Malik Sohaib Bherth Unfortunately, in recent times, Pakistan has been hit by several natural disasters. In October 2005, Pakistan was devastated by the worst earthquake in its history; the nation was totally unprepared to deal with the unprecedented calamity of this magnitude. Accordingly, the international donors, a large number of NGOs and the United Nations donated billions of dollars for the rehabilitation of the flood victims. In return what the donors wanted was transparency about money, housing facilities, audits, distribution of food commodities, etc. That Pakistan miserably failed to do Learning from these mistakes, and in order to effectively deal with any natural disaster in future, the Natural Disaster Management Ordinance 2007 (NDMO) was promulgated creating an independent body, named as Natural Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The primary objective of NDMA was to improve the coping capacities in high-risk areas and provide an effective natural disaster management system. In just a span of five years since the 2005 earthquake, Pakistan is again hit by a natural calamity - this time in the form of floods. The floods this year were the worst in the last 100 years, resulting in a lot of fatalities and affecting 81 districts of the country: Several villages were completely wiped out; infrastructure in different parts of the country severely damaged; and about 20 million people have been directly affected. However, this time, the international community was visibly reluctant in extending its relief efforts to Pakistan. This primarily happened due to the fact that the present government is corrupt, coupled with the fact that the promises made to the international donors in the past remain largely unfulfilled. Unlike earthquakes, floods can be predicted; however, NDMA was unable to take any preventive measures. Thus, the efficacy of our government institutions can be judged from the fact that they were unable to evaluate the damage caused by the floods immediately. According to the UN Information Centre (UNIC), Islamabad, the UN was the first body to step forward to assess the loss and damage caused by the dreadful floods. But lets not be too critical of the NDMAs working, since it was mentioned in its annual report for 2009 that the authority had always been given a low priority in financial allocations and disbursements of funds. In meeting with the requirements of the risk management framework, NDMA relies largely on donor money. Hence, its performance during the floods was below standard. So, under such circumstances the international donors are directly funding private organisations, which clearly show that they have faith in the private sector, rather than the government or its institutions. Natural disasters hit every country around the globe, even the developed nations. For example, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the US coastlines - New Orleans, Louisiana being the hardest hit area - causing extensive damage, killing more than 1,500 and displacing about one million people. However, the developed nations have already adopted legislation, and taken preventive measures to deal with natural disasters. Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act 1988 (amended many times till today) is the main legal provision for disaster response activities in the US. They pertain to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is the regulatory body working in the US for natural disasters just as NDMA is working in Pakistan. The said Act lays down the procedural framework to deal with any natural disaster. Another significant aspect of the 1988 Act includes the Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation. The concept behind it is to take advance actions in order to reduce the risk to human life and property from natural disasters. For example, the government should adopt a strategy or plan for hazard areas, where it should direct the relevant authority to develop new areas away from the high-risk locations having appropriate land plans and regulations. A comparative analysis of the NDMA and FEMA drafting reveals that there is a lot of difference in their parent legislation. Under Chapter IX of NDMO (2007 Pakistani law), the model of finance, accounts and audit is discussed, but with reduced investigatory powers. For instance, no verification measures in detail are discussed to provide assurance of payments only to that individual or household that is entitled. Furthermore, provisions to reduce the risk of duplicate payments, fraudulent claims and distribution of money in a proper way are also missing. On the other hand, the US laws contain detailed provisions about how the government is supposed to take post-disaster steps. One of the most important provision is the National Housing Strategy, which states that the role, programme and responsibilities shall be identified by the Natural Disaster Housing Authority to all departments, including housing, agriculture and health in case of any major disaster in order to deal with the problems immediately. Unfortunately, such a provision is not mentioned in NDMO. Another significant provision in the US law is the Unemployment Assistance, which states that employment shall be provided to the individuals during any natural disaster. Whereas, this concept finds no mention in NDMO The earthquake of 2005 had taught us a lesson about financial creditability, transparency and corruption, but still none was done. Consequences are that the international donors are not helping our government in the same manner as they did five years back. Therefore, the obvious way forward is that NDMA should properly amend its legislation in order to cover disaster management activities as discussed above. All that is needed from the government now is to correct its practices so that the confidence of the international community is restored on our domestic institutions, who can work more effectively to assist our people. The trick is simple: Desperate times like these only require sensible measures The writer is an advocate of the Lahore High Court and is associated with the Research Society of International Law, Pakistan. Email: info@rsilpak.org