Lahore, February 11: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced concern that the problems of the flood-hit population all over Pakistan seem to have come off the priority list even though the difficulties facing the affected people remain as challenging as ever and in some areas have even aggravated.
HRCP has been conducting damage and needs assessment in 33 flood-affected districts across the country and monitoring relief efforts there. In January and February the Commission held consultations with its activists who had worked to collect information in the past six months about the situation in the flood-affected areas in order to assess the situation of the flood-affected people. The following findings emerged during the consultations:
Government policies to deal with the post-flood situation lacked consistency and did not take into account the dissimilar needs and the varying nature and extent of damage in different areas.
Absence of a disaster management plan aggravated the damages. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was formed around four years back but lacked preparedness to cope with the situation. Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) was not even in existence in Punjab when floods hit, and in other provinces also failed to address the problems of the people in a meaningful manner.
Lack of a representative local government system and District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs) made post-floods work more centralised and excluded the affected people from the decision-making process.
No early warning was issued in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa before the flood, leading to severe damages.
Serious allegations of corruption in distribution of material and financial assistance by the official and non-government organisations were reported from flood-hit areas across the country. Discrimination on various grounds, including political and official patronage, was also reported in provision of assistance and in reconstruction.
Work to restore the destroyed infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools and health facilities, was exceptionally slow, which had grave implication not only for health and education of the people but also for revival of livelihoods. Infrastructure was particularly badly hit in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which needed to be given more importance.
The pace of issuance of Watan Cards was very slow and complaints of bribery and favouritism and issuance of cards to ineligible persons abounded. In only a few affected areas more than 50 percent of those eligible had actually received the cards. The recipients had only been able to withdraw the first instalment of Rs. 20,000 and not the second instalment of Rs. 80,000.
Farmers and tenants who lacked influential patronage missed out on financial and material assistance, including seeds and fertilizer, building material or work for their subsistence.
The policy of building model villages and houses at a distance from the affected populations’ farmland was considered unworkable as the farmers were unlikely to move there.
Families living in rented houses faced problems because owners of the properties claimed aid meant for those living in the properties when the floods hit. Similar complaints have been made by tenants who were cultivating agriculture land on lease.
All these problems were extenuated for women who also faced problems in getting relief items in long queues, and on account of cultural norms found it difficult to communicate their problems to the predominantly male staff.
At many places in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa floodwater and sludge were still there nearly half a year after the floods, rendering resumption of farming and return to normal life impossible.
HRCP demands that these crucial areas must be given urgent attention to minimise the problems afflicting the affected populations more than six months after the floods began.
Dr Mehdi Hasan