Original Articles

Media Hype on Natural Disasters – By Ahmed Iqbalabadi


Attabad lake spillway

While the nation is mostly kept entangled in judicial and political problems, a number of times key happenings fail to get register in our minds. The media, as we know it, has been focusing for the last two years in punching the PPP government on one matter or the other. The favorite punching bag remains whoever leads the PPP. This time round, the head of PPP is also the head of state which makes it all the more focused punching by our media. However, when they seem to be losing on fronts opened by themselves, they focus on natural phenomena (for a change). Again the target is not to alleviate the difficulties that people face, but the target is to show the inefficiency of the government in doing the needful.

Recently, Pakistan has faced two natural “disasters”. One was the blockage of the Hunza River that would have led to a catastrophic flooding and then the Cyclone Phet that was to lash the coastal areas of Balochistan and Sindh.

The Attabad lake filled up and water has started flowing through the spillway. Naturally, as the blocked path erodes, the flow of water increases and as of June 6, the outflow of water from the lake is faster than the inflow into the lake. No major disaster happened.

Similarly, Cyclone Phet was to destroy life as per our media in the coastal areas, but it has left a lot to be desired.

I am presenting some headlines from 23rd May till 1st June, 2010 that appeared in Jang with reference to the Hunza lake. You can make your own judgment now:

  1. Imdad Na Milnay par mutasreen-e-Ataabad ka ihtijaj; jheel mayn doob marnay kee dhamki” – 23rd May, 2010
  2. Ataabad jheel mayn mazeed paani kee gunjaish khatam ho gayee; Khalee karaye gaye makanat mayn dakhlay par pabandi” – 24th May, 2010
  3. Ataabad jheel: Paani kee satah mayn kamee; Jumayraat say Ikhraj ka khadsha” 25th May, 2010 – Do note that that from 3 column news, it has reduced to two columns
  4. Hunza jheel ka paani Shishkit mayn tabahi phelanay kay baad deegar ilaqon mayn puhanch gaya” – 26th May, 2010
  5. Ataabad jheel: Shahrah-e-Karakoram par saman kee naql-o-hamal band; kal say paani kay ikhrraj ka khadsha” – 27th May, 2010. Do note that earlier, water was anticipated to flow from 27th May, now it has moved to 28th May.
  6. Ataabad jheel say paani ka ikhraaj mutawaqo; hifazti intizamat mukammal” – 28th May, 2010
  7. Ataabad jheel say paani ka mumkina ikhraaj; Shahrah-e-Karakoram mukammal band” – 29th May, 2010. One more day? Oh I am getting bored now.
  8. Ataabad jheel say paani ka ikhraaj; Spillway tootnay ka khadsha” – 30th May, 2010. Still it hasn’t yet happened.
  9. Ataabad jheel say paani ka ikhraaj may izafa; Gilgit mayn khauf-o-Hiraas” – 31st May, 2010. Finally!

10.  “Ataabad jheel: paani ka ikhraaj 650 cusecs; glacier pighalnay ka khadsha” – 1st June, 2010

It seems that I was going through the essay from James T Hurber that was in our intermediate English course. It was titled ‘The day the dam broke’. The essay talked about the hype that was created by announcement that a dam was about to break in Ohio, US. It seems that our media has been creating a deliberate hype against the government.

Yes, it is a natural disaster that tests our capabilities to respond in times of emergency. People have been affected without doubt but not as much as was declared by our media. Our media friends, please be a little objective. Readers, you can make your own judgment.

About the author

Ahmed Iqbalabadi


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  • In my personal view, while it is important to challenge any politically motivated hype by media on any issue, extra attention by media to the Attabad lake and the cyclone Phet has also an element of appreciation.

    Given a culture of rampant corruption and inefficiency in our state institutions and machinery, the people of Gilgit Baltistan might have faced a much grave situation, had not the media hype forced the government to pay attention to this issue.

    In fact if we go through dates of various posts on LUBP, media hype was almost non-existent on Attabad lake when LUBP and only a few other region-specific blogs started making noises on this issue. (Interestingly, other award-winning blogs woke up to this issue only after the media hype which is consistent with their usual character, i.e. oblivious of sectarianism against Shias, Ahmadis, religious and ethnic minorities, events taking place outside the mainstream regions etc).

    It is a fact that while events of natural or man-made disaster in Lahore and Karachi receive usually high priority in Pakistani media (and the blogsphere), it is always welcome that events taking place in ‘non-mainstream’ regions (from Hunza to Keti Bandar) too get some attention in our media which otherwise remains focused on much trivial topics (e.g. NRO, blasphemy, Farah Dogar’s marks, Shoaib-Sania marriage etc).

  • ہنزہ:قدرتی آفت کا مقابلہ کرتے بچے
    گلگت بلتستان کی وادی ہنزہ میں آنے والی قدرتی آفت سے متاثر ہونے والوں میں بڑی تعداد بچوں کی ہے۔ دریائے ہنزہ کے بالائی اور نشیبی علاقوں سے نقل مکانی کرنے والوں کو عارضی کیمپوں میں ٹھہرایا گیا ہے‘ جہاں مقیم خاندانوں کو بنیادی سہولیات تو موجود ہیں تاہم گھر جیسا آرام اور ماحول نہیں۔ عارضی کیمپوں کے اجنبی ماحول اور دیگر نامساعد حالات سے نمٹنے والے بچوں کی جدوجہد

  • well the government has a lot to learn learn from the experience with the attabad lake

    1. they should not let the army/FWO move in and act unilaterally without government supervision
    2. they should be faster with relief effort
    3. they should hire international experts to monitor the situation – in the case of attabad the only expert monitoring was from the NGO FOCUS.
    4. local government officials should not deny the reality of the disaster because that just makes them lose credibility with their voters.

    It’s just a reality that every government has to deal with media pressure, you are right that certain media groups exploit the situation, but that’s just something the government has to deal with and they could have dealt with it much better.

  • Abdul and Rabia, the matter is not about exploiting the situation against the government. It is important to raise the matter but also show the better things that are happening. Imagine just 10 months earlier when GB was not a province like place, it would have been run from Islamabad and it would have for sure been a catastrophe. I have not seen or heard about a single death since the lake formed or the overflowing started. Historically, our management has been a mess