The Tragedy Is Just Beginning…

covnov05.jpg An except from the editiorial in this month’s Herald:

Let us hear the mother of one of the girls buried under the rubble. The interview was conducted on October 26.

ìI have been going to school everyday with my husband, taking a torch with me so I can look into the nooks and crannies for any sign of my daughterís body. Yesterday, my husband came running, asking what little Laiba was wearing when she died. You know how men are; they often donít know these things about their own children. I told him she was wearing a half-sleeved frock and toghts. His face fell. He said he had spotted what looked like a girlís body, but it seemed like she was wearing a shalwar.î

The womanís name is Naseem Gulshan and she was a primary class teacher at a government school. Not satisfied with the standards of her own school. She had sent her daughter to a private school known as Alfalah. But it was not enough to save her life. Now every day since October 8, Naseem goes to the school in the hope of finding her daughterís body. This is the hell she has been living in since that fateful day.

The village of Chinari has been comprehensively destroyed and rendered unlivable. But unlike most other residents, Naseem and a few other mothers refuse to leave until they have found the bodies of their children.

Why are we telling this story now, almost a month after it happened?

Nothing illustrates the state of the relief operations better than this tale of horror. Not that the army isnít doing anything. Not that the non-governmental organizations are wasting their time. It is just that the scale of this tragedy that has reduced the relief operations to a state where even after a month, people are either still digging for their dead relatives or starving to death. Kashmir in particular seems to have become the devilís abode. It is a world where grief abounds in such quantities that it towers way above the mountains that dot its once picture postcard landscape. Every day, in the midst of hills that are still crumbling, the devil laughs harder.

And we have Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz telling the world that he is satisfied with international relief efforts. No wonder he got rapped on the knuckles by the United Nations, an agency that has seldom spoken against a government with which it is working.

Worse, the relief effort seems to be tiring ñ at a point where it is needed the most. Assistance from within Pakistan is drying up and tired volunteers are at their witsí end.

Whatever reservations one may have about our military leadership and their overall policy, jawans and junior officers of the Pakistan Army are doing everything in their power to reach out to people. It started as an unwanted duty for them but now in many individual cases it has become a matter of personal commitment. The problem is that they are just not enough. Over 100,000 troops are currently deployed in the zone but what is needed is one million. Pakistanis have responded with a zeal that has left the world stunned. But they seem to be tiring now, thinking that they have done whatever they could. Nothing could be more tragic than that. We need to keep reminding ourselves that it is only the tremors that are over, not the tragedy. That is just beginning.

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