Pakistan army is probably the only fully functional institution in Pakistan as it has been playing various laudable constructive roles in the development of the country. It is clearly evident from history that Pak Army has always been at the forefront whenever the nation is hit by natural calamities and other emergencies. Be it the devastating earthquakes or the ravaging floods, in times of any natural calamity or even in man-induced disasters in Pakistan; governments had always turned to military in order to control the situation. And, in turn, our brave forces have never ever disappointed the nation.
In an event of any disaster, armed forces in general and Pak Army in particular is employed to conduct relief and rescue operations. Like many countries, particularly developing ones, Pakistan had no proper mechanism for disaster preparedness in place, and no civilian department even bothers to dedicate its personnel to handle the disaster relief. The largest relief operation in the country’s history was launched when many parts of Pakistan were hit by the worst natural disaster i.e. earthquake of 8th October 2005. This dreadful event not only exposed the fragility and weaknesses of the ages-old system but also made people raise voices for the establishment of a robust and well-orchestrated system. Although the scale of disaster was massive, the civil administration was ill-prepared to cope with the situation.
Hence at that time, the Pak Army was the only option for the government to assign the task of leading and organizing the huge rescue and relief operation that was carried out after the quake. Unlike the civilian arm of the government, particularly the police force, the Pak Army enjoys a widespread positive reputation for service to the people as well as for discipline and honesty. Pak Army launched relief and rescue operation in quake-hit areas and proved that there was no other force capable of mobilizing immediate and wide-scale assistance. For most of those seeking to respond to the disaster — a consortium of national and international agencies, international governments, general public and international media — it was all that mattered.
According to media reports, helicopters of Pak army were hovering over every hospital in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and within 3-4 days, 50,000 troops reached their locations. This is a splendid — and unrivalled — achievement of Pakistan army.
Similarly, many parts of Pakistan are inundated every year by flash floods, causing huge losses of life and property. The country has been experiencing floods mainly because of its topography; the Indus, Kabul, and Swat are three hazard-prone rivers and due to climatic and ecological conditions, Pakistan has seen frequent flooding in recent years. Soldiers of Pak Army have been employed for relief and recovery operations in various parts of Pakistan during the devastating floods especially in recent years. During the last five years or so, floods have wreaked havoc in Pakistan. In these times, the Army has performed a meritorious role in helping local populace and civil administration in relief and rescue operations.
Here, the 2010 floods warrant special attention because in these worst floods in country’s history, Pakistan bore heavy losses of life and property. ‘Elected government’ and civil administration of the country seemed inept, ineffective and indifferent to providing relief to the poor victims of the flood. It was the Pak army that immediately came to the rescue of the people and not only provided immediate food and medical supplies to the flood victims but also evacuated and transported them to safer places.
These unprecedentedly hazardous floods were mainly a result of water terrorism of India against Pakistan as our archrival released water into the rivers flowing into our country. Resultantly, the surging water mounted its level to an alarming extent and washed away dozens of villages along with livestock and crops. Nevertheless, Pak Army was fully prepared to deal with this act of Indian terrorism. Army not only assisted the government by providing medical services, rescue operation and support activities, it also, through organized management, helped in mitigating the miseries of the masses. Army has well trained personnel with professional skills to provide assistance in the emergency situation facing the country in collaboration with National Disaster Management Authority.
Moreover, Pakistan army rendered meritorious service to the famine-struck people of Tharparker area of Sindh province. Pakistan Army stepped in for the relief of drought-affected people at a time when a complete indifference to the people’s miseries was ubiquitous. The Army moved in the area on the direction of Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, who asked the force for all-out efforts to save lives and bring relief to the people. A number of medical camps were also set up where poor Tharis were provided with best medical facilities.
Disaster management is an integral part of governance; it includes mitigation, preparedness, response and rehabilitations. But, unfortunately, our civil administration has been largely ineffective in providing relief to the victims of the disasters due to rampant incompetence in these departments, army has to come forward to play a significant role in rescuing people.
Good governance is the key to success in better disaster management. Quality in governance must be ensured to instil confidence in masses. All state institutions should perform their due roles and functions properly. Well-organized actions, regarding mitigation and preparedness, would help making the nation more disaster- resilient. Effective pre-disaster measures would also require less effort during response phase of disaster management. And apart from this, media should play its positive role so as to highlight the efforts of Pakistan army in order to bring stability in the country as on one side, army is fighting war against terrorism while on other, it is always there whenever a need arises to control the deteriorating situation.