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Shehbaz Sharif just realised there’s a bigger problem than Imran Khan—Pakistan’s epic floods

The Shehbaz Sharif govt just declared a national emergency—after devastating floods wreaked destruction across Sindh, Balochistan, and Punjab since June.

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New Delhi: Pakistan finally woke up to a national emergency. Incessant rains and devastating floods have been wreaking destruction across Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, and Khyber Pakh­tun­khwa, among other highly affected areas, since June. Pakistan’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman, on Thursday, called the situation a “climate-induced humanitarian disaster of epic proportion”.

Heavy flooding has killed 937 people so far, including 343 children, Dawn reports. At least 30 million are without a roof over their heads. Until recently, it was terrorism charges against former PM Imran Khan that dominated headlines, but over the last two days, political leaders across party lines have woken up to the high toll the monsoons have taken this year.

Only ‘spiciest’ news mattered

Pakistani media has come under criticism for failing to highlight the tragedy unfolding in the country. “Why is media silent about #FloodsInPakistan? Consistent rain has damaged thousands of homes and people are stranded,” said a Twitter user.

Another called out the mainstream media for covering “the spiciest news for ratings”.

This criticism isn’t restricted to the media alone as prominent political leaders are being called out for their apathy and misplaced priorities.

“The callousness of our ruling elite towards the suffering of ordinary mortals is criminal. Indeed, it is not for the first time that the country is facing a natural calamity but the enormity of the current crisis is far more serious,” author and journalist Zahid Hussain wrote in Dawn.

He called for a “coherent and coordinated national response” while reiterating the lack of coordination between the federal and provincial governments. “Their focus is largely on settling political scores.”

Hina Jilani, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), criticised the “indifferent approach adopted by the media and politicians”.

It is “evident from their inability–even amid a growing death toll–to prioritise human life over confrontational politics, palace intrigue and dangerous rhetoric,” she said.

Also read: Pakistan has a new best friend this week — Qatar

The heart of the crisis

Climate change minister Sherry Rehman posted a series of heart-wrenching tweets on Wednesday, detailing the region-wise deaths that were caused by the floods. She urged the public to come together.

This triggered people across Pakistan to show their support. It is only in the past 48 hours that prominent politicians and leaders in the country have begun to acknowledge the wreckage caused by the floods.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has only now highlighted the need for “hundreds of billions” of rupees for flood relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. He has also cancelled his trip to the UK and is returning to Pakistan to chair a meeting to review flood activities.

Imran Khan cancelled his visits to Karachi and Hyderabad due to the heavy rains. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chairman and other party members began relief activities and visited flood-affected areas Thursday. But Khan hasn’t given up on his mass rallies entirely — they continue to be held in other less-affected areas.

Also read: For Pakistani women in this KP town, access to open spaces is no walk in the park

‘Never a greater catastrophe’

A regular recipient of heavy monsoons, Pakistan faced its wettest July with 133 per cent more rain than the average, breaking a 30-year-old record, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said earlier this month. Balochistan received 305 per cent more rain than the annual average.

According to the data shared by Rehman, most of the casualties are from Sindh and Balochistan. Barring Karachi, all districts within Sindh have been declared as ‘calamity-hit.’ “I have never seen a greater catastrophe in my life,” Sindh chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said. Over 10 million people in the province had been rendered homeless by the floods.

“No city is structured or geared up or that climate-resilient that it can cope with this amount of water in such a short time,” Rehman told CNN. “This is a torrential downpour of biblical proportions.”

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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