Rehabilitation of the Flood Victims or….

When the floods hit Pakistan last year, everyone hoped that the government would cash on the window of the opportunity opened for it and go all out to rehabilitate those millions who lost their entire possessions when their mud houses crumbled and were swept away by those deadly muddy waves of flood water. The destruction started from the north, and continued down south over the next one month till it finally met the deep blue waters of the Arabian Sea.

As the water travelled down country, people watched helplessly as their possessions, their dreams and their aspirations were being swept away until lost forever. Young girls sobbed silently as their dowries so painstakingly prepared by their mothers were washed away along with their dreams of getting married one day. Little children lost their small fortunes, a few toys or the new shoes their parents bought them after years of savings.

All was gone forever and those “rich” people were forced into tent villages to live on as the government had other plans to make space for the “poor” who often have to go to the capital to attend the sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate. The Capital Development Authority had the land allocated for the brand new lodges for these “poor” representatives of the people, frequently “displaced” to attend the sessions while the PM inaugurates a Rs. 2,908 million project for the poor IDPs in Islamabad a few days back. The project entails construction of some 104 family suites, besides some 500 servant quarters on an area measuring 1.4 acres of land.

As per a rough estimate a simple house can be constructed for around Rs. 1 million and the funds allocated for the lodges could thus provide a shelter to some 290 people living helplessly at the mercy of the rigours of the weather and nature. But none of the people’s representatives have raised a voice about this since it concerns their welfare, not the welfare of the people they represent, a portion of which is rotting in the tents under open sky.

Strange are the ways the people of Pakistan are ruled. Had the same thing happened in a military dictator’s rule, politicians would have made an issue out of it. But now in a true democratic rule, everyone seems to be looking the other way, completely ignoring the promises they made when asking for the votes. Who should now the people of Pakistan turn to for help?

11 years old boy predicts his own death

Coincidences are very rare and one would not know of their innocence turning true and tragic one day. Here in this case, it was only two days before that a young promising boy of 11 years wrote about a car accident that he actually met two days after. Perhaps his essay on car accident would have gone unnoticed had what he written not come true.

Here is how it happened. An 11 year old boy Asfandyar of Rawalpindi Pakistan wrote an essay on car accident in his school and “fabricated” a scene in which he was hit by car and taken to the hospital in an ambulance wailing sirens. This was just another essay school children write to dramatize and make it sound different. Perhaps this essay was different as it was to become reality two days later.

On Sunday the 5th of December, young Asfandyar along with his father went to Bahria Town Rawalpindi to witness a drag car race organized by the housing scheme owners. Two cars were participating driven by youngsters. Since this kind of event had not taken place earlier of cars speeding in excess of 200 kmph, no worthwhile security and safety arrangements were put in place by the organizers. The spectators merely stood on both sides of the roads to witness the exciting event.

The race started and as one of the drivers was changing over to the hyper speed, he lost control of the car and his car skidded off the road and ripped through many spectators standing there. It killed five people, including the young Asfandyar and his father. The boy died in the car accident as he had predicted two days earlier.
The scars left by his death would take a long time to heal, but his coincidental death leaves others speechless and baffled. But strange are the ways of Nature. Sometimes it gives forewarnings of an impending trauma or disaster, which only innocents like children can read and understand.

Watch video of the accident and excerpt from Asfandyar’s essay
The post first published

at The Fire Within (1o December 2010)

Remembering that dreadful morning of 8th October 2005

The morning of 8th October 2005 was no different from the previous mornings for many decades in Pakistan till about 8:50 am when a powerful earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale jolted Pakistan’s northern areas of Balakot, Mansehra and many parts of Azad Kashmir (Pakistan administered part of Kashmir) including its capital Muzaffarabad, besides Rawlakot and Bagh. Within next ten minutes, the entire cities perished and turned into piles of rubble. As the daily scores rose, an estimated 100,000 lost their lives, 3-4 millions became homeless, including over 80-90,000 seriously wounded. A majority of the people who died consisted of school and college students.

As the days went by, the damage reports swelled. We lost some 600,000 houses, completely razed to ground, 7,000 schools totally destroyed (burying under them smiling children who had left their mothers with their innocent smiles just an hour ago). The powerful quake destroyed over 200 link bridges that made rescue operations extremely difficult. Hats off to the soldiers of Pakistan Army, who carried food and clothes in their backpacks to climb the treacherous mountains to reach to the people left in the open and who brought back sick and wounded on their backs on their way back. The overall losses were around $ 5.5 billion.

Five years after today, although much damage has been restored, there are still many who have yet to be rehabilitated. Many schools are still to be built and countless people long for the rebuilding of their houses that turned into rubble. While the world wide opened its arms and donated generously as the then government did not have credibility problem. Plane loads came in waves to bring relief goods, while Pakistanis wholeheartedly supported their brethren in distress.

The earthquake left behind thousands of lamenting tales behind – of children that died when the school roofs fell and of teachers who died saving the little children. Just yesterday, there was news that a boy was reunited with his mother since he got separated from her on that fateful day. But many women still lament the loss of their children; brothers grieve for their siblings, while fathers and husbands cry for their children and wives.

We have hardly overcome the shock, when this year flash floods added to the miseries of many more. I do not know how much time it would take for the rehabilitation of people from Swat to seashore of Arabian Sea and the rebuilding of the many more bridges, schools, buildings and roads. I only pray for no more wraths from the Nature and hope we recover from the aftershocks, and live again.

Related Links:

Earthquake 2005

Lamenting Scars of the Soul

Lamenting Scars of the Soul – A rejoinder

Sometime back, I narrated a real story that carried in itself the hidden cries of a young woman, Yasmeen (who once worked in our house as a maid), the cries she tried to hide. But there were times that when her anguish could be visibly seen and felt. She would invariably break down and cried in front of my wife. Although my wife would cajole her and try to comfort her, it was she alone who was to bear the grief and sorrow that befell on her and her family on 8 October 2005 – the day a powerful earthquake struck the northern areas of Pakistan. Her lamenting tale was but one of the many such heartbreaking realities that still echo in the valleys and villages where life is now returning to normal.

We had hardly recovered from the shock of that dreadful earthquake, that yet another calamity fell on us last July. Though far less deadly (in terms of human losses) than the earthquake, it is far more devastating in terms of damages to communication infrastructure, houses and buildings. Other than that, it has affected over 20 million people all along the length of the Pakistan from the north till the southern edge of the country at the mouth of the Arabian Sea. Of the over 20 million people that have their fragile houses washed away along with their lifelong possessions, are some six million children whose laughter has also been drowned in the ravaging muddy flood waters.

Recently I heard a story of a boy who saw his house crumble like a pack of card right in front of his eyes and then vanish forever. Riazuddin, a boy of around 10-111 had a one room house on the bank of Swat River before the July floods, where he lived with his parents happily. He played with other children of the area, threw pebbles in the river and brought water for domestic use. Life had been happy for him since he was born. Though very poor, he was happy like any other child, always hopeful of the future and had fewer expectations from life. He didn’t have many possessions as a child, but a bat and some other broken toys he collected from the garbage.

Then July 2010 came. There have been unusual rains and he along with other children bathed in the rains and made merry. But at the same time, the water in the river started to swell and rise. He heard his father saying that the river seems to be in floods. Then the otherwise clear water of the river started getting muddy and muddier with its level rising very rapidly. But no one had any idea how wicked it would turn into. Soon the water was touching the brims of its banks, but little Riaz’s one room house was still a few feet higher. The night came but the roar of the gushing water made everyone sleepless. From a friendly river since his childhood, the river had become monstrous. He along with his father went out and saw the foamy water was almost touching their door. Alarmed by this development, his father ordered everyone out and with all they could grab, they left the house and moved to the higher ground above their house. And then it happened. The water became more violent and soon Riaz’s house was inside the water and the very fast current pounding on all its sides. Right in front of his innocent eyes, suddenly his house gave in and crumbled like a pack of cards and in seconds was washed and eaten away by the river – leaving none of its traces back.

For Riaz, it was as if his best had been lost. A friend, who nurtured him, protected him and his family from weather hazards since he was born, and perhaps was his best childhood friend. With the house, his bat and broken toys were also washed away – leaving him nothing but the memories of the good days. Today, he lives in a tent village, hoping to get back one day, where his father may rebuild the house once again. But his toys will never come back. And he will remember the days before the floods and the flood day that took his dreams away.

This is just one story – there are countless stories of similar kinds buried in the hearts of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and husbands, who lost their near and dear ones. Though they continue to live on, the scars of the soul will never be healed for God knows how many years.

Related Reading: Lamenting scars of the soul

Even if your waves touch my feet a million times ..

Every time a natural calamity or a catastrophe hits the mankind, it leaves behind sorry heartbreaking tales of human sufferings and miseries that take a long time to heal. Pakistan had had hardly recovered from the devastations caused by one of the most severe earthquakes that hit Pakistan’s northern areas in 2005, that Nature struck again two months back with one of the deadliest and powerful floods that is still ravaging the lower parts of Pakistan. These unexpected and flash floods have displaced some 20 million people from north to south, which also includes six million children.

Although, the human losses are not much, some 1800 lives washed away into the cruel water waves, there are lamentations of children who have lost their parents, of parents who have lost their children, of elders of who have lost their young ones and of youngsters who have lost their elders. The scars are deep and tales of human loss will be many.

Yesterday I came across a post by my literary friend Syed Asghar Javed Shirazi (SAJS) whose one lined post sent a cold shiver in to my spine. The post describes a phrase written on sand by a small boy who lost his parents in the flood and reads, “Dear River, I will never forgive you; I will never forgive you, even if your waves touch my feet million times.” Although fictionist, it is the true reflection of the sentiments of a child, and all those children who experienced the similar loss.

Even other than the loss of one’s parents, the flood waters washed away innocence from those six million children who have seen their homes, possessions and streets being washed away. I remember I once had a small wooden box in my childhood which had all my “belongings” in it. My comics, a small photo albums, stamps, and other small possessions of a child. And whenever we had a fight among us siblings, I was threatened by my elder siblings that they would take control of the black box, and I used to give in just to save my possessions and the black box. And now I think of many such possessions belonging to these children that must have been lost forever in the ravaging flood waters – a loss that would have taken away all the childhood memories for ever. And here I am remembered of that famous dialogue of the epic movie “Gone with the Wind,” when it was said “An entire generation gone with the wind (or words similar to these).” In this case, “Entire childhood possessions, memories and relations washed away by the floods.”

The post also reminds me of a similar incident that I shared with my readers awhile ago (Lamenting scars of soul) regarding the loss of two little dolls of our maid in the earthquake of 2005. Although, years have passed, the scars on her soul may take a a lifetime to heal.
Times would pass; the displaced people will go back, rebuild their houses and start afresh. But lost relations and possessions will never come back. And even if the waves of the nearby flowing river touch the feet of those who suffered, will never be forgiven – never ever.