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Opinion

October 10, 2008

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Side-effect

Side-effect
Khalid Hameed Farooqi drove more than a thousand kilometres from Brussels to Copenhagen, the city of Soren Kierkegaard, the arch philosopher and theologian, and Hans Christian Andersen, the famous fairytale writer and poet. He spent a long evening with me enthusiastically debating the new social democratic party in Pakistan which I had mentioned in my last column. He also made a programme package for Geo Television on the conference for early recovery strategies in post-natural disaster and post-conflict situations organised by the UNDP and the Danish government.

Pakistan's response after the October 2005 earthquake was one of the four cases to be discussed. Besides, there were a number of caucuses and plenary sessions on various aspects of early recovery work for affected populations broadly emphasising the need for efficient strategic planning, appropriate capacity development and provision of sufficient financing. Former Chief Military Coordinator of the Federal Relief Commission and Ex-Deputy Chairman, Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA), Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed, made the presentation on Pakistan's behalf. Something very unusual to be honest, where the international community recognises the effectiveness of Pakistan's response to the October 2005 disaster and finds replicable lessons. Otherwise, the only thing that comes to Pakistan's share these days is embarrassment, humiliation and repentance.

The relief and early recovery operations after the earthquake were largely effective because government, military, civil society, private sector and international agencies were coherent, rigorous and inclusive. People from all walks of life came together and the nation for once was galvanised. The long-term reconstruction effort has more problems since but in a country like Pakistan where serious structural and political issues are unresolved, it is hard to create an island of excellence in the sea of corruption and incompetence. You cannot govern eight affected districts in NWFP and AJK differently from the other one hundred in the rest of the country. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon the civil society and media to raise people's concerns and continue to keep the authorities on their toes. Transferring the committed and hardworking General, a rare commodity in this country, from his position in ERRA to command a strike corps may have proven more rewarding for him but not for ERRA.

My opinion about Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed was shared by the other two fellow travellers on the Copenhagen trip who are associated with the UN, self-effacing Mohammed Zafar Iqbal and dedicated Anwar-ul-Haque. Zafar Iqbal is the lynchpin in coordinating UNDP effort for disaster risk reduction and early recovery initiatives in Pakistan supported by two extraordinary people, Usman Qazi and Zubair Murshed, who did not accompany us on this trip. Other than the conference, they also missed the most delicious food on Eid day at Javed Akhtar Mir's place. Warmth and hospitality oozes out from every pore of Mir who is settled in Copenhagen for 38 years.

Khalid Hameed Farooqi before leaving for Brussels lamented, "Still there are people who go beyond the call of duty in Pakistan. Even then we are struggling to survive, let alone progress." Then the two of us greased our sorrow with Danish cheese and washed it down with hot, aromatic coffee. How lavish! After all, we were in Denmark of which Hamlet was a prince. In our case, Hamlet represents us, the citizens of Pakistan. Our father, the founding principles, was killed by King Claudius who is the power elite drawing its strength from coercion, intrigue and exploitation.

Our mother Gertrude, who could nourish us, represents our resources, our water and our land. She was hastily taken into marriage by Claudius after our father's death. In the meanwhile, we struggled. But we lost Ophelia, the beloved representing peace and prosperity. Now we resolve that once we are through with eliminating Claudius and his cronies, we would neither die like Hamlet nor go back merely to the founding principles. We will bring the country to new thoughts and a new leadership represented by Fortinbras, symbolising hope and enlightenment. Only his ideals could steer us clear of the storm of poverty, injustice, bigotry and terrorism.



The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and rights campaigner. Email: [email protected]

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