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28
Aug
2010
Political and Socioeconomic impacts of floods

I came across the report of Congress Research Service [CRS] that was prepared by Bruce Vaughn, Nicole T Carter, Pervaze A. Sheikh & Renee Johnson titled Security & The Environment in Pakistan. Regardless of my concern over U.S. perception to consider Pakistan’s climate & Environment as potential threat for western interest or a kind of terrorists there are some real issues that this report have addressed that I agree.

Before stating anything I want to quote the relation of Natural Disasters and Security of the country in light of the analysis of experts.

J.R. McNeil said that such shocks have proved to be both unifying and divisive, that social conflict has been routine during and after natural disasters that minorities or foreign groups are often blamed, and that government authorities have often been the target of popular wrath for failing to minimize or prevent damage. Societies with little in the way of safety net easily succumb to banditry, ethnic and religious violence, and even outright civil war under the stress of acute drought. Restraint and civility can quickly perish when people are confronted with imperious necessity.

Thomas Homer Dixon said that if market failure, social friction, and capital availability prevent a society from supplying the amount of ingenuity that it needs to adapt to environmental scarcity, then five kinds of social effect are likely: constrained agricultural productivity, constrained economic productivity, migration, social segmentation, and disruption of legitimate institutions. Environmental scarcity is not the sole or sufficient cause of these social effects. Contextual factors range from the nature of relations among ethnic groups to the state’s degree of autonomy from outside pressure groups.

I think now I have created an enough context to start. Actually the point that attracts me in the report of CRS is one i.e. the hypothesis of this report that is the heart of whole analysis. I don’t want to alter a single word so let me quote as cited:

“The potentially destabilizing effect that, when combined with Pakistan’s demographic trends and limited economic development, water scarcity, limited arable land, and food security may have on an already radicalized internal and destabilized international political security environment could contribute to Pakistan’s decline as a fully functioning state, creating new, or expanding existing, largely ungoverned areas”.

The report further says that they have a threat that Military rule can return in the consequences of failure of managing the disaster and hopelessness in society due to a chaos. This report was published on August 3 2010, it means before when we started a debate of Military intervention from political and media ranks. Or we started it after this report be a better statement.

Regardless of what we can shout about these reports from U.S. houses as their policy to destabilize Pakistan I can admit that the core of this report is not baseless. Yes U.S. think tanks can state that the after burn effects of disaster can strengthen terrorists, weaken government of Pakistan or hurt U.S. interest but equally it is a point of concern for people like me who are not so pro U.S. in the context of U.S. foreign policy.

Actually the fact is ultra visible. It is the disaster today but it was actually a disaster that these poorest people of Pakistan have been living miserable life for last sixty odd years. This disaster only activates their grievances to vocals because they have lost whatever minimum they had. Today being a nation we are willing to stand for them but we were sleeping in normal course of time. I think we need more unity in normal days that can trigger in the time of disasters for better. But here we get it once the worst happen and we again go to a long sleep.

Being a nation we have internal threats of provincial clash over water distribution whereby the per capita water availability in Pakistan declined to approx 1400 cubic meters per person annually in 2010 from approx 3000 in 1982. The same is forecasted to reach 600 cubic meters by 2050 [source The World Bank]. The clash on water is not only a local issue but when we see it in the perspective of our relation with India so it is more concerned worthy for us and many other powers of the world. Our politics on water reservoirs is another dilemma.

The biggest threat from the current floods is migration towards urban areas from rural one. The country where 70% of the population is dependent on agriculture and 45% of the employed population is in agro based economy so it is more critical. It shall stress our urban management and hit the agro economy. It is also the heart of live stock and a potential area for Bio Fuels & Renewable Energies.

Another stream of crises from these floods is food crises and inflation. We have already reported 11.7% rise in inflation over last year against the target of 9%. It looks that due to floods and the loss of crops we are going towards 13% rise in inflation for this year. Even the shortage of commodities is predicted if the arrangements shall not be made through The Trading Corporation of Pakistan. In addition electricity is standby to rise 16% in price. The rest is political and law and order situation that I am sure you all know very well.

The bottom line is that people can say that we don’t need to politicize disasters or floods but in reality it is more a political & social issue. Yes we better don’t need to carry the kind politics that we use to do. This is the issue that is always related to governance. This is the issue that is always related to the deprivations of people that reaches peak once the water flourishes their grievances. Yet it is a time when we need to see the political and social impacts of these floods rather than considering it a mere natural disaster. I am still a believer of Pakistan’s viability but we have to make it, it shall not merely happen.


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Mr. Omer

Mr. Omer [1982 born] started  his professional career as a commercial / investment banker after achieving Gold Medal in Finance at master level from University of Karachi in 2006.

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