Category Archives: Floods

Aurat Foundation’s response to the floods

(By Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairman, Pakistan Institute of International Affairs)

The Indus River floods almost every year. After the flood recedes, the people living along its banks repair their homes and shops and pick up the threads of life again. In some years, the flooding is acute and the government, civil society and other donors mobilise to bring relief to those left homeless and destitute.

Dr Masuma Hasan

This year, the floods have been described by some, as the worst natural disaster in the history of mankind. Devastation? Tragedy? Calamity? None of these words truly describe the magnitude of what has struck disaster-prone Pakistan. As if terrorism and the war against it had not caused misery and displacement enough. It is estimated that 20 million people have been affected by the monsoon rains and the Indus flood which has broken dykes and embankments and submerged millions of acres of land. Hundreds of towns, villages and hamlets have been evacuated. People are on the move, desperately seeking a patch of dry ground and the means of survival.

The impact of this disaster will be felt for generations to come. The gains Pakistan’s economy, infrastructure, industry, health and education sectors had made have been washed away by the angry Indus. Heritage sites have been destroyed. Sludge covers the land, many feet deep. Crops, livestock and fodder have been lost, public and private records of governance, education, businesses and landownership have drowned. Stocks of grain and rice have been swept away. Who will sow the next crop? Epidemics and disease threaten our land. Continue reading

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Khairpur Nathan Shah

By Arif Hasan (published in Dawn on 28 October 2010)

Muhammad Iqbal Memon, DCO Dadu invited me to visit Khairpur Nathan Shah to “advise” him on its “rehabilitation”. In the briefing held in Dadu on 10 October 2010, and attended by Imran Zafar Laghari (the MPA of the area) and Sikandar Panhwar (the TMO) , we learnt that the town had over 15,000 plus homes and shops, its water came from tube wells seven kilometres away as the local subsoil water was brackish, and that the sewage system consisted of open drains (as in the rest of the small towns of Sindh) and disposed into cesspools or pumped untreated into the saim nali through three disposal points. The absence of an underground sewage system is a major cause of disease and environmental pollution. The town is divided into thirteen community based paras or neighbourhoods. It has functioning educational and health institutions including degree colleges for both girls and boys. Continue reading

Mrs Clinton, Tax, and the Floods

Although, in the past, one found it difficult to be a fan of Mrs Clinton it seems that she is making herself amenable to being liked in her newer face as the American Secretary of State. When she came to speak at an obscure American liberal arts institution called Vassar College in the early 1990s almost no one went to hear her speak because everyone had had a late night partying.

On a more serious note Pakistan has suffered catastrophic floods. This calamity displaced more than one-tenth of the country’s 160 million strong population. The flooding left up to 2,000 people dead and affected up to 20 million.

Consequently, on the streets of western capitals such as London, efforts for collecting relief funds for Pakistan’s floods are numerously observable. And quite rightly Mrs Clinton observed that the elite in Pakistan is not concerned about the predicament that the country finds itself in. The Pakistani rich are more concerned with their private armies and barbed wire protected premises.

In every country the issue of how public money is collected and spent lies at the heart of political debate and in turn free and fair political debates fashion democracy. In our country this seems not to be the case. Having observed Pakistan’s tendency in not collecting taxes due from the rich, Mrs Clinton also said that the Pakistani government had to expand its tax base so more revenue could be collected to help reconstruction efforts with the floods.

Mrs Clinton found it “absolutely unacceptable” that well-to-do Pakistanis avoided paying their fair share of taxes. And no doubt the poor of Pakistan will agree. Like the the legendary Benazir Bhutto, Mrs Clinton is quick to learn how be become popular in Pakistan.

Mrs Clinton said: “It’s absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while taxpayers in Europe, the United States and other contributing countries are all chipping in.”

The EU and US have contributed some $450m (£280m) each to the Pakistan flood aid effort and the EU has also offered a trade deal to lift certain duties.

Mrs Clinton went on: “The most important step Pakistan can take is to pass meaningful reforms to expand its tax base.

“The government must require that the economically affluent and elite support the government and people of Pakistan.”

The rich in Pakistani society are the worst offenders. Landlords and industrialists routinely just pay the tax man and not the tax the government should be paid. In fact many Pakistani businessmen in the cotton trade (incidentally 15% of the cotton crop was destroyed by the floods) routinely boast about evading taxes in the expensive restaurants and clubs of South Kensington.

Following the floods, the entire infrastructure of the country needs to be rebuilt with a total reconstruction bill that could potentially be tens of billions of dollars.

But it is hoped that the American foreign minister is not just using the occasion of meeting EU official to pay lip service to the victims of the flood.

Pakistani Law and Democracy will return to the theme of Pakistan’s tax system to duly expand on it later.

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