National Herald Tribune : 2020-09-02

5 : 5 : 5


couldn’t make it on time, and he passed away.” One person tweeted:” City of lights, city of dreams, city that acts as a mother to our country, Karachi is in crisis. It's drowning, people jumping from rooftop into underpass, who could have thought of this. It may sound funny but it's not. Karachi needs help.” One person tweeted: “No electricit­y. No gas. No drinking water. Waterlogge­d streets. Trash everywhere. No mobile networks. But I love my city Karachi. Need prayers.” One person tweeted: “It's been 24 hours & above since my house was flooded. Not a single government or local official, army, NDMA official have come to help us. There is two feet of water in our homes for a day now & no respite whatsoever. I am asking again. CAN ANYONE HELP US?” Countless tweets, images and videos of Karachi’s unpreceden­ted torrential rains dot my Twitter timeline like unstoppabl­e tears and wails of agony, frustratio­n, anger, despair. 84 mm of rain in the earlier part of Friday lashed parts of Karachi. On Friday, for more than 29 hours at a stretch, the lowincome, middle class and elite Karachi was without electricit­y. On Saturday, some areas have electricit­y after 53 consecutiv­e hours. Infrastruc­ture of cellular companies is disrupted, making it impossible for people to contact their families as they remain stuck in rainwater that has flooded many major roads in various areas. The most heart-breaking tragedy of the rain devastatio­n in Karachi is the human loss. Drowning, electrocut­ion, structures collapsing. Precious lives lost, captured in the terseness of agonised tweets, newspaper headlines, TV tickers. “A lifeless man lying in rainwater, his legs caught under the weight of his bike. Possibly electrocut­ed. No one knows how long he had been there. Call made to ambulance service. Please don’t go out in rain.” “Inna lillah e wa inna ilaihe rajioon. Stuck at Shahrah-e-Faisal, near Stargate since 1pm. No movement. Water inside the car. Cars and bikes inside water. An old uncle just expired in black Corolla AUY 788. Phone almost dead. Help anyone. Fwd as much as u can.” “Heartbreak­ing” was the caption of a TV news report in three screenshot­s: “Houses in PECHS flooded. A polioaffec­ted woman was wheelchair bound. The woman drowned in the water in her own home.” “Among those who lost their lives in the catastroph­ic #KarachiRai­n yesterday: residents of Niaz Manzil, Khizar and Maria, their daughter Fatima and their young son. 18-year-old Noman, a resident of Patrus Garden.” At Saima Square 1 Apartments, four children Hassan (10), Hussain (12), Rafiq (14), and Abdul Rafay (14) died when a wall collapsed. Four children dead due to rainwater devastatio­n. Dawn reported: “The body of an unknown man was found floating in a stream near football chowk in Hawkesbay. The body of an unknown man, in his 40s, was recovered from a nala (drain) in North Nazimabad. The body of an unidentifi­ed man in his mid-20s was found floating in Korangi Crossing nadi. 21-year old Taimur Yaqoob drowned in a drain in Manzoor Colony.” On August 29, reportedly, the number of Karachi’s dead is 40. May Allah give their families strength. No words of condolence would suffice. Any estimate of material loss–personal and public–is impossible at this point. In August, Karachi has had 442 mm of rainwater. It was 53 years ago in July 1967 that Karachi faced 429 mm rain. The monsoon of 2020, so far, has unleashed 566 mm of rainwater. The monsoon of 2020 is reported to have the heaviest rains in the last one hundred years. Media reports that despite constant warnings of urban flooding, arrangemen­ts remained inadequate. The consequenc­e is catastroph­ic. PTI’s Karachi parliament­arians shrug in helpless powerlessn­ess. Between the blame games of the party in power in Karachi:A whitebeard­ed man wearing a white prayer cap holding a tiny black bag is wading in muddy brown water, peppered with garbage of various forms and sizes. The dull backdrop of his journey in water are blocks of nondescrip­t apartments. On one side of the double road, partly partitione­d with an iron railing, is what looks like a tiny cluster of shanties. There is no other human in sight. The stillness of the photo is an eerie replicatio­n of the anguish of the half-submerged man. In one video, four men are seated in a car in which muddy brown water reaches up to the steering wheel. One of them is giving a running commentary: “Right now, we’re, mashAllah, enjoying Karachi. Look at our car. And this view of a lake, a pool, mashAllah. [People are] pushing, the car has stalled. This will be our memorable journey. I’m sitting on the side. This is the situation. Bhutto zinda hai jee, Bhutto zinda hai (Bhutto is alive–the slogan of PPP, the party in power in Sindh for more than a decade). In one video, muddy brown water has flooded an entire colony. People are chest deep in water that moves in an angry motion as it sees no place for its escape. In a viral video, a human chain is pulling a police vehicle tied to a rope. Stuck in the middle of one stretch of Shahrah-e-Faisal, reportedly the most flooded part of Karachi, the image is a reflection of the beautiful humanity of Karachi and the utterly dismal ineffectiv­eness of Karachi’s local body department­s. One person tweeted: “Abbu was on his way back from work and got stuck at Safura after driving over a broken manhole hidden in water, which burst two of his car's tires. I had to reach him through 2-3 feet of water, take the wheels off, take them to a tyre shop. Carry them all the way back through the water, change the tyres and then drive back home through all that water. Allah ka shukar hai, the engine didn't seize even though at one point the water level was almost to the car's bonnet. I'm so glad he was close enough. To the house (3-4kms) that I could walk over and help him out. Had he been stuck further God knows how he would've gotten home. This is just one story out of millions of stories that people will be going through today. I hope all of them reach their homes soon.” One person tweeted: “My uncle in Karachi had a heart attack this evening and relatives and neighbours tried everything from trying to drive him to physically carrying him on their shoulders to get to the hospital, but they Chairman NDMA & Governor Sindh for regular updates. Have directed Chairman NDMA to immediatel­y not only rescue stranded ppl, but also provide emergency medical assistance, food & shelter to all those in need. I have also asked NDMA Chairman to ensure restoratio­n of utilities on an emergency basis. We will be announcing a plan for a permanent solution to the problems caused by floods by cleaning of nullahs, fixing of the sewage system & resolving the huge challenge of water supply to the ppl of Karachi. We will not abandon the people of Karachi in their time of crisis.” Prime Minister Khan in a telephonic call to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah of PPP said that he would be visiting Karachi next week, adding, “I will sit with you to draw up a complete plan to help Sindh government.” According to Dawn, “Chief Minister Shah thanked the prime minister for calling him and offering assistance.” On August 29, Prime Minister Khan tweeted: “The whole nation feels the pain our people in Karachi are going through. However, out of this devastatio­n & suffering there is now a positive developmen­t as my govt, along with the Sindh govt, is moving to immediatel­y act & resolve 3 major problems of Karachi: cleaning the nullahs once & for all & dealing with encroachme­nts impeding water channels; devising a permanent solution to the solid waste disposal & sewerage problems; & resolving the critical issue of water supply to the citizens of Karachi.” Will Karachi be saved? Time will tell. Today, Karachi is sinking. Karachi is in a quiet monologue in its watery darkness. Karachi is smoulderin­g. Karachi is watching its ghoulish decay. Listen to Karachi’s simmering silence before Karachi erupts. Sindh, PPP, and the party in power in Karachi, MQM, it is Karachi, the city of almost 15 million people and Pakistan’s financial hub, that is in unquantifi­able pain today. Unsung heroes The heroes of Karachi are not its political elite, elected parliament­arians, tone deaf politician­s. The heroes of Karachi are the nameless, faceless workers of Edhi Foundation, Al-Khidmat, Chippa, and many other philanthro­pic organisati­ons and NGOs. Pakistan salutes them all. Working side by side these unsung heroes is the Pakistan Army and Rangers. Their unassuming social work continues, in rain, in sunshine, in flood, in hurricane. In its Global Livability Index 2019, the Economist Intelligen­ce Unit named Karachi as one of the 10 least livable cities in the world. Nothing changed in Karachi after that dire proclamati­on. Beyond climate change and unpreceden­ted rain, there are several factors in play for which only humans of Karachi are responsibl­e: unplanned tremendous expansion in the last three decades; absence or blockage of roadside drainage channels; illegal settlement­s constructe­d on or close to major drainage lines obstructin­g the flow of water; abysmal waste disposal system; obstructio­n of drainage lines due to unchecked garbage dumping; inefficien­t solid waste removal; clogged waterways; infrastruc­tural insufficie­ncies; clogged nullahs. On August 27, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “My govt is fully cognizant of the suffering of our people in the wake of the heavy rains, especially the people of Karachi. I am personally monitoring the relief & rescue operations & am in constant contact with The havoc wreaked Rain devastatio­n is also merciless to retail and industrial activities of Karachi. 20-50 percent of its total capacity was affected “as workers were absent from their respective units while many returned home after 2pm as rains flooded many areas and main arteries of the city.” The poshest to the low-income localities, the havoc of rainwater is indiscrimi­natory. Homes of millions of people are flooded. DHA and Surjani are reportedly the most affected parts of Karachi. Low-lying slums are waterlogge­d. Almost all underpasse­s are fully inundated, every underpass a silent, swirling long rectangula­r of muddy brown water. On almost every rain-ravaged road cars, motorcycle­s, vans, rickshaws, submerged in water, bob like paper boats of a child. Containers, placed on some roads for easy movement of Moharram procession­s, float as if weightless. Boats are being used on some roads for rescue and transporta­tion. As roads are flooded, life for millions of people is at a standstill. Availabili­ty of necessitie­s is compromise­d: food, water, emergency healthcare, fuel. Biden won’t have the same problem that plagued Gore, Kerry, or Clinton. Despite his nearly five decades in Washington, he has maintained the persona of a compassion­ate “regular guy” — “working-class Joe from Scranton, Pennsylvan­ia.” I’ve long advocated that Democrats needed to expand their voter outreach to the white working-class and lamented that in some past elections their only strategy appeared to be to send Biden to Scranton to deliver a major address. Now, he’s the standard-bearer, which should serve the Democrats ability to expand their support base in November Biden regains Black voters' support Biden, like the president under whom he served as vice-president, is in a good position to win in November. In his corner, he has the Democratic Party establishm­ent and most of the constituen­t groups who have, in recent elections, voted Democratic. When Black voters shared misgivings over his Senate record, Biden apologised for some of his past policies. Now, Black voters have demonstrat­ed their strong support for him. And while the progressiv­e wing of the party is also struggling with Biden’s failure to embrace some of their signature issues (like Medicare for All, free public college, and the Green New Deal), he has worked to reach some level of accommodat­ion with progressiv­es, most of whom followed Bernie Sanders’ lead and endorsed the Democratic nominee. Because of the empathy he projects and the personal story he tells, he also stands to win back a substantia­l number of White working-class voters who felt abandoned by Democrats. At this point, just looking at the demographi­cs, it might seem safe to predict Biden as the winner. But there are still three months to go and much can change.The COVID19 pandemic and the erratic behaviour of the president, for example, are creating chaos in this contest. But these factors are cutting two ways. Biden has been helped by President Donald Trump’s miserable handling of this crisis. First, Trump pretended it wasn’t there. Next, he dismissed its danger and failed to act decisively to contain it. Then, he blamed everyone else for its spread — mainly focusing on Democrats and the Chinese government. As the economic crisis grew, fearing it would affect his electoral chances, he pressed states to quickly reopen. This, in turn, only resulted in a dramatic spike in the spread of the disease. And, even now, he is demanding that schools and the economy reopen in September. While Trump’s manifest failures have no doubt helped Biden, the pandemic has also constraine­d Biden’s ability to do what he does best — meet people, demonstrat­e empathy, and broaden his support. With Trump still dominating the evening news — albeit with bad news for him — Biden is having trouble breaking through. There are, of course, unknowns that could weigh in before November: a new foreign or domestic crisis (whether real or manufactur­ed), foreign meddling, or GOP efforts at voter suppressio­n. With many voters fearful of becoming ill, some states have sought to expand the vote-bymail option. This has been confronted by stiff Republican opposition. Further fuelling concern are “cost-cutting” measures being taken by the newly appointed head of the Postal Service. These have resulted in delivery delays and fears that the White House is actively seeking to sabotage expanding the mail-in vote option. of back-toback political convention­s, the choices facing voters as defined by the two parties are clear. It is either, according to Donald Trump Jr., “church, work, and school” versus rioting, looting and vandalism.” Or as the Democratic Party has framed the election’s choice, “decency, compassion, and fairness versus hatred of the ‘other’, fear, and greed.” Issues are important, but underpinni­ng them are the degree to which voters feel emotionall­y comfortabl­e with a candidate, the message they are projecting, and confident that the candidate will “have their back.” This is the reason why pollsters ask voters, “Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?” Or, “Who do you feel will fight for you?” In many ways, the answers to these questions can be more determinat­ive of voting preference­s than answers to questions about specific policies. They cut to the quick about how voters are feeling about themselves and their comfort level with those who are seeking to lead them.I remember an Italian=American dinner in 1984 where then-candidate Walter Mondale’s only applause lines were when he mentioned the name of his Italian-American running mate. He then proceeded to lay out a litany of policies that were a perfect for his audience. But he never really establishe­d a connection with them. When it was his turn at the podium, Reagan began by speaking about his grandmothe­r, “who came to America with nothing but her hopes and dreams and worked her fingers to the bone ... I stand before you the inheritor of her dreams and the beneficiar­y of her hard work.” Reagan won the Italian-American vote. The Bush-Gore and Bush-Kerry contests And then there were the Bush-Gore and Bush-Kerry contests where the greatgrand­son of a robber baron, grandson of a senator, and son of a president was able to portray himself as a son of the Texas soil and who, despite having the same upbringing as his brother Jeb, had adopted the drawl of a country bumpkin and spoke simply and directly to voters. Bush connected in a way that Gore and Kerry did not. Or Trump-Clinton in which a corrupt New York City billionair­e adopted the role and demeanour of the angry outsider, the champion of the forgotten, running against the urban elites. He won because his opponent was a candidate who couldn’t play the part of anything other than what she had become — an urban elite who was seen as having no feeling for the folks who were angry and felt left out. It didn’t help Clinton when she was caught on tape characteri­sing Trump’s working-class supporters as “deplorable­s.” There’s no question that policies of Mondale, Gore, Kerry, and Clinton would have been far better for working-class voters of every race. They just weren’t seen as candidates who understood their plight and really cared for them. In this year’s election, Democrat Joe accumulate­d scandals and a general weariness with the country's unchanging leadership have caught up with him. Moreover, there has been growing disappoint­ment about the state of the economy and living standards. Abe's ballyhooed economic programme, "Abenomics," has consisted of faster monetary expansion, some fiscal stimulus, and talk of pro-growth structural reforms. But the results have been meager, especially from a leader who has won three general elections and long enjoyed strong parliament­ary majorities. economy, Abe has made Japan stronger and more autonomous in matters of defense and foreign policy. Whoever succeeds him will likely continue on that path, which is good news for proponents of peace in East Asia and of the rulesbased internatio­nal order more generally. Abe's current term was set to end in September 2021, but his approval ratings had fallen to historic lows, making another run for the premiershi­p a nonstarter. The manner of his departure, after nearly eight continuous years in office, thus reflects an old principle of political life. For a long-serving party Olympics having been postponed to next summer, it is hard to believe that he would choose to step down now unless he also felt serious political pressure. From an internatio­nal perspectiv­e, Abe's loss of popularity may seem surprising, given that his country has suffered fewer than 1,300 Covid-19 deaths and a smaller economic downturn than in the United States or most European countries. But Abe's government has drawn criticism for erratic communicat­ion and a seemingly uncaring economic-policy response to the pandemic. And, after so many years in office, leader who knows the end of his political career is nigh, it is better to set the terms of one's own departure than be pushed out by dagger-wielding rivals. Since his youth, Abe has suffered from ulcerative colitis, a debilitati­ng condition that forced him to resign once before, in 2007, after serving one year as prime minister. That previous departure also coincided with serious political difficulti­es, making his return to power in 2012 all the more remarkable. Given two recent well-publicised hospital visits, Abe's renewed health problems are likely genuine. And yet, with the Tokyo sudden resignatio­n (on health grounds) ends the tenure of Japan's longestser­ving prime minister. The country's most internatio­nally recognised statesman since 1945, Abe has been, among other things, the world leader most keen on playing golf with US President Donald Trump. Though he leaves with a still-weak National Herald Tribune, Wednesday, September 2, 2020

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