Muzaffargarh, Sept 11 (ANI): In the wake of the huge devastation caused by floods in Pakistan, a controversy has surfaced in various parts of the country over whether the political elite intentionally failed to divert dam waters in order to protect the lands of financial interest to them.
"Most of the flood damage would simply not have occurred in Muzaffargarh district if the right side of the dam had been breached (in) time.... You can say this was man-made," the Christian Science Monitor quoted a senior town official as saying, who, fearing for his job, asked that his identity be withheld.
In Muzaffargarh district alone, 51 deaths, displacement of 1.5 million, and destruction of 337 schools that took place, could have been mostly avoided if water had been diverted onto land set aside as a flood basin, which was vacant except for fields of sugar cane and cotton grown there surreptitiously by feudal families of the elite.
According to senior officials, flood management recommendations were overruled at the last moment by powerful political interests to the benefit of those feudal families, who were allegedly having a nexus of interests with senior bureaucrats charged with carrying out the orders.
"This is nothing more than a political game, but we aren't hopeful the truth will come out," said one of the engineers entrusted with the upkeep of the Taunsa Barrage.
Two high-ranking international officials involved in Pakistan's development said that possible corruption highlighted the need for more serious anti-corruption mechanisms, while one of them confided that details of political tampering with flood protection systems were coming in from all over Pakistan.
Criticising the government, chief engineer of the Irrigation and Power Department- Asrar ul-Haq- said, "In hindsight, the people of Muzaffargarh can rightly feel very, very miserable about this. The flooding in their area would have been far less severe (if the right bank had been breached)."
Though a number of local officials insisted that it was a "man-made" catastrophe, Nadeem Ahmed, the retired general in charge of Pakistan's disaster response, said, "When people are traumatized, these stories get multiplied and too magnified. Maybe some of them are true, maybe some of them are not true. But this is what we hear across the board wherever these inundations have happened."
The allegations of "political tampering" threaten already fading confidence in the Pakistani government, among both its own citizens and international donors.
Pakistan's representative to the UN, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, and Former prime minister of the country, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali had made similar allegations some ago. (ANI)