One of my recent columns titled ‘Preparing for the Deluge’ was centered round the government’s lack of vision and preparation for this year’s monsoon season. I had based my conclusions on past historical record, wherein the civil administration (unprepared as it usually is) goes into a state of near paralysis, when confronted with a natural calamity. Had it not been for a prompt response from the Armed Forces in mobilising resources and mitigating the suffering of those effected by the flood, we would have witnessed a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. With the advent of the current monsoons, my fears are being realized, but in a manner far worse than what I had predicted.

The met office had correctly forecast that the wet spell this year would be heavy and early. This warning coupled with lessons learnt from previous blunders, went unheeded catching those responsible for disaster management with their ‘pants down’. Heavy rains and an unprecedented glacial melt swept away roads and bridges cutting off Chitral from its outlying areas. A similar situation has developed between Gilgit and Skardu, while the waters of the Indus River have begun to take their toll in Southern Punjab. The Army (which appears to have done its homework) has gone into action without delay, while the administration appears to be running around in circles like a ‘headless chicken’.

Now that I’ve said it, the ‘headless chicken’ expression appears to be a very apt one. A thumb rule of good governance (and successful leadership) says that those at the helm of affairs, must share good times and bad, with the ones they lead – in this case, the people of Pakistan, who placed their trust in a certain party through their ballot, giving it the mandate to rule. In the present case, with Eid celebrations just around the corner and the threat of a natural disaster looming on the horizon, two of our top ‘leaders’ from this party thought it convenient to fly out of Pakistan. As if this was not enough, the nation was informed that the flood situation was being monitored on skype and relevant instructions were being issued to the administrative machinery, which was well prepared for any eventuality. I could only stare in disbelief at the ‘preparation’, as images from Chitral and the rest of the country flashed across television screens – and while the politicians slept or waited for fair weather, we watched a stirring example from the combat zone, of what really makes a true leader.

An old friend of mine, who is politically savvier than most people I know, has generated side splitting amusement, by painting a scenario based on a recent event held in one of the Gulf States. A party that was heading a provincial government decided to run affairs in a remarkably creative manner. First the party’s top leadership moved to an oasis across the sea, where life was ‘good’ and pastures ‘green’. It then decided that the entire provincial cabinet should be flown across for a meeting on how to untangle the mess created by their ministers and salvage whatever was possible as regards party reputation. Someone amongst the participants suggested that the organisers get a representative from an international archiver of records, as such an event would perhaps be a first. According to my friend, the decision to do this is pending.

With so many top level politicians now leaving the country or becoming invisible, it amuses me to imagine what would happen if the President of Pakistan decides to call an immediate session of Parliament. Perhaps this would be an effective way to do a head count and determine who is here and who isn’t. I for one would not be surprised at the results.