People are angry. Floods continue to wreck the lives of millions despite the efforts of an international force to provide rescue and relief. Zardari has been in London meeting with UK PM David Cameron, and the resulting outcry against him has been repeated throughout the media. But the anger is not really with Zardari, and I can prove it.
I laughed when I read that Fatima had written that the floods are ‘Zardaris Katrina’. It’s actually nothing of the sort. The Katrina floods in America were largely ignored by Bush and his government until it was too late. But the same cannot be said for the KP floods where the government and military have been working tirelessly and against all odds to save the people. Yes, there have been setbacks due to the ongoing weather problems, but we cannot expect the government to control the weather can we?
But it’s telling that anti-Zardari partisans are using the Katrina name. It seems to be quite in fashion these days to accuse anything that goes wrong as a leader’s ‘Katrina’. In America, the oil spill was called by anti-Obama partisans ‘Obama’s Katrina’ even though Obama did not spill the oil and had his government working to stop the disaster.
This is not the only way that the right wing in our country is borrowing from the right wing in other countries, either. How loud has the media wailed about Zardari’s children being on vacation in France? Oh, but the same complaints are being made by right wing Americans against the Obama family also. Reporter Ruth Marcus wrote in the American newspaper The Washington Post called this “unfair attacks” on Michelle Obama and her daughters for going on vacation to Spain.
If Michelle and Sasha had hung out at home, not one more American would have a job, not one-hundredth of a decimal point would be added to the gross domestic product. Yes, her travel required a government plane and Secret Service resources, but that would be true wherever she went. It was true when George W. Bush made 77 visits to his ranch in Crawford and spent all or part of 490 days there during his presidency, according to CBS News’ Mark Knoller, official tallier of presidential downtime.
And its not just America and Pakistan, but Russia also is seeing popular anger at government for what is a perceived failure to act fast enough to stop a disaster.
Here, as in other regions overcome by wildfires and choking smog, Russian officials at all levels are facing an outcry over their handling of a mounting environmental disaster. They say the government was ill prepared and equipped to fight the fires, responded too late and is poorly organized to mobilize volunteers who want to help.
President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov have all come under withering criticism. Mr. Luzhkov, whose spokesman had denied Friday that the city was in crisis, returned from a midsummer break, other aides said.
The irony in Pakistan is that for all the media’s complaining about American officials telling Pakistan “Do More”, this is exactly what the media is not telling Pakistan officials! “Do More!”
The government and military are doing what they can. The international community has been pitching in with American helicopters flying rescue missions to save families and delivering halal foods to ensure people have enough to eat. Government and military personnel are donating as much as one-month salary to flood victims.
But even with all of the anger against Zardari, what are the complainers doing? Answer is nothing.
Even Nadeem Paracha says he is angry with Zardari, but sees that the people complaining are doing nothing themselves.
I won’t go into details about this, but will share with you an episode I witnessed at an office full of young folks. This episode neatly covers the ground realities I experienced elsewhere as well.
At this office I saw three donation boxes put there to collect funds for the flood victims. Since they were one of those transparent plastic ones, one could see through and in them. They’d been lying there for three days and none of them were even half full.
A number of young people approached me and they just seemed to have Zaradri’s trip on their minds. Seeing me retreat, my friend intervened: “Zaradri was wrong to go. But what have YOU done to help the victims? Do you think all this obsessive whining about Zaradri would help you help the hungry, broken and shelterless victims?”
As Mr Paracha points out, Zardari is an easy target to attack when people are frustrated and angry. But it has nothing to do with Zardari, really. It is the same in every country. When something bad happens, people look for someone to blame. The easiest target is the country’s leaders, which is why you see the same thing happening in America, UK, Russia…everywhere.
Pakistan is no different. People are upset, and they have found an easy target. Problem is, blaming Zardari will not fix the problems. Will we wake up in time to save ourselves?