Beneath open skies

The apparent pilfering of flood relief goods by a Sindh MPA highlights a danger

The discovery of tents meant for flood affectees in the rice-mill of a Sindh MPA brings to the fore one of the problems associated with relief of flood affectees, that of pilferage by the powerful.Pilferage by the poor (whether or not affected by the floods) and profiteering by those who can corner the supply of relief goods is to be expected, but the discovery of the pilfered tents shows to the world that theft, plain and simple, is also to be prevented.

The government, which has been making claims of sympathy with the flood-affected, must take immediate action in this case, and determine whether this is merely the tip of the iceberg. In this case, the tents have to be traced to the actual donors, and where the logistics trail leads.Somewhere along the line, at least some goods were diverted. The offending MPA cannot be the only person involved; those guilty must be uncovered and punished. One problem pilferers are probably exploiting is that while Pakistanis are generous enough, the informal sector (which is substantial, if not the majority) is bad at keeping records. Without proper records, investigations will not generate the kind of evidence required by that  the courts.

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Another aspect that the government should not lose sight of, is the effect of this incident on foreign donations. Already, the world’s aid response has not been what is needed. It is bad enough that this event will be bruited abroad by Pakistan’s enemies, but at least condign action would give foreign donors the security that their donations will reach the affectees. It would also provide domestic NGOs and donors the security that their donations would not be diverted by local influentials.

Editorial
The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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