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Nature's Hammer Blow

Wed Oct 26th - The News (By Asim Hussain)


Death is a reality all mortals have to face. How life hands its existence over to death makes people learn. Lessons can be learned provided one takes heed and absorbs them for feelings, intentions and actions. The October 8 earthquake was nature's jolt for the ones who have survived. For others who lost their dear ones, life will never be the same; its perspective has changed for times to come. Much has been said about the agony through various forms of media and personal observations.


The reality of life is that tomorrow will come and future has already begun. Have we learned anything, are we pondering over our moral and social fabric? The value system of the society needs a deep analysis for improvement otherwise Mother Nature would not have given us the jolt. The feeling of an earthquake is no less than a mother throwing away her child and behaving indifferently. It is rare but happens out of dire compulsion, frustration or agony all to give a wake up call.


Generally speaking, we know and believe that mothers are not wrong and only act in the interest of their most precious product, the child. Why would a mother even scare a child whom she has nurtured as part of her soul, mind and body? Compare the mother-child relationship with an earthquake in which the hammering of the earth is synonymous with the extreme reaction of mother to her child. Do we get the message, can we ponder and learn? We must.


It is time for us to balance logic and faith, take the lesson and seek for individual and collective improvement. This will evolve into a religious debate for which, neither am I the right person nor is it the objective of this article. This catastrophe has turned into a huge management exercise and now we need to rescue the lives of people in short term and in the longer term give them a better future than the past they have lost. In the longer term, this includes both a proper value system and an infrastructure to prosper morally, socially and economically. It is time to think and plan beyond immediate relief in terms of safe shelter, warm clothing, food, medical support, communication link with the outside world and access roads.


Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the main affected area is nature's paradise on planet earth. Unfortunately, it has been thought otherwise. People who have had the chance to live or travel into Neelam Valley can better understand this. The basic infrastructure has been non-existent and we have never been able to look beyond the territorial dispute. Our thinking has been subordinated to warfare mind set and circumstances. People residing or the ones who used to reside there could understand this better. In the wake of this massive tragedy lies an opportunity. It is time to explore the true potential of this area and its people. Unfortunately, it took this catastrophe for this thought to evolve.


The eyes of the world are focused on this area and it is time to start planning a great future for the ones who have survived as a matter of small payback to them. Execution of any idea will be the key. Funds are and will be made available based on the idea and the cause. In this case; we have both the reason and the spirit. Can we plan, present and execute? In Pakistan and outside, at the public as well as private level, will contribute generously provided we can channelize this passion with some objectivity.


This is now a management challenge. Army has been and will be the key variable in the rehabilitation and reconstruction exercise. They know the area well and are managing proper distribution and logistics set up to bring relief. We must appreciate not criticize them. They will have to lead this exercise with the private sector, including NGO's. Formation of a Relief Commission is the beginning but in the longer run, we have to think beyond the immediate remedy, leap of faith and moral resurrection.


The beginning of the longer term plan other than the arrangement of funds and goods is to draw a master plan based on the natural advantage, which exists in the form of people, culture, passion to resurrect and tourism potential. Explore and develop the core competencies of the people and the location. Think business for the local people and for the donors. Create a better future for them, establish model villages and name them after the people or the donors. Let the inhabitants be employed and empowered to develop and subsequently own the place. Do not give them a fish; tell them how to catch it for times to come.


Within this massive reconstruction exercise, each local should be treated as an employee working for the cause and associated with some form of development. People can be employed in hospitals, schools, adoption homes, tourist resorts, roads and other infrastructure construction. Instead of financing big time, we can micro-finance and open up vocational training institutes to train for the required skills. This will allow them ownership at the cost of economic and personal shareholding.


This is possible if the intentions are neat and we treat this as a management exercise to develop a new city based on its own economic and social well being rather than being on the respirator in the form of aid for the next few years. Evolve a proper system with transparency to allow the requisite confidence to the private sector to invest. Why would anyone deny the offer if it serves both a human and economic purpose. Companies are like humans and understand well their responsibility in terms of economic, social and human aspects.


How to go about it? Let army and the locals take a lead role and form a committee comprising government and private sector. Form a proper Commission headed by a business savvy person who has had experience in administrative roles. This commission can be managed like a proper organization and headed by a retired Army General. General Amjad (ex-NAB Chief and now MD Fauji Foundation) fits well in this role. Unless we bring some management angle to this rehabilitation exercise, balance logic and faith, trust and believe in future, the passion will die down naturally and we will end up in an "intensive care unit" for times to come. We can ill afford this and have the choice to convert pain and agony into prosperity.


If commission rather organization is created, professional people having academic skills like development economics to Engineers to MBA's to Doctors can be hired they will create this into an opportunity and a test for developing northern areas all across Pakistan as well. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing changed forever the perspective of Japanese as individuals and a nation. The nuclear catastrophe of 1945 forced Japan to evolve into the second biggest economy in the world. While Kashmir and Pakistan are blessed with land, natural resources, tourism potential and rich culture, the Japanese had nothing to offer except human capital, good intentions, sound planning, honesty and commitment. Look at where they stand today.


If we can manage moral, social and economic resurrection together, this would change the perspective of the entire nation and we would have learnt not ignored the lesson. "Think of people and management together". "Think public and private sector nexus". The difference between underdeveloped and developed nations is not development, it is management. Pakistan is not underdeveloped but under-managed. Let's learn from this nature's blow and see how can we manage this catastrophe well and evolve into a confident and self-reliant nation. Every cloud has a silver lining but remember that the clock is ticking!


The writer works in a general management role for a multinational.