Several topics, one column

'When nature was doing its work, our federal, as well as provincial governments, were clueless about the level of damage and destruction.'

Several topics were on my mind when I sat at my laptop to write the piece you’re reading now. One was about the reaction of journalists and readers to my last column ‘At the heart of yellow scam story’ which discusses a story wasted at the hands of unprofessional approaches. The most startling response came from Dr. Israr Hussain, who was accused of illegal practices in the story, as per the complainant. He said that the complainant and he himself appeared before the fact-finding officer. The complainant then withdrew the complaint without any prejudice, admitting that the evidence on which he was relying in his complaint was not credible.

The former complainant is welcome to give his own side of the version if he deems fit so.

The other issue which made me sleepless was the crash of a helicopter in Balochistan. The whole of Pakistan was sleepless when the news broke out that the helicopter carrying senior military officials went missing in Balochistan on Monday night.

According to an official statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), “A Pakistan army aviation helicopter which was on flood relief operations in Lasbela, Balochistan lost contact with ATC [air traffic control]”. The whereabouts of the copter remained a mystery for the next 12 hours. On Monday noon, the wreckage of the helicopter was found in the Uthal area of Balochistan.  Those who embraced ‘Shahadat’ in the accident included Lt General Sarfraz Ali of the Quetta Corps, Pakistan Coast Guard Director General Brigadier Amjad Hanif Satti, Brigadier Muhammad Khalid, Major Saeed Ahmed (pilot), Major M. Talha Manan (co-pilot) and Naik Mudassir Fayyaz (helicopter crew). My heartfelt condolences to the heirs of the martyrs.

It is to be noted that the army officers had gone to Balochistan to oversee rescue and relief operations in the flood-hit areas of the province. For over two weeks, the region has made headlines for death and destruction caused by the enraged Nature. Hill torrents and flooring caused by collapsed dams have made thousands of people displaced and homeless and in utter need of shelter, food and water. Due to recent heavy rains in Balochistan, there is a flood situation in Khuzdar, Lasbela and Jhal Magsi. Several videos are doing the rounds on social media platforms in which people trapped in floods are waiting for rescue and relief services. Several videos also show the daring acts of rescuers saving the people and shifting them to safer places.

Balochistan is a difficult terrain with inhospitable infrastructure to reach several thousand of people still trapped in flooded localities. A dedicated rescue operation aided by helicopters may work. Flood has wreaked havoc on roads and bridges in Kech, Gwadar, Lasbela, Jhal Magsi and Kachhi, making it difficult for rescuers to hit the grounds. Balochistan is cut off from Karachi – no traffic from Lasbela, Quetta, Gwadar and Turbat to Karachi.

So far 110 people have died from the rain- and flood-related areas in Balochistan since June 13, according to the data released by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority. Up to 6,000 houses were damaged while crops on 200,000 acres were also damaged.

When nature was doing its work, our federal, as well as provincial governments, were clueless about the level of damage and destruction. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif woke up to the situation after weeks and arrived in Balochistan for a photo session. My newsroom came up with a brilliant headline: At last, PM Shehbaz dips his toes in floodwater. This is watchdog journalism.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as chief minister made his name for managing to wade across the submerged roads in Lahore, which ultimately led to the resolution of the sewerage issues in Lahore.

Hopefully, his Balochistan sojourn would alleviate the miseries of the Baloch.