Monday, October 25, 2010

Wanted: a feel-good moment

Wanted: a feel-good momentAdd Video

By Anjum Niaz
DAWN NEWS PAPER Sunday, 24 Oct, 2010

Chilean miner Luis Urzua gestures alongside President Sebastian Pinera (R) after reaching the surface from the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, Chile. – AFP Photo

In a cavern, in a canyon
Excavating for a mine
Dwelt miners sixty-niners
And their darling Chileantines

Sorry ‘Oh my darling Clementine’ composer. But I must rewrite your script to talk of the heroic “sixty-niners” who lived in entrapment cooped up in a small space half a mile under earth’s surface for 69 days. Unlike your song that laments the death of Clementine, the miner’s daughter, my story has a happy ending. Reason for the 33 gold diggers (no pun intended) survival? The untiring efforts of their president and the country he heads.

Chile pronounced ‘chillay’ or ‘she-lay’ grabbed the world’s attention on the night of October 12 when it began the rescue of the miners via a capsule named Phoenix and painted red, blue and white signifying the Chilean flag. President Pinera, smiling copiously, dressed in orange just like the others in the crowd with a helmet on his head, stood cheerfully at the spot called Camp Hope for hours waiting and welcoming the miners till the last one was out. No frills; no fuss; no hangers surrounded his persona. He hugged them with words like “Welcome to life;” An appropriate sentiment considering that no human in recorded history has survived that long underground.

Luis Alberto Urzua, the shift foreman who helped his colleagues survive and not lose hope during the first 17 days before Chileans discovered the men were alive, was the last to surface. In the weeks that followed, the world was captivated by their endurance and unity. “Hanging firm to discipline and collaboration held firm in the lightless, dank space,” wrote the New York Times, “Their perseverance has transfixed the globe with a universal story of human struggle and the enormously complex operation to rescue them.”

Said President Pinera after the national anthem, “We are more unified than ever. Unity, faith, commitment, loyalty and solidarity fills us with pride and we thank God.
Chile is ready for great things… Viva Chile. I would like to thank Chileans for showing the world the best of Chile. I am proud to be your president… this has been a big lesson for our government. We need to improve our system, our procedure to take better care and dignity of our workers. We owe it to Chileans. I am announcing a new treaty to the workers.”

Two months earlier, another president was in the news. Here in
America, while we watched every night the savagery of the Great Flood, foreign news media also telecast a jean-clad, tuckless shirted President Zardari holidaying in Paris at his 16th century chateau juxtaposed with the colossal failure of his government back home to handle the crisis. Amidst harrowing stories of the flood victims, we got an earful from foreign journalists of how the Pakistani government was caught unprepared and left the victims at the mercy of the elements. One felt angry to see, hear and read details of the corruption stories cropping up and the reticence of international donors to come forward with help. Photos of stretching hands and hordes of people pushing each other to grab the relief goods being distributed showed massive chaos, confusion, desperation and looting.

Wrote the
UK based Economist “It gives donors time to find effective ways to co-ordinate their help—ways that, where possible, should bypass Mr Zardari’s loose-fingered friends.” The Great Flood was an opportunity for the leaders to shine. Had they come out of their palaces and glass houses to supervise the relief operations with excellent planning and execution, the 170 million would have stood up to salute them and the world would have focused on their feats. Instead, all they earned was a bad name and disdain of international donors.

Pakistan ever get a government worthy of its citizens’ admiration? If one believes in miracles, why, yes of course! If Chile managed to shake off the yoke of its worst president General Augusto Pinochet, the most controversial figure in the history of Chile, there’s hope for us too. As head of the military junta that ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, he enjoyed total control.

It is then not a pipedream for Pakistanis to hope for a feel-good moment like Chileans? The wait may be longer but it will happen one day.
Already, one hears such edifying stories of people going to the flood victims with relief goods to show their solidarity. Here’s one such story of a man called Razzaq in Kot Addu who has tended to 150 families encamped since July 28. Running out of rations, he sent an SOS to his brother-in-law Dr Babur Zahiruddin sitting 750 kms away, in Pindi. The Pakistan Thinkers Forum (PTF) promptly collected the rations and the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) used their influence and arranged for a C-130 to airlift the two truckloads of donated stuff for their homeless brethren marooned on the other side of the Indus.

Yes, this indeed must be a feel-good moment for the 150 families knowing that they have not been forgotten. If only the leaders and the wealthy were the exemplars of such heedfulness, Pakistanis would have feel-good moments, times without number.

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