Close to 2,000 people have died in Pakistan’s biggest natural disaster since 1929. Millions have lost their homes and run the risk of being infected by deadly water-borne diseases such as cholera. The government’s slow response has been criminally inadequate whereas the magnitude of the devastation was made worse by its failure to make any flood management plans. Zardari’s treachery has been the hallmark of the corruption that characterizes the rulers of the Ummah. It is time we call to and work for a leadership who follows in the footsteps of the Khulafaa’ who feared Allah سبحانه وتعالى and then the accountability towards the people.
The floods in Pakistan began in late July this year after record heavy monsoon rains caused rivers and lakes to burst out of their banks, and dams to be overwhelmed by the sheer weight of water, sending great flash floods which swept away houses, bridges, roads and electrical power lines. Baluchistan, Southern Punjab, Peshawar and Swat are all included among the worst hit areas. Close to 2,000 people have been killed so far and millions were rendered homeless. Estimates from rescue-service officials suggest the death-toll may increase as the threat of water-borne diseases and infections such as cholera are very high. According to a recent estimate of the United Nations, the number of people suffering as a result of these massive floods in Pakistan exceeds 20 million, which is more than the combined total of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The extensive damage to infrastructure and crops has also resulted in a major setback to the struggling Pakistani economy.
Where are the Rulers?
While the Muslims in Pakistan are facing this horrific situation, how has the government reacted?
• As the flooding began, President Zardari continued with his plans to visit France and Britain to meet President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron. Furthermore, it was reported that Zardari stayed at the Royal Suites in London which costs 10,000 British pounds per night – the equivalent of which could feed 10,000 people in Pakistan.
• Prime Minister Gilani received strong criticism after staging a visit to a fake flood relief camp with paid actors playing the part of flood victims.
• Local politicians of the ruling party were absent from the affected areas causing anger among the survivors. Furthermore, in Sindh, ministers of the ruling party were accused of using their influence to direct flood waters off their lands towards densely populated areas.
• There has been very little assistance by the military since the majority of the army has been sent to fight America’s war in the tribal areas which has cost billions of dollars.
• Due to the rulers in Pakistan parcelling out its sovereignty to America the Shahbaz airbase in Jacobabad (where 500,000-700,000 people have been displaced due to the floods) cannot be used for relief efforts as it is being used by the U.S. for drone attacks in the tribal regions.
The lack of response and the blatant mismanagement of the crisis by the government is a replay of a similar situation in the past. On November 12th, 1970, a devastating tropical cyclone struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Bengal in India in which 500,000 people died. The Pakistani government was severely criticized for its handling of the relief operations following the storm, both by local political leaders in East Pakistan and in the international media.
What makes the floods of this year more devastating is not only the government’s weak response (if any) towards helping the survivors; it is also criminal neglect that after more than 60 years, no ruling party has yet instituted flood management plans. The unusually heavy rains during the monsoon season provided ample warnings that flooding may occur. Yet local authorities did nothing to provide advance warnings to give residents enough time to evacuate. Speaking about the floods in Pakistan, the director for the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters said, “The numbers of people killed are very high for a natural event [like a flood], which is among the easier disasters to predict and plan for…Poor communities in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and even Mozambique have put together simple radio-based early warning systems, which help people to be evacuated in time.”
Furthermore, the flooding could have been entirely averted – as admitted by Gilani himself – had the proposed Kalabagh Dam been built in 2005. However, the project was cancelled in 2008 by the now ruling PPP party. Any government that was sincerely concerned about its people would have established counter-measures such as ditches and drainage systems to funnel the excess water away from the inhabited areas.
The disregard of safety by the government is not restricted to the region of Pakistan. Rather, it is a common trait among all the agent rulers that have been forced upon the Ummah. It is natural disasters, such as the floods in Pakistan that expose more of the true nature of the Muslim rulers.
In November of last year we saw in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, how a flood caused the death of 500 Muslims. At first the government tried to downplay the number of casualties by claiming that “only” 100 people had died. However, when the figures became impossible to hide, Prince Khalid al-Faisal, the governor of the Meccan region (which includes Jeddah) blamed the deaths on arbitrarily built neighborhoods and not on the fact that the Muslims living in Jeddah do not have an adequate sewage system to deal with the potential flooding.
In 1999 we also witnessed the Izmit earthquake in Turkey with a magnitude of 7.6 in which 40,000-45,000 people died and 600,000 were left homeless. There was widespread anger among the Muslims living in Turkey as the government did not enforce basic building standards in an area that was prone to earthquakes.
By examining the actions of these Muslim rulers it is clear that these rulers are the oppressors, described in the hadith of RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم:
“… then there will be oppressive kingship for as long as Allah wills…” [Ahmad]
Allah سبحانه وتعالى has warned us of the heavy price of not ruling by the Quran and Sunnah:
وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ
“And whoever did not rule by what Allah revealed, those are the disbelievers.” [Al-Maaida, 5:44]
وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
“And whoever did not rule by what Allah revealed, those are the oppressors.” [Al-Maaida, 5:45]
وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
“And whoever did not rule by what Allah revealed, those are the transgressors.” [Al-Maaida, 5:47]
Furthermore, RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم says about the ruler who betrays the people whom he is supposed to manage:
“Every traitor will have a flag on the Day of Judgement to identify him according to the amount of his treachery; there is no traitor of greater treachery than the leader of the people.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
To Change the Rulers, we need to Change the System
These Muslim rulers who are put in place by the colonial western powers, mainly the U.S. and Britain, operate in a manner so that this great Ummah of Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم remains under the tyranny and injustice of the western-imported man-made system. This is why a simple change in leadership has never done anything to improve the affairs of the Ummah. If anything, it has made the situation worse as we have observed in Pakistan.
The root of the problem does not lie solely with the corrupt rulers but in the system which they are adhering to – the western-imported man-made system. This system, which the rulers implement, is designed only to care for the ruling elite and its entourage. Throughout the world, a select elite hoards the world’s important resources, depriving billions of people of their basic needs, leaving them to hunger, thirst and homelessness. In the Muslim lands the system might be disguised with selective rules in order to appear Islamic. But when these few rules are stripped away there is no question that the systems implemented are far from what RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم implemented and the Khulafaa’ (Caliphs) upheld.
Khilafah: A Model of Disaster Management
When we examine the system which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم had brought to mankind, we will see that it does not resemble what is currently being implemented in the Muslim lands.
During the Khilafah of Umar ibn Al-Khatab (ra), Madinah had suffered a famine. Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah (ra), his Wali (governor) in Syria, said that he would send a train of camels so long that, “… one end will be here at Syria and the other will be at Madinah.”
Moreover, Abu Ubaidah (ra) later paid a personal visit to Madinah and acted as an officer of a disaster management division, which was headed personally by Umar (ra). Tens of thousands of people from desert towns had already gathered in Madinah and once an adequate supply of ration reached Madinah, Umar (ra) dispatched his men to the routes of Iraq, Palestine and Syria to take the supply caravans to the desert settlements deeper into Arabia, which by the permission of Allah سبحانه وتعالى saved hundreds of thousands from starvation. For the internally displaced people, Umar (ra) hosted a dinner every night in Madinah. If all this could be achieved by Islamic ruling in an age of camels and messengers on horses, what could be achieved by the Khilafah in today’s time?
Even during the period of decline, the Khilafah remained a shining example and a guiding light for all of mankind.
In 1845, the onset of the Great Irish famine resulted in over a million deaths. Khalifah Abdul-Majid declared his intention to send 10,000 pounds sterling to the Irish farmers but Queen Victoria requested that the Khalifah send only 1,000 pounds sterling, because she had sent only 2,000 pounds sterling herself. Sultan Abdul-Majid sent the 1,000 sterling but also secretly sent 3 ships full of food. The English courts tried to block the ships, but the food arrived in Drogheda harbor and was left there by the Uthmani sailors. To bring this into today’s terms the 10,000 pounds dedicated to the Irish from the Sultan would be worth approximately $1,683,280 US Dollars. By the same standard, the Queen had only given the equivalent of 336,656 US Dollars!
Reflecting on those who Died
Many of us may know, or be related to, someone who was personally afflicted by the floods in Pakistan. While it is a tragic time for the grieving families, we should also remember that a believer is never at loss, regardless of the tremendous trials that befall him/her. RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“… the one who died due to the stomach is a shaheed and the drowned person is a shaheed.” [Muslim]
We ask Allah سبحانه وتعالى to raise the ranks of those who have suffered and for them to be in a more comfortable place.
Just as Allah سبحانه وتعالى is testing our brothers and sisters in Pakistan with hardship, He is testing us with our response. In this time of need and immediate crisis, we should help where we can and give sadaqa to those in Pakistan whom we know personally (i.e. friends and relatives), especially in this blessed month of Ramadhan.
These floods or any other natural disaster that befalls the Muslim Ummah exposes the current despotic rulers. They should be a reminder for us that the work to resume the Islamic way of life, by re-establishing the Khilafah Rashidah in the Muslim lands, needs to be undertaken with urgency so that we may seek the pleasure of Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
May Allah سبحانه وتعالى grant us victory in dunya and akhirah.
وَسَيَعْلَمُ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَيَّ مُنْقَلَبٍ يَنْقَلِبُونَ
“And soon will the unjust know what change in circumstance their affairs will take.” [Ash-Shu’araa, 26:227]