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Saturday / May 18.
HomemitwocentsReclaiming Our Humanity

Reclaiming Our Humanity

In Australia we celebrate rain. It washes away the dust and feeds our dry country. In Pakistan the rain has washed away crops, destroyed homes and stolen lives. How can one act of nature give so much to one country, yet take so much away from another… and where is our sense of humanity in Pakistan’s greatest time of need?

At the time of writing I am in Mumbai. It is the fag end of the south east monsoon and it has rained every day, sometimes quite heavily. For five days I haven’t seen the sun at all, and the locals tell me nothing has changed for several weeks. All this grey cloud cover on the sub-continent is very unusual for me. I am normally in India from October to May for the cricket season, (although they actually play all year round and this time of year in Mumbai they have a competition called ‘ the monsoon series’).

The temperature here is usually in the high 20’s and although it has been overcast all week, today the temp is 29. The locals tell me that this year the monsoon has delivered twice as much rain as last year – approximately 180 inches. They are very happy because now their catchments will be full enough to last for two years, just in case the monsoon fails – as it has in the past few seasons.

Monsoons Continue

The south east monsoon starts in Chennai, the biggest city in the state of Tamil Nadu on the south east coast of India. It travels north west through India to reach Pakistan around late June and lasts until late August. This year has been different. While the rains normally finish in early September in Mumbai, this year they continued. This is good news for the state of Maharashtra which has suffered only minor and non-serious flooding. However, it presents a very different story west across the border, where the situation in Pakistan is catastrophic.

Humanity is the issue, not religion or corruption or greed or beliefs. The common people of Pakistan deserve better from their government, but they also deserve better from us, their fellow man.

The last time I was in Pakistan was late 2008. Pakistan played a 50 over match against Zimbabwe at the re-vamped Iqbal Stadium where no international cricket had been played for 12 years. The locals came out in force and packed the ground to capacity to see their heroes.

At that time, the Indus River had shrunk to a trickle at its mouth near the southern city of Hyderabad in the Sindh province. To get to Hyderabad (not to be confused with the Indian Deccan city of the same name) you drive from Karachi due east for about three hours, crossing the Indus by a two kilometre-long bridge at around the half way point. Just as the Murray Darling mouth has been closed at Lake Alexandrina in Australia, the great drought provided almost zero outflow into the Arabian Gulf.

As we drove across the causeway, locals farmers dragged their under nourished goats and sheep to the central narrow and shallow stream for what could have been a final offering.

Pakistan Floods

Now that same area is covered in water for kilometres across. While the comparisons with Australia’s climate of flood and drought are obvious, on the rare occasion when Australia floods, losses of life and property are minimal. Indeed, the floods in the Murray and Murrumbidgee systems in September are welcomed – as are the big rains in Mumbai.

However, in Pakistan, the results of this year’s rains are devastating. The number of people living without a roof is almost equivalent to the entire the population of Australia. What’s more, people are without clean water, sanitation or regular food supplies. Worse still, survival and relief efforts will be significantly hampered by ruined crops and degraded agricultural land.

It is one thing to provide short term, life rescuing relief, another altogether to sustain the flood refugees for the short and medium term future. The requirements and logistics are enormous but the beginnings should be led by the western world.

Luke Warm Response

Yet the international response to Pakistan’s disaster has been slow and luke warm.

Why is this so?

Why do the problems of north-west Pakistan’s Afghan border and the actions of the Taliban who fight and kill civilians and soldiers, including Australians, taint the lives and motives of the vast rural Punjab and Sindh populations? Many more Pakistanis and Afghan civilians than foreign troops are killed by terrorists.

Does the endemic corrupt nature of Pakistan’s government and their military’s ineptness impact the western world’s attitude towards impoverished needy and moderate Muslims? Is the western, industrialised, so called ‘civilised’ world discriminating against their religion? The cricket community sees Pakistan players as pariahs attached to illegal bookmakers and match fixers. None of this helps the human beings who battle for life every day.

Humanity is the issue, not religion or corruption or greed or beliefs. The common people of Pakistan deserve better from their government, but they also deserve better from us, their fellow man.

Give generously.