only panacea left with his government in the face of the crises at hand. Prime Minister Gilani, while also on a trip abroad, chose the other option: he carried with him the begging bowl to Iran and got it filled with some 10 million dollars. Ads appearing in newspapers on his behalf also request “My people” to contribute to his relief fund. So are we running a country or a cult here? And defying the gods that be thereby.

Some 10 million people are displaced by the floods in Sindh while Dengue epidemic in Lahore alone has reportedly affected nearly 4,000 people, forcing the Punjab government to shut down all educational institutions in the province for ten days. There are well-founded fears that the virus could spill into the neighbouring provinces too as Punjab borders every other province in the country, and the mosquitoes do not necessarily discriminate between the people of one or the other province. However, they seem to mind the Indian border with due diligence and have not ventured 14 miles east of Lahore to plague Amritsar, for instance. The Indians must have done something right to keep them at bay.

To a large extent, the flood and Sindh and Dengue in Punjab are both man-made disasters. They could have been prevented or at least contained within manageable limits with some proper planning. The problem of salinity and water-logging in Sindh is well documented and has consistently increased in terms of the areas it affects over the years; yet, nothing was done all these years to contain the growing menace despite last year’s harrowing floods. If it’s not the rivers overflowing and bursting their banks this monsoon season, it’s simply the rain that’s wreaked much more havoc in rural and urban Sindh alike. Had the drainage system been cleared and streamlined ahead of the rainy season this year, Sindh would not have drowned the way it has.

Not that it wasn’t put on paper (like so many ghost schools out there). The accountant general will undoubtedly tell you that the allocated funds were indeed released to the authorities concerned in Sindh for the very purpose, just as enough anti-Dengue virus spray was provided to the Lahore municipality which instead of spraying the city streets sold the stock (marked ‘For government use. Not for sale.’) in the open market. But there shall never be any accountability for this or that lapse because it is just not the done thing here. Year after year it’s the same story.

The jet-set leadership has to put its feet back on the ground to experience first hand the misery their misrule has unleashed on those they have the audacity to call “my people”. Whether it is ill-gotten or hard earned money, the fact remains that leaders from the Zardaris to Gilanis to the Sharifs, Khans and the rest of them ruling this country are filthy rich; many have got only richer over the years. It’s only fair that before carrying the begging bowls abroad or asking the world to help, they too should make some individual monetary contribution to the relief effort. If PIA employees can contribute a day’s wages, what is deterring the elected representatives from making some such token effort?

In fact, people like the president, the prime minister and the chief ministers and their party chiefs can help by simply cutting down on their state-paid seven-course meals which they devour themselves and shamelessly offer to stunned foreign dignitaries whom they beg for help at the same time. Why not enforce a one-dish menu for their royal lunches and dinners in a country whose internal and external debt is now going straight up to its ears?

Charity should really begin at home. While Nawaz Sharif is right when he says we need to break the begging bowl, it is time he too coughed up some of his golden coins to alleviate the misery over which his heart bleeds. Maybe by doing so the opposition leader can shame the president and the prime minister into making similar donations — even if they be to their own relief funds — which, alas, have little credibility with Pakistanis and foreigners alike.       

The writer is a member of the staff at Dawn Newspaper. 

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (22) Closed

Alex Sep 16, 2011 01:07pm
Why should the world give aid to a country where powerful and rich people rarely pay taxes ? I met a ship captain from Pakistan who claimed that it is possible to pass an entire consignment through Karachi port without paying any duty.
Forbidden Fruit Sep 16, 2011 01:25pm
We can at least boast for having the most shameless people ruling us! It was so relieving to see that somebody wrote this fantastic piece but at the same time, it heightened my hopelessness. The government is as shameless as they come and the masses, battered by all sorts of troubles, are too numb to fight back.
Lucky Sep 16, 2011 02:31pm
Your slumber is going on and on.. People wake up... High time you build a good nation. If it has to be built from scratch so be it. Atleast do it for your sons and daughters. Do you want them to be in same situation? wake up...
HUma Sep 16, 2011 02:59pm
@ Alex - i completely agree with you. Those higher authorities don't pay any taxes and instead ready with the bowl in hand to beg for the amount. which is extremely inappropriate.
Shakeel GHOURI Sep 16, 2011 03:38pm
We are ruled by such people who are corrupt, insincere and disloyal. We know that the aid which they will get on the behalf of flood-damage recovery would not effectively serve the need of those who are in trouble and waiting for help, but would mostly be grabbed by those who are carrying begging bowl. But, people are in trouble and they need help. dengue and flood have been hitting the masses a lot and if a campaign was not started, the situation would turn into disaster. This is a time when we, who are in good circumstances, as a nation should think about the situation to restore before it turn more serious and affect whole the country.
Selina Sep 16, 2011 08:19pm
I did try my best to ignore this blog when I saw the title but alas I feel quite strongly about this so I will leave a comment. Whilst I completely agree that our throughly pathetic politicians, our government, our elite with their unbelievably lavish lifestyles should give their personal (stolen) wealth to the flood affectees without a seconds thought, this is still a huge natural disaster which like those in other parts of the world requires attention in the international press, awareness raising campaigns, reporters on the ground, international donations, celebrities mentioning it on twitter, appeals, mentions on TV programmes, at sporting events, concerts, telethons. I have no faith in the pakistani government or the elite but surely inspite of those things, Pakistan's disasters deserve to be seen as natural disasters in the same way as all others all around the world, surely people around the world should know the basis about Pakistan's disasters ie - 2010 - An area of land the size of Italy was submerged in Pakistan; when stopped by a well known charity fundraiser on the street in London last week, I had to remind -her- about Pakistan's floods last year such was the unbearable lack of coverage in the media, and surely people should understand that whilst the govt is useless, the people who are determined, who have sold their things and saved themselves, and built makeshift homes out of nothing and gone without food or water deserve normal levels of internaitonal sympathy. They haven't done anything wrong. Those people who are suppossedly concerned about curroption of funds can donate to UNICEF of WFP or UNHCR; names that they can trust, not just sit around getting a kick out of the suffering of ordinary Pakistani's. Finally to the writer, please make a distinction between those who seem to care little for Pakistan (ie its leaders) and those many many more who understand completely that charity begins at home and make it amongst the most charitable nations on earth. I'm so sick of people underming and distinguishing Pakistan's natural disasters from other, even those which are lesser.
ROGER Sep 16, 2011 08:59pm
So basically, ruling style in Pak is almost similar to Republican party in US, where rich gets richer by paying less in taxes, and poor gets more poorer by paying lots in taxes.
Arindom Sep 17, 2011 06:16am
Last year Angelina Jolie has come to raise money for flood victims. She went back shocked and reported back to the UN ( she is a goodwill ambassador) that the elite is living in opulance and waste. She related incidents where her host chartered entire planes to ferry his family members and had 7-star parties to be photographed with her - the money she saw with her hosts and their families disgusted her. She reported every back to the UN. It was in the news last year. Obviously no-one has learnt anything.
shafi Sep 17, 2011 12:12pm
There was a record remission 11 billion dollars Last year . Is there any accountability? The answer is no. You should remember that even
Wali Shaikh Sep 17, 2011 05:43pm
The Pakistani feudal elite will only help themselves, despite all their posturing to the contrary. Its pure economics. You can only afford running a large household (or farms) with many servants (or farm workers) if the cost of labor is very low. If you start growing the economy, these servants and workers will have access to better opportunities and the forces of demand and supply will raise the cost of their labor. These higher costs will eventually significantly hurt the feudal bottom line. For example, most of them don't keep servants in their London homes because this labor costs too much in the US and Europe. Imagine if they were suddenly faced with the same high labor costs in Pakistan. Their profit margins would soon fall dramatically. So why should they support anything as preposterous as economic development, which will almost certainly raise their labor costs and make them worse off? Its not like we're talking about a particularly altruistic set of people.
Arman Zain Sep 17, 2011 08:28pm
I will ask “all of you (author and commentators)”, who chooses these politicians to lead and rule? You and Me. So please rather then putting all blame on them we should take the blame of electing them again and again. And we will be one voting for their kids who were brought up US and England and have no idea of Pakistanis problem. So Shame on Us.
zivary,farideh Sep 17, 2011 09:10pm
Next time elect peole's party with a bigger majority.Once satiated they might do something for the masses.By the way we are electing them to rule us so what are we complaining about?
zulfiqar khaki daily Sep 17, 2011 11:24pm
Angelina jolie is a respectable lady of west, who she saw our elite,it was her eye, but we should cast our kindly eyes upon the worst condition of flood victims,, they need our help, so we should not speak about other faults, because blaming people is very easy work to do, but help some one requires God look, means we should forgive the people who have no any care about needy people, we should play our part if we are alive!
zulfiqar khaki daily Sep 17, 2011 11:28pm
this is not suitable time for criticising the elite or any other class, because a little bit anger from any side can decrease the number of aid, so let things for coming election.
zulfiqar khaki of da Sep 17, 2011 11:42pm
I have respect for ALEX, but it is not fair to call pakistan a country where powerful or rich people are not paying taxes, there so many examples of wrong doings from many other countries of the world but example will be always given from good side of masses, hope Mr ALEX will try to understand that pakistan is a good partner of west.
M.Islam Sep 18, 2011 12:18am
i totally agree with Murtaza/ Why on earth any country, no matter how rich or developed want to keep doling out aid, when the powerful and rich people of that country, and they include the President, the PM and the countless minsters do not bother to do so? The world is not blind.
shafi Sep 18, 2011 12:12pm
You should remember that even God does not help those who don't help themselves. True, it is a very tragic event that a year after the last flood Pakistan is ravished again by the floods but one should look back on the last 12 months. It was predicted that there would be flood again in a years time and Pakistan was advised to take preventive measure. Did anyone take those measures? No, our politicians only know one thing and that is how to amass a fortune in the shortest possible time. Pakistan may drown but these Neros continue to play their fiddle. Do the rich and the powerful pay their share of taxes? No, and despite the IMF conditions the government has not done anything about it. Writer is correct that charity begins at home. Pakistan has a debt of 11,000,000,000.000 Rupees. One Pakistani has a fortune of 18o,000,000,000 Rupees. Cant that perso donate a fraction? No, he is making further gains instead. So Selina, your sentiments are fine but when the donors know that their donations are not going to the deserving people, they are not willing to donate. That is the bottom line.
Abdul Majeed Birmani Sep 18, 2011 04:28pm
Mr Razvi has depicted the real picture of pakistani political horizon and apathy of the nation.
Ahsen Sep 18, 2011 06:14pm
My concern is that why the root cause of the problem i.e. bad infrastructure was not fixed after last year's floods. Why we will have to suffer everytime. As a Pakistani we are duty bound to help and help can be given through channels that are trust worthy. I am not worried about people who don't give charity or pay taxes, because this is the time to help to save life with reward only from Allah and with a complete disregard for those corrupt people. If everyone starts thinking that since the government is corrupt therefore we are no more duty bound to give charity, where will the poor people go and ask help from. One thing for sure I am not happy that every year Pakistan appears to be asking from all the world to help. I hope we can lift the Pakistan economy by playing our positive role and become a better nation. Media is doing its job to ask this question, but probably this needs to be done more strongly. Why on earth the media is not able to bring the President and PM to the camera and ask for their accounts on what was done last year. I am sure they can give a detail of improvements done.
Bunti Sep 19, 2011 04:54am
Pakistan has been surviving on begging bowl for the ;ast 64 years. So nothing wrong in using the same again.
fork Sep 19, 2011 05:54am
and the rich should care about the poor because...?
Tahir M Sep 19, 2011 11:17am
The plight of the poor victims is pitiable. We must all help. While the corrupt politicians and others are trying to engage the country in the good cause to pray and bow in front of God for forgiveness on these tragedies that are now happening unrelentingly, I am appalled to note that the local aid workers (who I consider to be educated and intelligent people) are discriminating openly to help those victims who belong to the minorities. This is totally unacceptable and inhumane. In view of such discriminations and hatred, how can God be forgiving? Please wake up.