Debating trust deficit, and image deficit

There were no official celebrations of the country’s Independence Day 2010 in view of the floods that have hit hard the land. The sale and display of the national flag was reportedly modest. One wonders what kind of soul searching Pakistanis did this year. It is also the holy month of Ramazan, which is indeed determining the mood of people.

The sentiment of the people. In many ways, it is certainly time to look inwards also. Individuals and society – both. On Saturday, which was Independence Day there was reported yet another instance of settlers being shot dead in Balochistan which has had citizens asking questions of all sorts.

This time 16 settlers were killed in two different incidents, which among other points mirrors the problems of Balochistan, which in the ultimate also reflects the image of the country. The image to the people overseas, to the citizens who live within the country.

According to reports, the two incidents took place in Quetta and Bolan districts and the Dawn front-page story said that the settlers were all from Punjab. What is the message in this? Or rather how should this be interpreted given the way the political weather prevailing in the country, and given the manner in which political conflicts are being pursued (not settled really?)

That this incident has taken place on the country’s Independence Day is something that is disturbing, and saddening. I wonder why I had thought that there would be no such reports on the day this country came into being. There is a certain naïve idealism we all have about the Islamic Republic and hope and pray that things will return to normal soon.

On Independence Day came another grim story, from Karachi, where targeted killings have taken place once again, that “flood-hit people stream into city with little hope,” (said a report in a leading English daily). Why should they have no hope in a city like Karachi is a question that can be asked. Is that the kind of city that Karachi is? Or has it now become that kind of cosmopolitan city?

These people have come here from Jacobabad – and details of how they have been housed do not sound satisfactory. This, of course, brings in the larger picture where the inadequacy of the Pakistani effort to cope with the worst ever floods in the country’s history is so pronounced.

This fighting back the flood havoc, which is obviously going to be a long haul, stretched over years which involves giving back millions of families their missing homes. What is the psychological, emotional trauma of the flood-affected families is something that needs to be viewed with sustained seriousness. What the people have lost is not just their houses, howsoever impermanent and kucha they may be, but they have lost their only homes, howsoever imperfect and short-lived it be. And in losing homes, they have lost at times some family members, and always their worldly possessions.

We must bear in mind that these people are poor, and comprise the ordinary people of Pakistan. How long does it take to ever recover from this tragedy is a question that emerges each time one sees images of despair, despondency, and neglect in the media.

Is the world going to help Pakistan find ways and means, in reasonable time, of help the flood affected people? And without eroding their self-respect and inner confidence and dignity. What needs to be stressed, repeatedly, perhaps, is that the people hit by the floods were not beggars – but they were ordinary citizens (also poor), therefore, the self-respect factor is vital, integral to all humanitarian effort that is to be made.

Amidst reports of the flood-related disasters and the official and non-official help that is being made, two points need to be underlined – one relates to the trust deficit that prevails within the country – and the other to what the United Nations has said is the “image deficit”.

These are worrying themes, and indeed there are no short-term solutions. One hopes that the rulers of this country do realise the value of restoring trust in this society, and building the image that has been lost. Pakistan did an image – once upon a time. Examples have to be set, and from the top. From the bottom, can come only shoes!

The image deficit that has been referred to by the United Nations on Monday is, one must concede, nothing new. On a practical level, both these factors exist within the country also. There is a trust and image deficit that exists in so many areas of the country – and at times one gets the impression that we have accepted these failings as a people. And we have compromised with it, and conveniently indulge in a blame game. At individual level, we blame the other person, and at organisational level, we hold the other organisations responsible for mismanagement, inefficiency and corruption. No heads roll, and no guilt is proven – and the system rolls on.

There is no doubt that this is not the time to indulge in blame-game. Or double game this is a time for unity, unanimity, and unwavering support to the suffering millions. It is a staggering number, and in the days coming days, the details that will come of the flood havoc that has been caused (and continues to be caused) should bring tears to the eyes of citizens.

It is Ramazan time, there is in everybody’s life a list of Zakat recipients or whatever else is obligatory charity. But that list, I believe, has to be made longer. Flood relief, despite the poor credibility that it may have, has to be set aside. How does one ignore (read punish) today’s needy for the misrule and misdeeds of past rulers? I wonder.

And as I reside in Karachi, I am compelled to take notice of the flood-affected people who are streaming into the city reports do not indicate that they are being provided for – it is a sad reminder of our collective lapses, dear citizens.