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Army Selective in Rescuing Flood Victims

Guest Post by Moneeza Ahmed

This past week, I was stuck in Yasin Valley in Gizar District (a district next to Gilgit District) for a project and I had to trek and walk by way back to Gilgit City, which took about four days. Despite the trip being extremely scary and dangerous at times, I was glad I was there as it gave me a chance to see the situation up close. The situation in Gizar was extremely dire. I saw hundreds of houses submerged in water. Animals dead, trees fallen. Most of the bridges and the roads have been completely destroyed in the area. In the moderately affected areas of gilgit district, the water ways have over filled and caused ‘selabs’ in peoples fields and homes. Tent cities have gone up in Gupis Valley in the Gizar District. There was no army or military or government presence in any of these areas. Perhaps because Swat, Charsadda, Mardan etc have been reported to the most affected of all areas.

I reached on Gilgit city on Friday last week, I was told there was an emergency plane being flown out of Gilgit to Pindi to transport stranded families. As I got to the airport, I saw a C-130 airforce plane. As people (mostly civilians) who had managed to somehow get into the airpost past the airforce officials, rushed to the plane, we were told that the plane was full and that we should wait for 2 hours for another plane which was most likely goingto show up.

Fifteeen Minutes later, I saw about 20 or so airforce officials in uniforms heading to the plane along with their families. I went up to an official who had told me that the plane was full and asked him as to how they found space for these people. I was told that they were on the list. When I enquired as to what list. I was told that this plane was called especially to transport airforce families who were stranded in gilgit back to Islamabad and that it was not for ‘civilians’. I was stunned. Could the government afford to divert a plane to transport families of airforce officials from the Government’s relief efforts for the most affected? Moreover could they just be so blatantly open about the special privllege usually given to the families of the armed forces in this country? I went up to the “higher looking official” ( i can never recognize airforce ranks from their uniforms) and asked him as to how people were selected to get onto the plane. I was told I wasnt from a state insitution or related to anyone from one and couldnt be on it. After about 5 minutes of me telling that my taxes paid for the armed forces and that i would write an editorial for Dawn about this incident, the official perhaps trying to get me off his back, let me go onto the plane. I landed at Chaklala air base 45 minutes later.

I have now been part of three emergency relief efforts in the last 5 years in Pakistan, the worse one perhaps the Oct 2005 earthquake. I have seen the army working, at times working very hard. I have also seen individual army personel going out of their way to save people’s lives, but I have also seen the army give preferential treatment to their own people, I have seen the army and the Government working in some areas while completly ignoring the others as was the case in 2005, when most of the government relief reached Balakot and Muzzafarabad District while Districts like Chakkar and various areas in Mansera which were ignored by the army and the government

I would like to humbly suggest that while one can appreciate the army’s efforts at this time, to assume that the military efforts are equitable and just and to state there that there is no preferrential treatment is naive and ignorant on anyones part.

I think we are in stage of crisis (as we seem to always be in this country), and I think that our first priority is to provide relief to the affected families, but I think its also important to be critiical of insitutions such as the army especially at a time like there, where their lack of accountability and equality can have a more severe impact on peoples’s lives.


15 Comments

  • MB |

    Bloody civilians ?

    This country is for our ARMY

    Its the fault of those poor people not the AIR FORCE

    Pathetic !!

  • andaleeb |

    Whoever has might…is absolutely right, whatever he does!!!

    Be they are from Armed Forces or are Civilians, Feudal and all the rest… Power has tendency to corrupt people…

  • saliha |

    only if you had any small idea about how C-130s work in armed forces. you dont know about the list and you're trying to act all heroic by saying you stood up against God knows what? and to think that its only your taxes running our army then honey, let me tell you that armed forces personnel also pay taxes just as the civilians. now if a person's parent organisation cares about him more, why is it a matter of maligning the institution?

    aik army kaam kar rahi hai,wo bhi na karay. if airforce is not to save its own personnel, who else is going to?

  • Omar Farooq |

    i dont get it, whats wrong in it? Arent officer families "humans"? You want them to leave their families for you guys?

    I think its high time we stop complaining about army and start appreciating what they are doing.

    Also lets be more realistic next time.

  • Mackers |

    In an ideal world, priority would be given to the worst affected first. When I was reading your article I got the impression you were arguing with air force officials for the welfare of the poor civilians. Until I realized it was so that you'd pretty much be let on to the plane, yourself.

    I guess that's how it is, those who belong to the air force will be given priority along with those who can threaten air force officials to write about them in a newspaper.

  • Monz |

    Mackers, I think you are right…I think maybe I should have been a little bit more vocal in adovcating for the C 130 being used for relief efforts instead of transporting air force officials. :)…I am humbled by your suggestion.

  • Jawad |

    Airforce families got on the plane because they are privileged. That is the only reason the writer got on too. I doubt she was the most needy person that needed to be evacuated. This is a classic example of Pakistan's privileged classes not examining their own privilege.

  • Truthmonger |

    @ saliha

    @ Omar

    @ Macker

    I think that the writer is saying that priority should be given to the sick, older folks, children, and women and not if you work for Airforce or not.

    Like @ Jawad said the writer herslef got on board because she is most likely from the previliged class. But we must give her a credit for at least being vocal for her rights as a citizen.

  • Nazia |

    It is not army but we all have become selective on helping the victims.

    We have repeated events of disasters going on our country since we have stepped into the war in terror activity.

    War, then earth quake, IDPS SWAT AND FATA operations,now horrific flood all are generating catastrophe effects around us.

    Go to street and watch numbers of beggars have become doubled in last years.Labor like people are sitting idle in corners and if you want to hire few you get flock of people who want to work for you.Most of these labors come from disturbed area.

    Sharp rise in dacoity and theft cases are another example of worst sitaution of handling man power in our system.

    So people whose financial resources also have been shrink due to poor financial polices have limited now options to help genuine needy people.This is another torture to find real trouble people in this time of random chaos around you.

    So army is not single institute but most of groups are working on selective choices for helping the victims.

  • Nazia |

    Army airforce and navy are one of rich institutes of Pakistan where our hard money is all time spared as per their demand.

    Definitely they would first save their souls and then think about others.

    Army men are like robots.they work on orders and it is order of their management to save their community .rest would be seen after their rescue.

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  • Whats In a Name |

    Do not undermine the efforts of Pakistan Army.

    It is very easy to point fingers. What an individual army personal gives to the nation is not even proportional to your claim of your taxes running the Army. You have no idea.

    I am quite sure you have not written an article condemning the lack of response from the Govt. in flood relief efforts.

    But you go all the way to say that Pak Army is selective in its relief effort. An effort which is not even their direct responsibility.

    I only pray to Allah to guide this nation, especially those who can make a difference by their words.