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Hilal English

The Armed Forces and Disaster Management

April 2023

Today, Pakistan is subjected to climate change more than ever before. Severe weather conditions causing havoc to our country is a frequent phenomenon now. It is important that while the efforts are in hand globally to tackle this change, we have to grasp the reality and gear ourselves up for the upcoming challenges. 


The armed forces around the world are mandated to fight wars, should the deterrence fail. For their core job, they are trained and equipped appropriately. During peacetime, these forces prepare for the eventuality when it arises. They are also inherently well placed to negotiate natural and manmade calamities. Such operations fall under the category of benign operations. All the three services of Pakistan are always ready and forthcoming to undertake such tasks. We have the examples of earthquake in 2005, floods in 2010, 2011 and 2022, COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and so on and so forth. Pakistan Armed Forces have also participated in such operations abroad whenever the need arose.
Navies around the world have the intrinsic virtue of mobility due to which they have a reach around the globe. They are, therefore, best suited for participation not only in inland operations, but also anywhere in the world. Pakistan Navy, like any other contemporary navy regularly takes part in such operations and is famous for its benevolent approach. In the recent past, Pakistan has suffered with catastrophes of massive scale due to the natural calamities. 
In the year 2005, an unprecedented earthquake hit the northern part of the country which resulted in death and destruction of a vast magnitude. Pakistan Navy reacted swiftly to the call and provided relief goods and rehabilitation opportunities to the affected people. In the year 2010, there was a massive flood which inundated one-fifth of Pakistan, mainly in Sindh. Pakistan Navy rescued over 200,000 people, provided relief to the affected ones, and rehabilitated them by re-constructing many villages. At Makli, Thatta, Pakistan Navy established the biggest relief camp which housed around 8000 people. Just after a year, there was another flood in Mirpur Khas and Badin districts. It was Pakistan Navy that responded to safeguard our brethren in trouble. 
In the year 2020, COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the whole world and Pakistan was also not spared. Government of Pakistan launched a comprehensive campaign against this calamity and Pakistan Navy worked day and night to help the coastal community to cope up with the detrimental effects of the menace. In this respect, consistent supply of ration bags was distributed among the masses, while medical assistance was provided through naval medical setups. Last year, our country was once again confronted with severe floods, which inundated one-third of Pakistan, far bigger in intensity than the one in year 2010. Again, the province of Sindh as well as parts of Balochistan were the most affected. Pakistan Navy, once more, came forward and provided much needed relief to the flood-hit areas in both provinces.
Besides safeguarding maritime interests of the country, Pakistan Navy has also been forthcoming in conducting overseas operations to provide relief to the people of friendly countries in different corners of the world. The resolve and commitment of Pakistan Navy was evident at numerous occasions in the past including assistance rendered to the Maldives and Indonesia after Tsunami in 2004, rescue of MV Suez Crew from pirates in 2011, successful conduct of humanitarian operations to evacuate stranded Pakistanis and foreign nationals at Yemen in 2015, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in the support of flood-stricken Sri Lankan populace in the year 2017, and in a latest episode, providing disaster relief to the earthquake-stricken Turkiye and Syria are vivid examples of Pakistan Navy’s active participation in such operations. 
On the 6th of February this year, central and southern areas of Turkiye as well as northern and western areas of Syria were struck with a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. It brought huge death toll besides colossal damage to the property. Pakistan extended a helping hand as the bond of brotherhood between the two countries so mandated. Pakistan Armed Forces immediately got to work and the relief goods were first flown to Turkiye by Pakistan Air Force’s C-130 aircraft. Pakistan Army and Rescue 1122’s medical as well as rescue teams were also dispatched. Pakistan’s aid and support to Turkiye and Syria reached its high point when two Pakistan Navy ships (PNS) Nasr and Moawin sailed laden with relief goods. Both ships were tasked to provide these relief goods to Turkiye and Syria as a gesture of benevolence from the government of Pakistan. 
On the February 28, PNS Nasr, an oil tanker of Pakistan Navy carrying 1000 tons of relief goods departed Karachi for Syria and Turkiye. The consignment carried tents, blankets, generators, dry ration, medicines and clothing for the earthquake victims. It reached Syria on March 13 and after dropping the stores there, it moved on to Turkiye. Besides PNS Moawin, another oil tanker carrying 550 tonnes of goods left for Turkiye and Syria on March 11.
It is not that Pakistan Navy has been participating in such operations only when called upon by the government or when any calamity arises. Pakistan Navy has always been into socioeconomic uplift of the coastal community all along the 1000 km long coast. Pakistan Navy’s such endeavours have been threefold, i.e., health, education and employment. Pakistan Navy is maintaining its presence all along the coast and each setup has a medical facility of varying capacity. But one thing is common–that each facility is open to local public 24 hours a day with Pakistan Navy’s medical staff succouring them. Darmaan Jah at Ormara and at Turbat are two modern hospitals that navy has established along the west coast, which are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and are open for the general public. 
Cadet College Ormara is a premier educational institute for the students of Makran coast. The college is furnished with facilities that are not available in many educational institutes even in the bigger cities like Karachi and Lahore. A specific number of students receive education free of cost. Similarly, there are schools that navy has established in Ormara, Gwadar and Pasni which provide education to the locals in a qualitative environment. A percentage of pupils get free of cost education with books, uniforms and conveyance while some receive on fifty percent and others on full payment, that too, quite cheaper than the schools in the bigger cities. 
There has been a continuous endeavour on behalf of Pakistan Navy to focus on human resource development through skills enhancement and employment opportunities. Women have been at the core of this massive effort. Pakistan Navy Women Association (PNWA), a benevolent organisation, has established PNWA Industrial Homes at Karachi, Sujawal, Ormara and Gwadar and women from local areas have been inducted in these industrial homes. Traditional handicrafts of Sindh and Balochistan are given modern touch to evolve very unique masterpieces. Their artwork is praised and appreciated all over Pakistan and the income generated is spent on the welfare of the local populace. Besides, Pakistan Navy employs teachers, medical staff, radio jockeys, and labourers from the local populace in a bid to provide employment opportunities. 
Another aspect of benign operations pertains to security and anti-smuggling efforts. Pakistan Navy also actively takes part in such operations, especially against smuggling and illegal trafficking via our coast. There has been regular interception and confiscation of illegal caches, transportation which is attempted via our sea. In this regard, close collaboration between Navy, Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), intelligence agencies and other stakeholders is maintained and such attempts are thwarted effectively.
It is obvious how our Armed Forces are often confronted with such engagements. Every time they were called upon, they did a tremendous job which has been lauded not only domestically, but internationally as well. Today, Pakistan is subjected to climate change more than ever before. Severe weather conditions causing havoc to our country is a frequent phenomenon now. It is important that while the efforts are in hand globally to tackle this change, we have to grasp the reality and gear ourselves up for the upcoming challenges. Although, our forces are always forthcoming to undertake such an employment, it is important to understand that these commitments still deviate their attention, resources and priority away from their core job. Development of a robust and self-sufficient civilian infrastructure at national and provincial levels to face such challenges is the need of the hour. Although praiseworthy, yet recurrent employment of Pakistan Armed Forces in such operations, which are in a state of perpetual readiness and carrying out their duties owing to security disturbances inland and persistent threat from our eastern neighbour, is taxing. We need to understand that there is no doubt about the willingness of our armed forces to help our brethren inland or abroad, yet the extra mile they traverse in doing so and that too on a frequent basis has a cost they have to bear. While we are appreciative of their sincere efforts towards the noble cause, still we need to ponder on sparing them from such frequent occupation.      


The writer is a Communication Strategist at the Institute of Regional Studies.
E-mail: [email protected]