Col Ikram Ullah Khan

Nero fiddles while Rome burns

Col (r) Ikram Ullah Khan 

This often-quoted phrase making the title of my write-up refers to the legend of Roman Emperor Nero playing the lyre as Rome burned down.

This old English phrase “Nero fiddles while Rome burns” perfectly fits into the apathetic and self-serving attitude of our political leadership belonging to both government and opposition who are busy in political wrangling and point scoring while the entire country is going under the wrecking ball due to catastrophic monsoon rains lashing the whole country. 

The unprecedented monsoon rains have triggered flash floods and wreaked havoc across the country with Sindh, Balochistan, some parts of eastern Punjab, GB and mountainous region of KPK including Chitral being the worst affected areas where communication infrastructure is left in tatters, and villages and towns have been swept away killing hundreds and rendering thousands homeless who live either in tents or spend time under the open sky. 

Nero fiddles while Rome burnsIn such a dreadful situation, what is more stunning is the irresponsible behaviour displayed by the political leaders who are seen busy in fighting political battle shutting their eyes to the calamitous condition people are facing. The way the senior political leadership, particularly the heads of political parties are conducting themselves both in public and private in this time of adversity and national tragedy, with their hackneyed outbursts against each other, is sickening and ad nauseum. 

Those who are in the driving seat are busy in saving their rule while those who have a feeling that they have been deprived of power unjustly, are making desperate struggle to regain their lost reign. In the process, both have shut their eyes to the miseries the public is enduring. They seem to have scant realization that our beloved motherland is passing through the most critical moment of its history with its people facing biting problems in the shape of acute economic meltdown and stagflationary situation battering the country. The unabating monsoon rains have added fuel to the fire thus exacerbating the deep economic morass the country is already sunk in. People are afflicted by a calamity of biblical magnitude due to heavy flooding. They feel dreadened seeing water everywhere bringing ruins along. This reminds me of the famous line from Ancient Mariner of S.T. Coleridge which goes, “Water, water everywhere not a drop to drink”. It seems this quotable line was perhaps written by Coleridge to depict such like flooded scenario. 

According to latest reports provided by NDMA, the number of flood-affectees runs into lacs. Heavy floods have disrupted the communication system across the country as roads have been swept away and hundreds of bridges damaged due to which supply of food items including fruits and vegetables is disrupted thus triggering further hike in prices. 

Climate experts are of the view that global warming and climate change has caused erratic weather conditions in Pakistan resulting in glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) and excessive melting of glaciers that has swelled the flow of rivers. According to them all this may partially be attributed to green-house effect. However, limiting planet-warming greenhouse emissions will help limit more disastrous weather events around the globe, particularly climate-disaster-prone regions. 

Amid such a dismal and depressing situation, we still see a ray of hope in the hazy political horizon when Pakistan army and Pakistan Air Force are seen as ever jumping into the fray to help flood affectees putting their own lives in peril as we have recently seen Corps Commander Quetta Gen Safraz Ali and other senior officers accompanying him sacrificing their lives while surveying the flood-affected areas of Balochistan. But unfortunately, here too, social media cell run by a particular political party which I don’t want to name, went ahead with its premeditated smear campaign to politicize the supreme sacrifices of the martyred officers in total disregard to the sentiments of the bereaved families of the martyrs and other patriotic people who love their motherland and its defendants even more than their own self. 

Four houses washed away in Khuz, Upper Chitral

According to a conservative estimate, 15-20 billion dollars would be required to rehabilitate and resettle the calamity-affected people in the months and years to come. In this regard, NGOs both national and international, are playing important role as has been witnessed in the past too. Recently conducted detailed investigation reveals that NGOs are playing effective role in rehabilitation and resettlement process right from day-one. But they have their limitations too beyond which they can’t operate. Nevertheless, the contributions of NGOs in this regard deserve appreciation and their experience in this context demonstrates many attributes of sound rehabilitation and resettlement strategy which will help tackle the formidable challenges facing the country. In this regard, NDMA is also doing a wonderful job to coordinate and manage relief work but it too has its limitations. 

All that having been said, there is an intense need to bring home to the political leadership of the country that they can do their politicking only when the country is safe and secure and when their is political and economic stability; and for that to happen, our politicians are required to sacrifice their personal interest for the sake of greater national interest. They need to understand that security of the country takes precedence over everything else, national interest comes first and foremost, interest of the public comes next and personal interest comes last, always and every time.

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