Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Your Blogger Will Be Away For a Week

Apologies dear readers

I have to be off for a few days. In the meantime I do hope General Musharraf manages to resolve his personal crisis over the use of Indian helicopters.

The truth is that many of the survivors are in remote mountains or deep valleys, and helicopter is the only way to reach them. If Pakistan had accepted the offer made by the Indians ten days ago then a large number of lives could have been saved.

Realising that his earlier decision might possibly backfire on him, Musharraf has now offered to accept the Indian helicopers sans Indian pilots.

Even if the Indians accepted this condition - which they most likely won't - we just bloody don't have the pilots to fly these extra machines!

Who does Musharraf think he is kidding?


Anonymous said...

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing.

He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

(How many days in a week at ONLOOKER'S place?)

Syed said...

Above comment is from my side.

arvind sharma said...

the write ups in this are truly interesting. wishu carry on with your nice work.

arvind sharma said...

here is something to make everyone laugh. what is the difference between sin and shame? it is a sin to put it in and a shame to take it out

Onlooker said...

While attempting to get rid of spammed comments I must have inadvertently deleted one of Arvind Sharma's posted comments. I have now retrieved his comment and add my apologies for the mistake.

Arvind Sarma said...
the write ups on the events in pakistan following the earthquake make really interesting reading. they show the manner in which the pak leadership continues to behave with a sense of perfect idiocy.

Husain Haqqani said...

I thought I would share my column, published in The Nation (Pakistan) on October 26 as well as in The Oman Tribune, Gulf News and Indian Express. It cites some posts from Onlooker's blog:

Pakistan's finest hour


Pakistanis have responded in an unprecedented manner to the tragic earthquake that killed tens of thousands of their countrymen and made over 2.5 million homeless.

Thousands of civilians mobilised to lend a helping hand in relief efforts, digging victims out of the rubble with bare hands. Hundreds of doctors, both inside the country and abroad, left their lucrative practices to volunteer medical care in makeshift hospitals. Contributions worth millions of dollars have flown from better off Pakistanis around the world. Children handed in their small savings to help their less fortunate counterparts in the earthquake affected areas. Human chains moved goods and people across mountains. Islamist and secular NGOs, as well as individuals with divergent religious, political and ethnic set aside their differences in extending humanitarian assistance.

In terms of national unity and caring for fellow citizens, this may be Pakistan's finest hour.
Pakistanis have seldom failed to demonstrate national unity in the face of adversity. At the time of the nation's caesarean birth in 1947 and again at the time of the 1965 war with India, Pakistan's civil society rose to show its potential for dealing with misfortunes. In the present tragedy as well as in case of those two earlier occasions, Pakistan's professional soldiers also demonstrated their mettle.

One must acknowledge the dedication of army aviation helicopter pilots for running humanitarian sorties notwithstanding exhaustion and bad weather. Hardworking officers and army jawans have also made an immense contribution in digging out the dead and helping the survivors.

Moments of national unity brought about by shared hardship should also serve as occasions to assess a nation's institutions. If Pakistan's leaders and thinkers had reflected on the strengths and weaknesses of previous moments of togetherness in Pakistan's history, the trajectory of Pakistan's evolution would have been different. The country could have learnt from the events of partition the pitfall of religious frenzy. The nation's willingness in 1965 to sacrifice to defend their frontiers would not have given way to regional rivalries soon thereafter if the people had been told the truth about the war from the beginning.

Although Pakistan had held its own against a larger army in 1965, it came out of the war a weakened nation. The US-Pakistan relationship had lost its initial strength, Kashmir was still unsettled, and inattention from the central government was upsetting the Bengalis in East Pakistan more than ever. Domestic factors were also causing unrest in Sindh and Balochistan. Brought to believe that the war had ended in a Pakistani victory, the public found it difficult to understand why "objective reality on the ground" had forced an "unfavourable" settlement on Pakistan during peace talks at Tashkent in January 1966.

Just as the Pakistani nation, made up of ordinary soldiers and civilians, acquitted itself well in facing the challenge of 1965, one must recognise its rising to the occasion in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake. Forty years ago, it was Pakistan's government and the permanent State (which is not the same thing as the Pakistani nation) that let Pakistan down following a moment of unprecedented national unity and unselfishness. To avoid a similar let down, it is important to take stock of the State machinery's attitude and performance.

First, it must be stated clearly that no government could be prepared for a natural disaster of this magnitude and, therefore, the government of General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz cannot be faulted for lack of preparation. That said, there is also no doubt that for at least four days after the October 8 earthquake official Pakistan showed little imagination in dealing with the crisis on its hands.

Pakistan's embassies failed to grant gratis visas to aid workers, including overseas Pakistanis, seeing the visa fees as more important than the need for relief workers. When Mr. Aziz addressed the nation on television, his tone and manner lacked any feeling. He spoke with the professionalism of a banker evaluating his client's latest performance report, not as a leader hoping to inspire a nation.

The soldier-spokesman of Pakistan's soldier-President, Major General Shaukat Sultan, also came across as more eager to build the image of his boss and their institution than to deal with the grim realities at hand. According to web logger 'Onlooker', "The general appeared on Pakistan TV News to inform the nation that while thousands of civilians had perished in the earthquake he wished to let us know that some 200 army men had sadly been 'martyred' (shaheed) in the tragedy as well. It might have been a Freudian slip but the general's words clearly suggest that while we humdrum civilians die ordinary deaths, Khaki-clads can only perish through martyrdom."

On October 17, Australia's Sydney Morning Herald quoted "officials linked to Pakistan's army" as saying that "some [army] units paid more attention to restoring the country's front-line defences against India after last weekend's earthquake than to rescuing trapped civilians." The report cited a Pakistani military official as saying, "Although the Government knew that India would not attack the country, in the first few days they used every resource to restore its defence line because they never wanted to leave it vulnerable." General Sultan's response, which should be taught in Public Relations Courses as an example of the kind of thing that should never be said, was, "The people are traumatised and this is all a reaction to the trauma."

The haughtiness of Pakistan's State functionaries coupled with their traditional political predilections, remained evident even as the nation's men, women and children rallied to alleviate their compatriots' suffering. Debate continues to rage over General Musharraf's original decision to turn down India's offer of helicopters at a time of dire need and when the two countries are ostensibly engaged in a peace process. Stories abound of government officials trying to upstage NGOs, of relief items donated in the U.S. not leaving JFK Airport and of the bureaucracy trying to control the availability of tents for the homeless.

The government also rebuffed the parliamentary opposition by refusing to brief them about relief efforts at the National Assembly. The silly argument that the opposition should come to the GHQ for the briefing exposed the government's desire to score points, rather than secure every Pakistan's support in attending to the problem. Indeed, if the President wanted to seize this moment for national reconciliation, he should have asked Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to tour the world for fund raising. The two would certainly have obliged, and it is unlikely that they would have asked for political favours in return. They would not have endeared themselves to the people if they had asked for political concessions at this juncture.

According to an October 17 post on Onlooker's blog, the Prime Minister's Secretariat called the army on October 13, "demanding three of the army's ten large MI-17 helicopters and reservation of three of the eight helipads at Neelum Stadium for a period of two to three hours (during this time of peak relief activity). The PM wished to visit Muzafarrabad - he needed a single helicopter for himself and two for his security staff." This at a time when "the helicopters and crew were working their hearts out in non-stop emergency shifts" and "the army's fleet of the 10 Russian-built MI-17s - along with a few smaller ones - had rescued 6,000 people so far." Apparently, the Lieutenant General in charge of the relief efforts refused wisely and said that he would "pretend that you never made such a request."

Onlooker said...

Your piece is right on the mark.

Thanks for sending it to 'The Glasshouse'. As your blogger is not a 'Nation' reader otherwise he would have missed it.

PS: Your quotes from the blog were appreciated

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