The politics of disaster, terrorism and financial aid

In her book Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein describes  disaster capitalism as politics of using disasters (shocks) to push through unpopular decisions without any opposition. I had earlier written a post on this topic. If she studies Pakistani politics of last ten years, she can write another book on politics of terrorism and financial aid.

In the news yesterday, Pakistan’s ambassador to United Nations stated that if the world does not come forward to help Pakistani’s (read dole out more money and financial aid) in need due to flooding and havoc created by Monsoon rains, it could lead to increase in terrorism.

Don’t we ever get tired of milking the “terrorism” cow? It is surprising that it is almost ten years since Musharraf started milking the cow by his double game after 9/11 and the cow still has not gone dry.

When the Kashmir was hit by the devastating earthquake, the government machinery was found incapable to do anything. Jamat ud Dawa (JoD) were the first ones on the ground. With their jihadist training and rugged terrain experience, they were able to provide relief to areas where no one else could go.

……it [JoD] was certainly making its name heard across the line of control doing earthquake relief – better indeed than the Pakistani army. Where the army could move supplies into the mountainous region only by helicopter, the militants were already there. These hardy guerrilla fighters, experienced at operating in the mountains, cleared their own dead then went to help in the earthquake relief: “only the Mujahideen are helping, from Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat ud-Dawa…One hour after the quake, they were here. The army only came on the fourth day.”—-openDemocracy

They were followed by MQM and Jamat-e-Islami. These three are persona non grata: JoD because they are jihadis (read terrorists), MQM because of their ethnic based politics and JI for bringing religion into politics.

At that time, there were concerns that Jamat ud Dawa’s relief work in  earthquake affected area would serve as big recruiting opportunity for Jihadis (not because of their hardline preaching but due to extensice welfare activities carried out by them). There was a lot of pressure on Musharraf from US at the time to impose a ban on Jamat ud Dawa. Despite himself wanting to do so but fearing the repercussions from public for stopping welfare activities when they were mostly needed and not having the infrastructure nor resources to take over the extensive relief network of JoD, he didn’t do it. I don’t know whether JoD recruited anyone but they did developed a lot of goodwill (in modern parlance, they won the hearts and minds of local people).

MQM which is mainly a urban Sind based party also made inroads into the heart of people through their welfare activities. It was said at the time that if elections were held in those areas, MQM could easily sweep them whereas winning even a single seat was deemed impossible earlier. It was rather unfortunate that MQM sacrificed all its goodwill just to please Musharraf in May 12 massacre. It was large price to pay for a useless cause. Hence, the two islamists earned the lasting goodwill by their relief work in that disaster.

The government has  started crying “terrorists” to squeeze more money out of US.  Most of Pakistan army is busy fighting a war with Talibans, it leaves little of them to help out in relief work. The civilian aid agencies are ill equipped and ill trained to solve such a catastrophe. Hence the Jihadis, who can endure hardships for long time, live on the rugged terrain and have proven their resilience by fighting US and Pakistani forces without comparable resources, will come forward  to help the people in need. Who knows, may be the government itself may ask these organizations to help as the disaster has been huge. Though we will be asking US and the world for aid, the final delivery will be done by these jihadis and they will earn the goodwill of the people whether US and rest of the world likes it or not.

From NYTimes quoting DAWN’s Huma Yusuf

Tragedies such as those Pakistanis have borne in the past few days — the plane crash and the ravaging floods — provide governments with the opportunity to demonstrate their capacity for governance. The failure to do so breeds conditions that allow extremism to thrive.

The mantra that good governance is the best antidote to extremism seems cliched. But it bears repeating in Pakistan, where the authorities have proved incapable of learning from history. Few can forget that five years ago, in the wake of the October 2005 earthquake, the government’s failure to cope with immediate relief efforts created a vacuum within which Jamat-ud-Dawa pulled off its greatest publicity stunt.

The extremist organization had the most efficient response teams on the ground, and boasted the most functional and well-stocked relief camps. Its mobile X-ray machines and operating theaters made international headlines. Through their clever use of mobile technology, the group’s volunteers established an unparalleled communications infrastructure that facilitated relief work.

The government and army, meanwhile, fumbled in early relief and reconstruction efforts, as charges of corruption in the distribution of aid and resources were rampant. The consequences of Jamat-ud-Dawa stepping in where the government should have been exercising its authority are obvious today in the support and influence that the organization enjoys.

I am not praising these organizations. I am just pointing out the fact no matter how hard we try, due to our lack of training, equipment, infrastructure, resources, manpower etc, we leave a be a vacuum for these terrorist organizations to fill.

You might wonder, where are the politicians? They are busy in their blame game. Shahbaz Sharif is requesting Zardari to stay home and be there for the people in this tough time. Babar Awan is saying that this IS the time for Zardari to go abroad and raise funds (he should call it begging). Qaim Ali Shah (Sind Chief Minister) is saying that normally Punjab makes Sind beg for every drop of water yet now they have opened floodgates thus drowning Sind. Meanwhile neither the military nor civilians nor the media is highlighting or interested in the plight of Balochis and then we wonder why Balochis are fighting for secession.

Aloof and regardless of what is going on in the rest of country, MQM, PPP and ANP (this is the ruling coalition in Sind) are busy settling score through daily killings in Karachi with 14 killed in just two days.

As a nation, we haven’t fared well either. Till day before yesterday we had ignored all the flood victims.

The pakistan flag was at half-mast on the first day to honour more than 150people who died in an air crash in Islamabad. It should rightly have remained at half-mast as more than twice as many died in monsoon rains. But the rich die in air crashes; the poor perish in monsoon rains. Flags rarely flutter at half‑mast for the poor. —- Guardian correspondent David Hopp

A good analysis of the same topic on five rupees:
The role of class in covering national tragedies or why aren’t the floods in KP getting attention

UPDATE: Christian Science Monitor reports on Jamat ud Dawa helping in flooded areas:

At the JuD aid “camp” on the main road east out of Charsadda, huge pots, used to cook on an industrial scale, were lined up, and the cooked food already had been distributed to the needy. An ambulance, no longer needed to ferry the injured, was being loaded with bundles of second-hand clothing to be given away. JuD also was running a first aid clinic in a building in town belonging to a college, the group said.

The group is operating under the name of Falah-e-Insaniyat but has made little effort to disguise that it’s JuD. Its staff said that it had 2,000 members working for flood relief, across the northwest and south into Punjab province. The uniform vests worn by many of the volunteers bear the badges of both JuD and Falah-e-Insaniyat.
“If the government were doing this work, there would be no need for us,” said Hajji Makbool Shah, a 55-year-old volunteer at the aid camp. “When the floods came, we carried people out on our shoulders to our own ambulances. Where were the government ambulances?”

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