DND Special Report
Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has issued a high alert as there is a weather forecast for more heavy rains in Punjab whose southern parts have already been inundated with thousands of families internally displaced and victims living on roads under a naked sky that is gushing out more rains and no help in insight.
Punjab and Sindh governments have declared 23 districts as calamity-hit and more rains and flash floods are expected in low-lying areas in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, and Gujranwala.
According to unofficial data, around 5.6 million Kacha and Paka houses completely or partially damaged and around 30 million people were partially affected in recent floods in Pakistan. Sindh government claims that there were 500 percent more rains in the province than normal rainfall so it became impossible to foresee what could be damaged in rural as well as urban areas. To some extent, the Sindh government is managing the situation but there is nobody to help the population of southern Punjab. The massive devastation of floods is a real picture of the situation and thousands of people living in the open sky and crying out about the unavailability of food, shelter, and medicines. Abandoned and helpless, they claim that they have been carrying out rescue and support but nobody is listening to them. The floods have devastated everything including news networks as the majority of district correspondents are also busy rescuing their families and cellphone service is drastically affected in several parts to due partial damages to tower networking. However, DND News Agency tried to gather data from the ground through all possible sources because mainstream media of Pakistan is busy with Shabaz Gill and Imran Khan contras. Media is seen only when important personalities go to any spot for photo sessions and otherwise media persons having no resources and are busy evacuating their own families are not reporting in detail.
The reports gathered from affected areas suggest that there is no political will of PTI to support people in misery and the administration looks in panic and in the retreat phase because the disaster is so big that the administration feels its resources are too small to deal with with with havoc.
Over 50 persons dead and over 300 missings, Dera Ghazi Khan Division is left without any immediate help where over 400 villages have washed away in the last two weeks. City and towns affected by rains and floods include Taunsa tehsil, Jampur, Fazilpur, Hajipur, and Muhammadpur and Indus Highway that connects southern Punjab with Sindh has been submerged by water. The flood also wreaked havoc on dozens of villages in Kot Chutta and houses in Chah Lindwala, Basti Shahani, and Basti Jadiani were completed washed away.
The devastation did not come swiftly. It was foreseen and expected and on August 17 the Commissioner of Dera Ghazi Khan Division Usman Anwar declared an emergency in flood-hit districts of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur and directed putting all the departments concerned on alert and called the provincial government for help. After five days on August 22, Provincial Minister for Food and Energy Sardar Hasnain Bahadar Khan Dreshak directed the district administration to strengthen embankments along the Mubarak canal, to protect Rajanpur city from floods, and by that time everything was already washed away. Chief Minister Punjab Pervaiz Ellahi decided to watch the situation while sitting in CM House Lahore while Prime Minister Shabaz Sharif sensing the grave situation visited flood-affected areas on August 6; almost 10 days before the situation became out of control but even his visit failed to move the provincial government to act swiftly. Due to ongoing infighting between the Federal and Punjab governments, CM Punjab Pervaiz Ellahi neither accompanied the PM to flood-hit areas nor cared about the situation. The prime minister was accompanied by Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, Special Assistant to the PM Attaullah Tarar, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt Gen Akhtar Nawaz, Punjab Chief Secretary Kamran Afzal and PTI MNA Riaz Mahmood Mazari who was in charge of flood relief in the province.
Now the situation is out of control and Taunsa Sharif tehsil is almost wiped away by heavy floods. The process of distributing food and essential items to flood victims was seen only in some areas close to big towns and people stranded in the middle of the water had been waiting for evacuation till August 24, 2022, when airlifting of the stranded population started. It may be mentioned that Pakistan Army is strongly busy already in Baluchistan and certain parts of Sindh and Punjab.
By August 23, light traffic was restored on the inter-provincial highway running through Dera Ghazi Khan and a big breach on the Indus Highway in Choky Wala Taunsa had been filled. Meanwhile, the Punjab government claimed that relief activities were underway at relief camps in Mangrotha, Vehoa, Nutkani, Bindi, and Sokar.
If we follow the timeline of the events, one can understand that disaster did not come swiftly situation became grave due to lad back and delayed response from the district administration and the provincial government of Punjab.
On August 21, there was a medium flood in the mountain drains of Kaha and Khosra Baga while the exceptionally high flood of 72,600 cusecs was recorded in Chachhar mountain drain but the flow of flood was normal in the rest of the hill torrents of Rajanpur and people could have been rescued before they could trap by water.
The aerial relief operation was started on August 24, 2022, in the flood-affected areas of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts and rations reached through helicopters to flood-affected people of Koh-e-Sulaiman and other remote areas. Pakistan Army, at the request of the district administration, provided two helicopters for the relief operation in Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur. Here is a question why did the provincial government wait almost a week to seek the help of Pakistan? District administration sought the help of the Pakistan Army when PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz raised alarms again and announced that she would personally visit the flood-affected areas. Through Twitter, she shared pictures of Rajanpur in Southern Punjab and expressed her sadness at the devastation and the plight of the people. She said she will visit Rajanpur herself. She also urged government authorities and philanthropists to do their part for those suffering.
“My heart ached to see these photos of Rajanpur. I am going to them myself. All governments and philanthropists are requested to take care of the creatures of Allah. Thanks,” Maryam Nawaz tweeted.
When asked, a former Commissioner with a request for anonymity commented that the laid-back reaction from the provincial government was criminal. He said that local administration including the Commissioner must have been informing the government and PDMA and Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) had been releasing warnings. He was of the view that delayed response could not stand against natural disasters and now the most important issue would be the rehabilitation of locally displaced people who have lost almost everything in their lives. He said that by watching photos and videos one can easily say that everything including livestock, homes, belongings, and even children had washed away with water, and land in flood-affected areas would look like a shaven land once water would recede.