Pakistan Day: Our Need for National Disaster Resilience

“My message to all of you is of hope, courage, and confidence. Let us mobilize all our resources in a systematic and organized way and tackle the grave issues that confront us with grim determination and discipline worthy of a great nation.”

Quaid-i-Azam

 

Today, our nation celebrates Pakistan Day. It is the anniversary of the Lahore Resolution of 23 March, 1940, wherein members of the All-India Muslim League gathered together and issued the declaration that when India is granted independence from the British, areas of the territory which have a Muslim-majority population should be under separate administration from the rest of India, to prevent the marginalization of Muslims by the Hindu majority. Thus, the notion of Pakistan was formally adopted and the movement for Pakistan started. Seven years later,  Pakistan was born on August 14, 1947.

August 14 is thus designated as Independence Day while 23 March is reserved for officially celebrating Pakistan itself.

These dates commemorate a very special time in history. European colonial empires used to rule most of the world. After World War 2, their unraveling began to proceed. The first colony to gain independence was the British Raj, which was the most important colony of the biggest empire in the world and where there already was a massive independence movement. Due to the duel and determined struggle for freedom, the Raj split into two countries, Pakistan and India. Independence of other colonies continued until decolonization was complete all over the world decades later. The world being fully divided into independent nation states is therefore a process that began with the Subcontinent. What is more, Pakistan got independence the day before India. Therefore, our nation holds the distinct honor of being the very first country to emerge in the wave of independence that swept the world clean of imperialism.

We have been on a journey of seventy years as an independent nation-state and it is time for us to push further to make our nation greater, for which our unique heritage can be a motivation. We were already a role model for the world in being first to gain independence and in governing ourselves, and we can be even more than that by becoming a role model in disaster risk reduction.

Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to hazards. Since time immemorial, our land has been regularly wracked by disasters and they are a particularly high level concern for Pakistan nowadays.

Our country is blessed with a large and dynamic variety of natural environments, from the blue waters of the Arabian Sea to the towering mountains of the Karakorum and the Himalayas. This, however, comes at the cost of putting us at risk of natural disasters, so much so that Pakistan is a world hotspot for natural hazards. Since its formation, our country has seen tremendous progress in the form of rapid development and population growth. Infrastructure, industry, and agriculture have expanded considerably. But much of this has been done without careful planning.

If Pakistan is to make something greater of itself and become a better country for its citizens to live in, it is vital we work to make our nation and our people safe from disasters. It will be a considerable task requiring the application of all aspects of the nation. It is the vital responsibility of the nation’s authorities, the government, military, police, civil servants, and emergency services, to work to ensure this. But more than others, it is important for ordinary Pakistanis to help other Pakistanis who are suffering or at risk. The people of Pakistan must gain the capacity to cope with disasters and be able to protect themselves.

Our nation’s seventieth year should be the time for us to start moving towards building greater protection from hazards. Pakistan has an enormous amount of potential that can be harnessed to achieve the goal.

Disasters are matters of urgency.  People are always most ready to do their best when it comes to emergencies, to handling threats to themselves. A Pakistan equipped with disaster management capability can be strong enough to manage all of its problems. It can thrive and prosper.

Just as Pakistan led the way to freedom within the developing world, it has the potential to lead in management of climate change induced natural disasters. It can become the role model for the world, especially for other developing and emerging countries, in disaster management.

77 years ago, our forebears began the fight to throw off the shackles of foreign rule and 70 years ago, we finally won the struggle for a free Pakistan. Now, it is time to begin the fight to vanquish the threat of disasters that we all live under and win the struggle for a secure and prosperous Pakistan.

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