Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Biblical Level Event - III

In terms of Pakistan, a biblical level event is one which creates millions of refugees. It has been my experience, in relation to Pakistan (and South Asia's) history, that the incompetent governments of this region only concentrate their minds and put their shoulders to the wheel, when faced with devastation that has rendered millions homeless, or worse, created an unexpected refugee crises.

In five years, Pakistan has sustained three events of Biblical proportions. I am designating those events Biblical, in which millions are displaced and turned into refugees. I do not know how to measure the psyche of a nation which suffers so many refugee spewing crises in five years. One has to re-evaluate a lot of what one believes to deal with these events.

In 2005, the earthquake that killed 80,000 and displaced 3 million. Then in 2009 there was the War on Swat and South Waziristan which led to 3 million displaced and somewhere around 5,000 dead. Now we have the floods, which have affected 21,000,000 people, rendering them homeless, injured or destitute (by the loss of their crops or livelihood). Pakistan has no choice but to come back

If anybody would ever like to argue with me on this, I am willing to defend the point that it was the refugee crisis created in West Bengal by Pakistan's March 1971 military operation in East Pakistan, that forced the Indian government to intervene. The incursion of millions of refugees is what forced India's notoriously inefficient government machinery to get serious about attacking, aiding secession and dismembering Pakistan. The purpose was so that the refugees would return. That was a Biblical level event for India, and India was deadly serious about resolving it. Before the current US invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan had faced two Biblical level events of it's own which forced the entire government to come around to a central policy and stick with it. The first was partition which led to the largest mass migration in human history, and the second was the Afghan Refugee crisis, where within a matter of months, 3 million Afghan refugees had arrived and settled in Pakistan; in the process destroying the fabric of the local culture.

The results of these Biblical scale refugee movements are well known; in the case of partition, it created a two generations long hatred with India, compounded by the Kashmir dispute, and extended another generation by India's assistance in the creation of Bangladesh.
In the case of the invasion of Afghanistan, we were left with a state that was angry and obsessed with driving out the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. This objective was pursued by the state, even at the cost of Pakistan not returning to democracy, losing it's social fabric, creating a rabidly Xenophobic officer corps, and spawning what has become, a dragon's den of Islamic extremist murder and mayhem.

These are the traumatic effects of a Biblical scale refugee crisis. The effects of this 21,000,000 displacement is incredibly difficult to foretell, but it will play out over the next few years. How can it possibly not with headlines like:

Jacobabad is a city of nearly a million people. But to a lot of those outside it, watching the rising tide build over the course of a week, like a God sized Chinese water torture, and the alert going out "Evacuate Jacobabad", an entire city....well, that's a phrase people familiar with Pak-land's geography are not likely to forget.

When a medium sized city in a country gets submerged by a slow but steady wave of water that one can see coming, day after painful day, or three million plus children suddenly become susceptible to infection, one expects that these memories will stay with ordinary people for a very long time. It will change the way those from that place, and those who know of it, look at the world, at their society, at their homes and at their rulers. Just ask the citizens of New Orleans.

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