Dr Ghayur Ayub
Mother Nature and Pakistani public are angry; the former because of the human disrespect towards her; and the latter for what the failing democracy is doing to them. Both are angry; very, very angry.
For millennia, Nature has been working in her own coordinated but mysterious ways. According to ‘butterfly affect’; it can bring a tornado in Florida from flapping of a butterfly’s wing in Beijing. The unchecked industrial development in recent centuries has put this coordination in jeopardy. For example, a group of scientists links the devastating floods in Pakistan, the scorching forest fire in Russia, and the torrential rains in China with the man-made global warming. According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), this year is the warmest since reliable temperature records began in the mid-19th century.
The shattering heat wave in Russia has brought the worst drought in decades which have disturbed world grain markets, driving wheat prices up at the fastest rate in more than 30 years. It made Vladimir Putin announced a grain export ban from August 15 to December 31. The heat wave also led to forest fires that have brought human miseries and death. The smoke from fires is likely to stoke global warming by hastening a thaw of Arctic ice causing unprecedented rains. It may also dust Himalayan glaciers with black soot that absorbs more heat than reflective snow and ice and so speeds a thaw causing floods in countries such as Pakistan. It is the same story in China, where nearly 1,500 people have died in mudslides and flooding caused by heavy rains due, primarily, to a build-up of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels by releasing the heat-trapping carbon dioxide.
A second group of scientists, influenced by the corporate authorities and backed by American mindset do not agree with this theory. They say it is impossible to pin the blame solely on burning of fossil fuels. To support their view they argue that one cause of a shift in monsoon rains in Asia seem to be a knock-on effect of La Nina that causes natural cooling of the Pacific region thus clearing field for torrential rains. They also argue that El Nino-the male counterpart of La Nina, causes periods of dry spells and massive oceanic storms. They term the whole phenomenon as normal periodic turns of Nature. Coming under increasing pressure from the followers of this group, the U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid abandoned Climate Change Legislation July this year. One should remember that the United States, the number two largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China, is the only major industrialised nation with no law to cut emissions.
It is ominous to see the corporate-backed scientists are working as double edged swords supporting projects which interfere in normal working of Nature on one hand and on the other hand blaming the normal phenomena of Nature to protect the man-made damaging tools. Crudely speaking, it muffles any difference between the mindset of these liberal scientists and the narrow minded Taliban. Both are twisting facts to suit their individual commitments. No wonder the Taliban in Swat have been telling the flood victims that they have been punished by Allah for what they did to Taliban by supporting the ‘infidels’.
Without pondering further over how the ultramodern scientists are construing the laws of Nature or how the conservative Taliban are interpreting things; let me concentrate on the Nature-related floods in Pakistan and the consequences. According to a report, “The floods in Pakistan have been devastating. They’re “worse than the Southeast Asia tsunami and the Haiti earthquake.” Over 20 million people have been affected by the flooding, and several thousand have died. Villages that had yet to fully recover from a devastating 2005 earthquake have been essentially washed away. And the rain continues to pour, destroying more lives and keeping rescue efforts from proceeding. Food prices in Pakistan have quadrupled, making basic nutrition unattainable for many. Even after the rain stops in Pakistan; these tragic events will continue to pile up casualties from starvation and disease.”
The democratic government so far, has not left a meaningful impression on the public as far as their day to day life is concern. They find that; the prices of normal commodities have soared; their income capacity has shrunken; the poverty has increased; their personal security has diminished; and communal despondency has mushroomed. On the government side, they see that; the good governance has vanished; its authority has melted; the corruption in its departments has multiplied; the law and order has disintegrated; and the terrorism has spiralled up. In a nutshell, the government lost its credibility, control and trust amongst the public.
With this poor record, it is faced with having over 20 million people affected directly by the floods. The number sharply rises if one counts its indirect effects surpassing the number of critical mass required to bring a change in a society. The angry Nature has played its role to pinch the public where it hurts. It’s up to the democratic government to heal their physical wounds and emotional bruises. History tells us that in the devastation caused by WWII, Germany and Japan recovered well with help of the world community. But after poor implementation of the funds in post earthquake development projects, the world response this time seems lukewarm.
Discussions have already started in print and electronic media in favour and against the results of relief provided to the earthquake victims. This time, the public will not take it lying down. After seeing the dismal response from the highest leadership during the initial days of the floods, the public sentiments have already steamed up. Soon, they will start shouting for food, water, shelter and basic amenities. The verbal promises by the leadership will not satisfy them. They will demand results. The vibrant media will be ready to project their anger and demands even with exaggeration. Would the government with its long list of poor record be able to satisfy them? This is the sixty four thousand dollar question.
What will happen if the government fails? Would it be its downfall? If so; would there be a repeat of previous practices replacing one lethargic government with another civilian or military regime; or would it be different this time? And what would be the role of revived judiciary? Would it sit quietly and let the country take a nosedive? Many won’t agree with that. So what are the alternatives? A military takeover, a bloody revolution, or an unprecedented change spearheaded by judiciary? The army is already overstretched in eliminating terrorism; so military takeover is unlikely. Possibly of bloody revolution cannot be excluded but there is no example in our history. This leaves us with the third option. Judiciary knows that it owes its revival to the public uprising and vast majority of the public expects judiciary to cleanse the rotten democratic system. It can oblige public wishes by installing a national government with help of the army; comprising honest politicians, upright technocrats and competent civilians.
The new setup will have the last chance to purify democracy through a bloodless change; by putting the country on post-flood development track (which should be seen as done); by cleansing the lower judiciary (the higher has already been cleansed); by pursuing the new and pending cases of people involved in corrupt practices from present or previous governments or non-government institutions to legally conclusive ends; by recovering the stolen money in any form or shape from cheats; by installing an honest and independent election commission; and by letting the army hunt the terrorists until the government’s writ in every part of the country is restored.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes for the installed government to continue provided it shows the public that the job is properly done and it proves to the foreign governments and funding agencies that their funds are well spent. Let the people be the judges of the government in a real sense rather than vice versa as seen so far through sham democratic practices and engineered electioneering which ignored the public psyche.
The ball is in the court of the government which is facing not only the angry public but also the irritated Mother Nature.
Read More: Floods drown Pakistan economy