Many international organizations have warned previously that Pakistan is among the top ten countries which will face the consequences of global warming. Subsequently, the country is facing another natural disaster in the form of heavy snowfall and torrential rains as a direct result of climate change. The snow storm has killed dozens of people, injuring hundreds throughout the country. The Neelum Valley and Northern Balochistan were severely affected by blizzards causing serious human and financial loss. 

The aftermath of heavy snowfall, which is said to have broken record of the last 50 years in Balochistan, caused panic among citizens and officials. Ziarat, Harnai, Pishin, Mastung, Qila Abdullah and Kech were badly affected by blizzards and consecutive rains. More than three hundred passengers including women and children were trapped inside their vehicles for 48 hours waiting to be rescued. Absence of food and shelter increased their ordeal in this cold weather. The provincial institutions proved inefficient to tackle the situation and rescue the people and begin relief operations on time in the affected areas. The main highways were opened four days after the snowstorm. The residents of the province faced various problems overall like shortage of food, water, electricity, gas in most areas and transportation as link roads were not cleared by the concerned authorities due to lack of machinery.

It is true that the Provincial government was not prepared initially for such a disaster as reflected in their rescue operations. Lack of coordination between officials and institutions, mismanagement and ill-organized rescue activities were obvious. The irony is, the Provincial government did not even have appropriate machinery to clear main highways. Ambulances to carry the casualties were also not available. Despite hard work, continuous efforts and presence of officials at affected points did not bring any relief to the people as they lacked proper machinery and equipment to face such a huge issue. 

However, it is not only the failure of Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan’s government but the responsibility also lies on those political parties which enjoyed their five years tenures of government but did not take any initiatives for improving rescue and medical institutions to face such situations. Two major earthquakes in the last decades did not awake provincial governments to organize and train provincial disaster management authority and to equip them with new machinery to carry out rescue operations. 

This snowstorm has also exposed another bitter truth. The Federal institutions and departments did not bother to help the provincial government in the face of such difficult situation despite requests for assistance. Even, the Chief Minister of Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan complained that the National Disaster Management Authority, Sui Southern Gas Company and National Highways Authority did not cooperate and hinted to write a letter to the Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding the issue. There is no doubt that this behaviour will hence produce only resentment and anger in public against the Federal government and departments in the province. 

Though, the snowstorm in northern Balochistan caused closure of highways and air links, the locals did their part well in helping stranded passengers. Suleman Khan and Anis Khan are among those heroes who reached the affected areas despite cold weather and rescued more than a hundred people through their cars. Suleman Khan even received appreciation from Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as the public. The Balochistan Government lauded his efforts and even awarded him. The national and international media have also highlighted this young hero who came to the rescue of helpless stranded people.

It is high time that the Government of Balochistan take concrete steps to organize and equip Provincial Disaster Management Authority and other related institutions with trained staff and heavy machinery. The funds allocated for these institutions should be released timely, so they would be able to prepare for such situations. On the other hand, the public needs to show confidence in the government and back their efforts in such disasters, while performing their duties of being a responsible citizen as well as we have witnessed during the last snowstorm.




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The author is a journalist, with 10 years of working experience in Electronic Media.

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