August 9, 2010

Pakistan floods: media becomes biggest casualty

By Ghulam Rehman

At least 14 million people have been affected by the ongoing worst floods in the history of Pakistan. According to initial estimates, over 1,600 lives were lost during the past few days and about 650,000 houses have been destroyed completely.

Being a developing country, our economy is based on agriculture. And crops on at least 1.4 million acres of land have been lost so far. As an immediate effect on local markets, the prices of vegetables have gone beyond the limits of the poor.

The price of tomatoes was Rs30 per/kg in the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad, but after the devastation, it suddenly shot up to Rs120 per/kg. However, at the government-sponsored Sunday markets, it's available at Rs60 per/kg. This is just an example. What will happen in the next few months is unpredictable! There could be famine!

Power pylons, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals everything has been destroyed in the vast flood-affected areas especially in the Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Gilgit-Baltistan provinces. Experts say that rebuilding of infrastructure would cost over Rs5 billion while the United Nations has estimated $300 million to meet requirements of the victims.

Natural disasters – earthquake, floods, landslides and drought – often hit parts of our country but to tackle them properly has always been a major problem. Unfortunately, our authorities are experts in converting natural disasters into man-made disasters due to incompetence, ignorance and corruption.

In the current situation, our government has failed to provide relief to the displaced people especially children, women, the elderly and patients in the flood-hit areas. People are livening in utter miserable conditions while our establishment and political leaders are busy in the traditional "leg-pulling" dirty game!

In this dirty game, point-scoring has become the main object of both parties of the ruling elite. Our media is terrified by the powerful establishment and is dancing like an acrobat—just see the reporting and live coverage of the disaster, and the terrorized faces of anchorpersons! The owners and working journalists know that if they refused to toe establishment line—outlets and carriers could be ruined within no time!

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