A country may not wait for a natural calamity to present its case at a global forum. Climate Change experts such as Aisha Khan have been warning against a catastrophe if timely measures were not taken. To say that devastating floods in Pakistan came as a bolt from the blue would be unfair to all those calculations made by experts both at home and abroad. That Pakistan has a weak infrastructure to cope with natural disasters is known to all and sundry. That Pakistan’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is less than one percent seemed to be the only argument. Islamabad along with all the industrialized world knew about the hazards of Climate Change. The fact that Pakistan is reflected among the top ten most ‘vulnerable’ countries is also well known. Hence, in the process of blame-gaming, some introspection was warranted to realize which steps Pakistan should have taken two decades ago to forestall the ongoing devastating floods.

At the UNGA’s 77th Session, Pakistan acquitted itself from the responsibility of sensitizing the world about the havoc created by the floods. Kashmir, Afghanistan and regional security matters had to take a backseat to bring forth the immediate crisis at hand. Using flowery language to remind the industrialized world of its duty to compensate Pakistan from a crime it never committed went well with the sophisticated audience. Indeed, the main speech was music to the ears. However, the main argument reminded one of Mir Taqi Mir’s famous couplet in which the cure was being sought from the very person who actually caused the disease.

Nevertheless, the announcement of organizing a donor conference either in New York or elsewhere in Europe was welcomed by Islamabad. Meetings with IMF and World Bank high officials created hope of easing the terms of future borrowing. Antonio Guterres’ visit to Islamabad just before the Session and his friendly demeanor towards the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan further facilitated matters. The UN’s estimated thirty-billion-dollar amount for rehabilitation also helped Pakistan look fair in its estimations.

However, the PM’s speech remained devoid of any reference to pragmatically embracing the ongoing catastrophe through indigenous resources. One kept on waiting for the invaluable input from the line Ministry on its past and present endeavors to handle such calamities. Neither one presented any concrete future plan to address next year’s similar challenge nor was a plausible and transparent proposal to use the donations offered. The dismal response from ‘rich’ and ‘affluent’ Pakistanis was not helpful either in substantiating the case. Earlier, the PM’s ‘vow’ made to the UN Secretary-General on the ‘honest distribution of funds’ spoke volumes about administration and governance in Pakistan. Hopefully, this time, one would not see US-Aid sacks of grains being sold in Juma bazaars of Pakistan.

The media and tv talk shows were quick in finding flaws in Pakistan’s overall planning process. References were made to almost every problem under the Sun. From the issue of disproportionate population growth to an unequal education system to economic woes to illegal housing societies to political uncertainty to NDMA’s role to the imminent food security issue to ensuing diseases to Kashmir and Afghanistan, one was amazed to see the awareness in the intelligentsia of issues that needed Islamabad’s immediate attention. In the process, the question of ‘conflict resolution’ overwhelmed the issue of ‘crisis management’ rendering all such talks inconsequential. One wonders why we don’t take timely pre-emptive actions to forestall any imminent challenges? Why do we wait for the inevitable to happen and then find ways of wriggling out of it by conveniently putting blame on others? You do not start digging a well when thirsty.

The most interesting part was the feeling that the UNGA’s 77th Session was in fact organized to assist in dealing with the ongoing floods in Pakistan. As if the Ukraine war, the ensuing Cold War, Sino-US rivalry and trade war, the heat waves in Europe and natural disasters elsewhere were swayed away by the floods in Pakistan. As if the floods in Pakistan were the single most important agenda item on the UN’s calendar. Suddenly, the whole country became aware of the existence of the real ‘culprits’ of Climate Change. A crop of Climate Change experts mushroomed and people actually started believing in being victimized by the powerful industrial world. Completely oblivious of its own responsibility, the country along with its leadership gladly felt absolved of any policy failure at home.

To all those who waited for a phone call from Washington, there was after all some good news. The brief ‘interaction’ between President Biden and PM Sharif could at best be a friendly gesture from the erstwhile ‘strategic partner’. It could not be construed as an ‘ice-breaker’ as Islamabad might wish to put it. Considering a number of factors, Pakistan would wish to adopt a step-by-step policy and not straightaway ‘rush’ to mend ways with the US. Finally, some better sense seems to have prevailed. Islamabad may understand that a superpower could never be treated as an ‘equal partner’. Remember, a superpower would always win no matter which way the coin lands.

Much ink has been spilled on the files of civil and military bureaucracy to realize the need to have balanced, value-based, progressive and transparent policies. Debates on our national political culture, political parties and leadership aside, the country needs an actionable roadmap to respectably breathe in the comity of nations. Somehow, diplomacy has been left aimlessly navigating the choppy waters of international relations. Similarly, internal politics has been equated with a ‘survival of the fittest’ approach rather than finding opportunities for policy coordination. It is then no surprise that after being in existence for more than seven decades, Pakistan is still looking for a degree of certainty in its policies. Unfortunately, the nation’s defining feature remains amorphous. Honesty of purpose may be the stepping stone!