M A Niazi The floods continue to wreak their havoc, but the visit of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon not only served to focus hope on the international community for help to resolve the crisis, but also let the rulers in Islamabad off the hook, as though the magnitude of the tragedy was such that the national government was unable to meet the responsibility. Meanwhile, the victims, who do not really care who helps them, so long as they get helped, prepare to meet the ravages of another onslaught of waterborne diseases, and prepare for another round of deaths among those who survived drowning in the floodwater. At the same time, it was worth noting that there had been a meeting between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and PML-N Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif, in which they agreed to form a special commission to funnel the aid raised. This was an acknowledgement by both that their parties, as well as the members they had elected, were being rendered irrelevant by events. The members of both parties should have been more relevant, for they were 'winning horses, not just lobby fodder. There was also a bit of coalition politicking visible, as Mian Nawaz met Prime Minister Gilani, not President Asif Zardari, like him the chief of a coalescing party, as if he found Gilani more congenial. Also, he avoided getting tarred with Zardaris brush, and being associated with the odium he had of being the only Pakistani leader who had a shoe thrown at him, which neither Nawaz nor Gilani has experienced. At the same time, neither of them was abroad at this time of the national crisis, which Zardari was, and which seems to have been the icing on the cake. He was also the target of accusations in the Western media of having diverted funds meant for the relief of the 2005 earthquake victims, accusations with which Mian Nawaz would have preferred to avoid association. There is also the perception that Zardari and Gilani do not get along, though after the passage of the 18th Amendment, the only person who can dissolve the National Assembly ahead of time is Gilani, that dissolution leading to fresh elections that Nawaz thinks he should win. Thus, Mian Nawaz would prefer to have the PM strengthened to the President. Of course, Mian Nawaz has also got to watch Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif. However, one of the most noticeable features of the whole mess has been the way that things have begun grinding to a halt. The skyrocketing of the prices of fuel has been a feature of life, but now fuel has actually grown short, as it has not been shipped upcountry, because the floodwater has shut down the roads it has not washed away. Yet, politicians have been wrangling over the spending of the aid money coming in, thereby strengthening the perception that they are doing all this because they wish to fatten themselves, and their parties, on the money. This has created a public perception not just of a do-nothing government, but of a do-nothing political class. The floods have shown the people, not that they really needed convincing, that their rulers do not have their best interests at heart. The breaking of the canal bunds, so that the lands (and crops) of the person elected were saved, while those of his voters were devastated, would indicate that even in this crisis, those who had been elected to look after the people, were busy saving themselves. It was therefore not surprising that the people did not donate to these people as was expected by the parties. Already badly damaged by the fake-degrees affair, legislators, including members of the Cabinets, were not trusted enough to give money or goods to, and that too by their voters. The question naturally arises, what did they elect them for? One question they are expected to resolve is that they are supposed to obtain resources and make them available to their voters. Whether they achieve this or not, they are also supposed to intervene with the government, act as an interface with the government, and obtain its resources for their constituents. In return for this, members expect to protect their interests, but when this is made operational, it means acting to protect special interests. One result of the flooding has been to increase the reliance of Pakistan on the international community, at least for the immediate future. The estimates of the damage will not be complete until the end of the monsoon, which even now is not due for about a month. But the damage is not over, and the rains are not yet over, even though many of those internally displaced by the floods have reached camps, and are about to fall prey to the waterborne diseases that have been predicted. Already, people have died both from water and disease, and more are expected to die very soon. The damage to crops is not yet accurately estimated, but is expected to be well above billions of dollars. The damage to crops is particularly problematic, because it means that Pakistan is not as resistant as it once was to outside pressures. That the present flooding could well be repeated, and that too frequently, is a sign of global warming. The destruction witnessed this time means that a next time will merely wash away the wealth that replaces that has been lost this time. While the impoverishment of the people will occur, so will that of the state, and thus the resources that are to be mediated for the people by their representatives. At the same time, there is much for the government to do, to restore life to normal. It must make sure that profiteers and hoarders do not misuse this opportunity to do their worst. The government must also avoid making victims of them, which is how they will portray themselves if they are subjected to any government action. There has been huge damage to infrastructure, which had been erected by the government in the first place. This damage will have to be met out of whatever resources are available after the flood, and an eye must be kept on the possibility of repeat flooding. As a civilisation centred around an exotic river, the Indus, for sev-eral millennia, even before the establishment of Pakistan, the people of Pakistan have long been used to the rigours of floods, but now there are two new factors: one beneficial, the other harmful. The beneficial component is the readiness of other countries to help, as opposed to the earlier readiness of nations to leave these areas to fend for themselves. The other is global warming, which implies that these floods are likely to be repeated. In the midst of all this, not only does the government have to find a role for itself, but so do those that are aspirants to power, the political parties. Email: maniazi@nation.com.pk