Pakistan is prone to multiple disasters. – drought, earthquake, landslide, flash flooding, epidemics, pollution, industrial, cyclones etc. Flooding has been the most frequent and wide spread phenomenon. This list has become longer since February 2020. Like all other countries, Pakistan is being hit badly by yet another calamity – COVID-19.
According to the Federal Flood Commission between 1950 and 2015, the country suffered from 23 super floods. The total economic loss was equal to USD 40 billion. At the time of writing this report, Pakistan has less than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19, but the economic and social impact could be [massively] larger than all the past floods combined. Unlike other disasters, it has hit every person in every corner of the country though unequally. It has made the poor, poorer.
Reports show that unemployment, poverty; indebtedness and criminalization have already increased manifold and this may continue to rise in the coming months and years. Gender-based violence has also spiked. Due to a prolonged lockdown, the psychological health of large numbers may also be an issue. What must be feared the most in these circumstances is the occurrence of another disaster? A locust attack is already on the horizon.
The flood season is fast approaching. Is the country prepared to cope with floods, while fighting COVID-19 and its impact? If the past is any guide, the obvious answer is NO.
Poverty is deepening and spreading, so is the subjugation of the poor and the domination of the elite, political stability in such circumstances becomes fragile. Any mishap can trigger unrest if the authorities fail to fulfill the needs of the population.
Interestingly, even in rich and established democracies, inequality has once again become a loud cry.
Powerful voices are trying to make inequality a major policy issue as scholars, researchers and activists have started pointing out the relationship between pandemics and political upheavals. According to Walter Scheidel, pandemics, warfare, revolution and state collapse levels income inequalities. In his recent op-ed article “The Wealthy Fear Every Pandemic”, he observes, “elites did not readily cede ground, even under extreme pressure after a pandemic. Today America faces a fundamental choice between defending the status quo and embracing progressive change.
The current crisis could prompt redistributive reforms akin to those triggered by the Great Depression and World War II, unless entrenched interests prove too powerful to overcome.”