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Pakistanis Battle Fatal Floodwaters: When the Indus Became the Yellow River of Sorrow

By Frank Huzur  Posted by Mac McKinney (about the submitter)     Permalink
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The great Indus River has overwhelmed the country.

Pakistanis Battle Fatal Floodwaters:

When the Indus Became the Yellow River of Sorrow

By Frank Huzur in Islamabad, Pakistan

Frank Huzur

Ahead of preparing to visit Lahore for the seventh time in three years, my mind was occupied with the frightening wave of terror attacks experienced during the previous tour in October-November 2009. Quite a good number of tempestuous terror attacks had continued to bedevil life on streets of Pakistan in the intervening months. However, I had not anticipated the sudden demise of suicide bombing by the rising currents of the Indus and Chenab. That the Indus river would become the "Yellow River of sorrow' and wreak havoc and destruction more unbearable than that of suicide bombings was inconceivable until floodwaters raged in terminal fury and wrath in the wee hours of 29 July 2010.

In the holy month of Ramadan fasting, millions of Pakistanis running helter-skelter for food, water and shelter evokes the ghostly memories of the bloody month of Ramadan 63 years ago in 1947, when the largest migration of Hindus and Muslims bloodied the waters of the IndusRiver.

In New Delhi, I didn't have the faintest idea of the tempest I would be up against, close and personal shortly after landing in Lahore. News trickling into the Indian media about the devastating deluge destroying village after village in all four of Pakistan's provinces probably didn't convey the shocking punch of the enormity of the tragedy. The gargantuan scale of the water-borne human tragedy hit me hard as soon as my eyes stared into relief camps, which had sprung up nearly at every traffic corner and market square. Whenever my host's car came to a screeching halt at a red light intersection, young boys and girls began to knock at the windowpanes with a square paper box soliciting for the suffering millions.

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I could sniff screaming silence in the air of Lahore. The city was crying in the month of Ramadan. In a swift departure from suicide-blast days, drivers of vehicles were not reluctant to welcome an advancing band of fund-raisers on the streets of Lahore instead of a terrorist inching closer in the garb of a mendicant or a hawker suddenly swept away in the surge of floodwaters.

In a fortnight of surging floodwaters, stories of displacement and death began to unravel in cruel mathematics of humanitarian disaster of monumental proportion. Civilisation has thrived on banks of the Indus for over 5,000 years. The deluge of August threatens to devour the sanctum sanctorum of the Indus valley civilisation, Mohan Jadero in Sindh. While 30 million people are languishing in agonising despair, with loss of home and hearth, daughters and brothers, their lamentations have few listeners.

Their President was gambolling in the summery breeze of Paris and London, admiring the frescoes of castles, fobbing off hurled shoes from expatriates and defending his jaunt by claiming that his visit in the hours of catastrophe brought more publicity and triggered healthy largesse from the international community. People on Pakistani streets scoff at the President's appeal and call him "Nero of Rome."

There are many tales of pillage and plight floating like a rickety boat on the Indus and Chenab. It was chilling to learn of the dilemma of some 50,000 Hindus in the Jacobad, Thund, Sultanpur and Khanpur areas of upper Sindh. A band of university boys from Karachi actually ventured on a rickety boat to discover the pinch hole. Larkana of Bhutto is however safe and sound, and people of Larkana are sheltering the displaced Hindus population.

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The majority of Hindus live in upper Sindh area and are affluent traders. However, imperilling their affluent existence is the reported increase in kidnapping of young Hindu girls in the age group of 10-16 who are compelled to convert to Islam. Some elders of the community grumble that their complaint is not registered at the local police station. Similar is the fate of young Christian girls in Punjab.

The mysterious disappearance of young girls and boys is actual cause for concern in the middle of a humanitarian disaster. There are precedents for such atrocious kidnappings and sceptics of the minority as well as majority community are feeling the pins and needles of restlessness.

The Sikhs of North West Frontier Province are also living in disquietude and despair. The newly christened province of Khyber has won reprieve from booming sounds of suicide and car bombings, but the angst of living through bomb blasts has given way to the drag of saving their houses, livestock and their women and men. Not less than10,000 Sikhs are bearing the brunt of the catastrophe. Temples and Gurudwaras in Larkana and Peshawar are transformed into rehabilitation camps and community kitchens.

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