Archive for the ‘ Pakistan Floods 2010 ’ Category

Aid Flooded Pak by Withdrawing Army

By Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar for The Times of India

Pakistan is suffering its greatest human tragedy since Partition. The floodwaters of the Indus are an incredible 20 miles wide, sweeping away entire towns, villages and farms. Over 20 million people have been displaced, far more than the nine million displaced by Partition in 1947. The immediate death count of 1,500 will soon increase hugely through disease and deprivation. Rehabilitation could cost $100 billion.

Some Indians might be perverse enough to rejoice that an enemy has been hit by a natural disaster — an act of God, as it were — and will be crippled economically for years. But most Indians will surely want to help their neighbours. In these traumatic times, we need to think of Pakistanis as humans in distress, not foes.

Even those who cannot think beyond realpolitik should see that the floods are potentially a strategic disaster for India too. Flood damage will create a fertile breeding ground for Islamist militancy. Islamist NGOs with links to terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are at the very forefront of flood relief efforts and hence are gaining popularity. Meanwhile, the civil administration is seen as corrupt and ineffective. President Asif Zardari has further ruined his low reputation by going on foreign junkets.

The Pakistani army has in the last year battled some, though by no means all, militant groups in Swat and FATA (federally administered tribal areas). But much of the infrastructure built to reach the remote tribal areas has been destroyed by the floods. Besides, the Pakistani army is redirecting its efforts in the region, from combating militants to combating flood damage. The militants are re-occupying the resultant political vacuum.

The ISI recently came out with a study suggesting that Islamist militants had become a greater threat to the country than India. Flood damage can only deepen that perception. True, the army wants to back the Afghan Taliban even while battling the Pakistani Taliban, and this results in muddled thinking and sabotage of peace initiatives. The resolution of these contradictions is not in sight.

One day, the Pakistani army and the ISI will have no choice but to confront the reality that Islamist militants are Frankensteins that threaten their own creator. The ISI’s assessment should bring that day somewhat closer.
In the light of both human and strategic considerations, how can India help Pakistan? Individual contributions from Indian citizens must be encouraged, and red tape thwarting contributions in cash and kind must be cut. But the Indian government should not offer more than a modest amount of food and financial aid. Pakistan requires billions of dollars for relief and rehabilitation, so anything India offers will be a drop in the ocean.

Besides, recipients are rarely grateful for alms: they resent being supplicants, and suspect the motives of the donors. The US saved India from mass starvation after the twin droughts of 1965 and 1966 by giving record food aid. But this won the US very few friends and stoked resentment from many who felt India’s independence was being compromised. The US will once again be the chief donor to Pakistan, but will gain virtually no popularity or gratitude.

If food and financial aid will not help much, how can India best help Pakistan? The best way will be for the Indian Army to unilaterally withdraw from the border in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. This will pose no military risk whatsoever: flood-stricken Pakistan cannot possibly embark on military adventures against India. But the withdrawal of Indian troops will mean that the Pakistan army loses all excuses to avoid diverting manpower and financial resources from the border to flood relief and rehabilitation. This will cost India nothing, yet will release very large resources within Pakistan. Its impact on the Pakistani psyche will be significant. Even analysts who distrust Pakistan agree widely that India has no alternative to diplomatic engagement: cutting off ties will not win any minds and hearts there. Unilateral withdrawal will itself be a form of engagement, and will encourage other forms.

The wrong strategy will be to try to negotiate a mutual withdrawal of troops. Withdrawal must be unilateral and immediate. Defence hawks will express dismay that India is so soft on an enemy that encourages terrorism. But unilateral withdrawal will be a flood relief measure, not a military surrender. In the bargain, it will oblige Pakistan to withdraw its own troops and redeploy them for flood relief: its public opinion will be outraged otherwise.

Dr Manmohan Singh, you say we must be proactive in the peace process with Pakistan. The tragic floods there have given you an opportunity to be proactive in a way that will not come again. Go for it.

Pakistan Faces Economic Hit from Flood

By David Roman for The Wall Street Journal

The flooding in Pakistan will inflict serious damage on its economy, posing another major challenge for a cash-strapped government struggling to keep a recovery on track in the face of high inflation and a relentless Islamist insurgency.

Assistance from the International Monetary Fund and Western countries will likely help Pakistan avoid another brush with bankruptcy as it tries to cope with the damage, which by some estimates may reach $43 billion. But the floods will weigh heavily on economic growth this year and leave a long-term mark on the economy.

“It’s a very serious tragedy,” said Philip Wyatt, a senior economist at UBS. “The hit on the growth rate is going to be very severe … We can see a loss of one or two points of economic growth, depending on the damage.” In the last fiscal year ended June 30, Pakistan’s economy grew 4.1%.

Moody’s Investors Service, which had expected Pakistan’s economic growth to pick up to 4.5% this fiscal year, may lower its estimate to 3% to 3.5%, said analyst Aninda Mitra.

The flood began in July and at one point covered a fifth of the South Asian nation, or land roughly equivalent to the size of Uruguay. According to the United Nations, the disaster has affected close to 20 million people, killing 1,500 and leaving 1.2 million homes damaged or destroyed.

Coping with the social and economic costs of the catastrophe will strain the government’s finances. The budget deficit was already on track to reach 4.5% of gross domestic product in the fiscal year ending June 30 before the crisis but now could widen to as much as 6% to 7% of GDP, said Mr. Mitra. That’s a grim prospect for a country, which had external debt totaling $55.63 billion as of June 30.

President Asif Ali Zardari’s government has been reaching out to other countries for help. A delegation met with IMF officials Monday in Washington. Donors including the U.K. and the European Union have so far pledged almost $500 million in additional help.

Moody’s is unlikely to upgrade Pakistan’s credit rating in coming months due to the devastation from the floods and other challenges, but the country’s current B3 rating “adequately captures the risk” of the likely economic slowdown and is unlikely to be downgraded further, said Mr. Mitra. A B3 rating is just one notch above the C level, which applies to countries in effective sovereign default, and makes it hard for a country to issue bonds in the international market.

The natural disaster is the latest setback for the Pakistan economy, which after several years of strong growth almost ground to a halt in 2008, hurt by budget overruns, a loss in export competitiveness due to high inflation, and an insurgency that continues unabated. On Monday, while emergency workers worked to shore up levees in two southern cities, at least 36 people were killed in three separate bomb attacks across the country, and 12 suspected militants were killed in U.S. drone attacks near the Afghan border.

Concerns about the economic fallout have kept pressure on Pakistan’s financial markets, though the impact has been moderate.

The cost of insuring against a default or restructuring of Pakistan’s bonds remains at very elevated levels, but has been relatively steady in recent weeks, a sign that investors anticipate IMF and U.S. support to prevent any fiscal crisis. The spread on Pakistan five-year credit default swaps was quoted at 1,099 basis points Tuesday, roughly on par with those of other high-risk sovereign bond issuers like Venezuela, but well below early-2009 highs of over 2,100 basis points during the global financial crisis.

Pakistan’s benchmark stock index, KSE-100, has fallen 7% so far in August, but is up 4% so far this year, roughly in line with other emerging market indexes.

The Pakistan rupee, one of Asia’s weakest currencies in recent years, has fallen in recent days, but has found support above its record low against the dollar of 85.84 rupees hit on Aug. 2, helped by expectations that remittances from overseas Pakistanis, which have averaged around 10% of GDP in recent years, may rise to help families at home cope with the floods.

But analysts expect the rupee to remain under pressure in coming months due to Pakistan’s current account deficit and high inflation rate, which ran at 12.3% in July. The floods are likely to push up food prices and transportation costs for other goods, likely eliminating any chance that inflation might fall below 10% this year, said Mr. Wyatt at UBS.

Clinton Invokes Climate Change Debate to Explain Pakistan Floods

As Reported by Fox News

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials are pointing to the devastating floods in Pakistan and other extreme weather events as signs that climate change is getting worse.

Clinton, in an interview with Pakistan’s Dawn TV, said “there is a linkage” between the recent spate of deadly natural disasters and climate change.

“You can’t point to any particular disaster and say, ‘it was caused by,’ but we are changing the climate of the world,” she said.

Clinton said that on top of the Pakistan floods, which have forced millions out of their homes, the forest fires in Russia stand as another example. She said there’s no “direct link” between the disasters in Pakistan and Russia but that “when you have the changes in climate that affect weather that we’re now seeing, I think the predictions of more natural disasters are unfortunately being played out.”

Climate change skeptics say the planet is going through natural phases — the kind it’s gone through for eons. Pakistan, in particular, is prone to flooding and is routinely drenched by the monsoon rains. Some officials have partially blamed deforestation and inferior levee systems for the historic flooding which has affected one-fifth of the country’s landmass and triggered nearly a half-billion dollars in international aid commitments.

Scientists who study climate change tend to offer more nuance in their explanations of the possible link to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions. They generally say that no one natural disaster can be chalked up to man-caused climate change, but that it can contribute to those disasters happening more frequently and more intensely.

Both the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organization reiterated that point in light of the Pakistan floods. WMO climate data chief Omar Baddour was quoted saying it’s “too early to point to a human fingerprint” behind the recent disasters but climate change may be “exacerbating the intensity” of them.

But some government officials have shown little equivocation in directly linking the Pakistan disaster with climate change.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, said Thursday that his country’s flooding “reconfirms our extreme vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

The flooding and Russian forest fires, which were sparked following a severe drought, coincide with record heat elsewhere in addition to downpours and landslides in China.

The renewed concerns over climate change come after international talks on a new treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fell short at a summit last December in Copenhagen. Talks over climate change legislation have also stalled in the U.S. Congress.

India, Pakistan Can’t Break the Ice, Even in Hour of Tragedy

Reported by Sanjeev Miglani for Reuters

Pakistan’s catastrophic flood continues to boggle the mind, both in terms of the human tragedy and the scale of the damage it has wrought, and even more so over the longer term. One official has likened the disaster to the cyclone that devastated what was once East Pakistan, setting off a chain of events that eventually led to its secession and the birth of Bangladesh.

Not even that spectre, raised by Pakistan’s ambassador to Britain, can however dent the steadfast hostility between India and Pakistan. For a full three weeks as the floods worked their way through the spine of Pakistan from the turbulent northwest to Sindh in the south, Islamabad made frantic appeals to the international community not ignore the slow-moving disaster, and help it with emergency aid, funds. But next-door India, best-placed to mount a relief effort probably more because of the geography than any special skill at emergency relief, was kept at arm’s length. An Indian aid offer of $5 million, which itself came after some hesitation and is at best modest,was lying on the table for days before Pakistan accepted it. ”There are a lot of sensitivities between India and Pakistan … but we are considering it very seriously,” a Pakistani embassy spokesman told our reporter in New Delhi earlier this week. Things appeared to have moved faster only after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani expressing sympathy and reminding him of the offer of aid. Millions of Pakistans meanwhile continued to struggle for food.

To some extent, Pakistan’s hesitation in accepting aid from India is understandable. India is the traditional enemy. It is also the bigger country of the two. And over the last two decades it has become easily the more prosperous entity, courted by the world’s industrialists while Pakistan is “haunted by the world’s terrorists”, as columnist Vir Sanghvi writes in the Hindustan Times. A Pew poll that we wrote about a few weeks ago showed how deep-seated these Pakistani fears are: a majority of those polled said they considered India to be the bigger threat than al Qaeda or the Taliban, despite the violence they have suffered at the hands of the militant groups over the past few years.

As Sanghvi writes:

But, to be fair to the Pakistanis, let us accept the position that decades of hostility between our two countries have led to a situation where the Pakistanis simply do not trust us. Let us also accept that they are so resentful of India that even in their hour of greatest crisis when thousands of people have died and millions are homeless, they will still spurn India’s hand of friendship. And let us grant them their claim that given our history, they are justified in being suspicious of India.

But then, you have to wonder, if the two nations cannot even keep up basic neighbourly ties such as offering aid and commiseration at times of natural crises, what chances they can ever come to a peace deal that will demand much more from them ?

It was pretty much the same in 2005 when the earthquake struck Pakistani Kashmir and the authorities struggled to provide aid to the affected. And Indian aid offer was initially ignored, later blankets from India were accepted. But even then Pakistan had people cut out the label that read ‘made in India’ on each blanket.

Indeed, some Pakistani writers are already criticising the government of bringing dishonour to the country by accepting Indian assistance. Commentator Shireen M. Mazari in a piece entitled “What Have We Become” says the Pakistani government accepted the Indian offer for help under pressure from the United States and that it was a matter of shame. By taking Indian aid, Pakistan had let the people of Kashmiri down just when they had risen in revolt against Indian forces.

“This money has the blood of Kashmiris on it and one wonders how our Kashmiri brethren must be feeling as they face the bullets of Indian forces every day and see us taking Indian “aid”,” Mazari wrote.

Kashmir, then, can’t be far from any discourse relating to India and Pakistan. It is the core dispute at the heart of 60 years of difficult ties, says Pakistan and must be resolved before any normalcy can take place. India doesn’t even consider the territory to be disputed, so the argument, at least in public, hasn’t changed much in over half a century.

For the 20 million affected by the flooding in Pakistan, and facing a future that would daunt any of us, Kashmir must, at the moment, be a distant thought.

Who Cares About Pakistan?

By Jude Sheerin for The BBC News

Donations have been sluggish to the Pakistan floods appeals, as they were back in 2005 when the part of Kashmir the country administers was torn apart by an earthquake. The BBC News website asked some experts to comment on possible reasons why.

Donor Fatigue

Dr Marie Lall, Pakistan expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and senior lecturer at the Institute of Education, says: “I think there is donor fatigue all around. The [2004] Indian Ocean tsunami, the Burmese Cyclone [Nargis, 2008], the [2005] Pakistan earthquake, and [this year's] Haiti earthquake. It is getting too much; we are in a recession and people are short of money.”

Rebecca Wynn, Pakistan specialist for UK-based aid agency Oxfam, says: “Many donors have made substantial contributions in humanitarian assistance to Pakistan over the years, particularly in response to the conflict-related displacements over the last two years. Of course, the fact that the people of Pakistan have been hit time and again by disaster is even more reason to give.”

Dr Elizabeth Ferris, senior fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution, a foreign policy think tank, says: “It should also be noted that the international humanitarian system isn’t set up to deal with more than one major crisis a year. USAID, for example, committed one-third of its annual budget to the Haitian earthquake response. And among the general public there may be a feeling of, ‘Well, I donated to the victims of the Haitian earthquake and Haiti is a far needier country than Pakistan.’”

Corruption

Yale University economics professor Dean Karlan, an expert on charitable giving, says: “Corruption concerns may explain why giving is lower to developing countries than many would like it to be, but it does not explain why there is less money pouring into Pakistan now than does to disaster relief causes in other developing countries with similar governance issues.”

Dr Marie Lall says: “People in Pakistan are sceptical the government will be transparent. But they are giving to philanthropic organisations. In the UK, I think people are sceptical of [non-governmental organisations'] overheads and costs. They don’t know which ones are transparent and reliable, even though local organisations such as TCF [The Citizens' Foundation] are doing an incredible job.”

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: “People are always sceptical about their money reaching flood victims, particularly in countries with reputations for corruption. But Haiti didn’t have a very good reputation in this regard. [Pakistan] President [Asif Ali] Zardari trip to Europe [during the floods] was not a good move. For a few days, that was the ‘story’ of the Pakistani floods, which doesn’t inspire people to be generous, particularly in this economic climate.”

Terrorism

Dr Marie Lall says: “British Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments in India [when he said Islamabad promoted the export of terror] did not help.”

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: “People are less likely to donate to any country seen as a haven for terrorism. And more generally, the fact that so much Western news coverage in recent years about Pakistan has been negative, stressing its links with the conflict in Afghanistan. I think this is the major reason for the slow public response – the image of Pakistan in our media. There may also be a feeling, particularly in the US, that Islamic governments and charities should be stepping up to the plate to donate.”

Timing

Rebecca Wynn says: “This disaster has come at a bad time, following the financial crisis and the Haiti earthquake. Many donors made huge commitments to Haiti, so may find it hard to fund another major disaster, particularly in the same year.”

Dr Marie Lall says: “Timing may be a factor, but I think it’s more to do with not realising the scale of the disaster, and the attitude by the British government; the UK should be leading the aid effort, given the Pakistani diaspora here and the fact that we need Pakistan for the war in Afghanistan.”

Wrong Disaster

Professor Dean Karlan says: “Sudden events seem to generate more funds. A flood (and droughts) happen gradually and build. There isn’t any one single day in which news is huge. For the same reason, this pushes the story away from the media spotlight. But massive and sudden earthquakes or tsunamis draw our immediate attention and shock us.”

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: “It’s important to note that in general people are likely to give more to emergencies occurring in countries geographically closer to them – although this didn’t hold true for the tsunami. But when you trace contributions over time, you find that Americans and Canadians are more likely to respond to disasters in the Western hemisphere while Europeans tend to be more responsive to African countries (and their former colonies, in particular).”

Dr Marie Lall says: “This was not one cataclysmic event, but one which grew over three weeks. The fact that 25% of the country was or is under water is not understood. The low numbers of dead, relatively speaking, mask the disaster on the ground. The crisis has destroyed crops, dead livestock and damaged homes and infrastructure. Food prices are through the roof and there won’t be a normal harvest. It will get worse. Farmers will starve.”

Pakistan Accepts Flood Aid Money From Rival India

By Issam Ahmed for The Christian Science Monitor

Pakistan has accepted an offer of $5 million of flood aid from neighbor and longtime rival India, in a move that could spark a political backlash at home.

In an interview with Indian news channel NDTV, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi described the offer of aid, made last week, as a “very welcome initiative” which the government of Pakistan has agreed to accept, after taking some time to decide.

But it would have been better to say “thanks, but no thanks,” according to Liaqat Baloch, secretary general of Pakistan’s second-largest religious party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.

“Pakistan has many disputes with India, with reference to Kashmir, and the Indian Army engaging in brutality in occupied Kashmir,” he says. “In the past, when Pakistan tried to support India after their natural disasters, India never accepted. Therefore it would be better if our government refused the aid with a big thank you.”

Al Khidmet foundation, Jamaat-e-Islami’s charitable wing, has been one of the most visible aid organizations in the flood-affected areas.

The two countries have made efforts in recent months to repair bilateral relations, which took a plunge following the 2008 Mumbai attacks. India blames those attacks on Pakistan-backed militants. The two countries have fought three full-scale wars, most recently in 1999.

The United States had urged Pakistan to accept India’s offer of aid earlier this week. When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called his Pakistani counterpart to offer his condolences following the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history, it was an event widely reported in the Pakistan media.

“In such times of natural disasters, all of South Asia should rise to the occasion and extend every possible help to the people of Pakistan affected by the tragedy,” Mr. Singh said, according to a statement released by his office.

According to Badar Alam, editor of Pakistan’s Herald magazine, the amount of aid pledged is “symbolic, but its effect is immense. It’s a good confidence building measure between the two countries.”

But, he warns, Pakistan’s religious parties will try to spin the move “as a sign of weakness.”

“They will see it as a capitulation to India, that our own government is so weak we have been forced to accept help from the historic enemy,” says Mr. Alam.

Mosharraf Zaidi, a columnist for Pakistan’s The News, termed the decision brave: “It’s a tremendous gesture, very mature. India should be commended for donating it and Pakistan should be commended for accepting it.”

“The whole idea in an emergency is you’ll have the Jamat ud Dawas [the charitable wing of banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba] and you’ll have competing powers working almost in tandem to support people. It shows that no matter what our value systems, we have to work together right now,” he adds.

Some 20 million people are affected by Pakistan’s worst flooding in recent memory; Pakistan’s government estimates around 1,600 deaths and millions homeless or displaced. The United Nations appealed to the international community to donate $460 million in emergency assistance last week, and has met half of that goal. Yesterday the US increased its flood aid to Pakistan from $80 million to $150 million.

-Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- It is a good decision by the Pakistani government to accept the aid offer from India. Not only will this be a confidence building measure between the two nations, it will save countless lives, and no nation is too proud to save the lives of its citizens.

U.S. Strategy in Pakistan Is Upended by Floods

By Mark Landler for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The floods in Pakistan have upended the Obama administration’s carefully honed strategy there, confronting the United States with a vast humanitarian crisis and militant groups determined to exploit the misery, in a country that was already one of its thorniest problems.

While the administration has kept its public emphasis on the relief effort, senior officials are busy assessing the longer-term strategic impact. One official said the disaster would affect virtually every aspect of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, and could have ripple effects on the war in Afghanistan and the broader American battle against Al Qaeda.

With Pakistan’s economy suffering a grievous blow, the administration could be forced to redirect parts of its $7.5 billion economic aid package for Pakistan to urgent needs like rebuilding bridges, rather than more ambitious goals like upgrading the rickety electricity grid.

Beyond that, the United States will be dealing with a crippled Pakistani government and a military that, for now, has switched its focus from rooting out insurgents to plucking people from the floodwaters. The Pakistani authorities, a senior American official said, have been “stretched to the breaking point” by the crisis. Their ragged response has fueled fears that the Taliban will make gains by stepping in to provide emergency meals and shelter.

“It certainly has security implications,” said another official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal policy deliberations. “An army that is consumed by flood relief is not conducting counterinsurgency operations.”

On Thursday, the United Nations will convene a special meeting devoted to the floods, hoping to galvanize what has been a lackluster global response. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to announce that American public aid has surpassed $100 million, an official said.

“We’re obviously not oblivious to the political and strategic implications of this catastrophe, but right now, we are fully focused on the emergency relief effort and trying to get a good assessment of the needs,” said the administration’s special representative to the region, Richard C. Holbrooke.

Noting that several weeks remain in the monsoon season, Mr. Holbrooke said, “Worse may be yet to come.”

The disaster comes after a period in which the administration seemed to have made strides in repairing the American relationship with Pakistan. Mrs. Clinton visited Islamabad in July with a long list of pledges, including the upgrading of several power plants and a plan to promote Pakistani mangoes. Now, these projects seem almost beside the point.

“Before, there were power plants in need of refurbishment,” said Daniel S. Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Now there are power plants underwater.”

In recent days, the United States has sent 15 helicopters, rescuing nearly 6,000 people. On Wednesday, military cargo planes delivered 60,000 pounds of food and other relief supplies, bringing total deliveries to 717,000 pounds. The speed and scale of the effort, officials in both countries said, have helped bolster the checkered American image in Pakistan.

In another hopeful sign, officials said Pakistan and India had been in close touch about the floodwaters, some of which are flowing into Pakistan from India. Such communication, between historic archenemies, could augur reduced tension in other areas, one of the officials said.

Against that, however, are the staggering dimensions of the disaster. A senior Pakistani official told the administration on Tuesday that the next flood surge was likely to inundate much of Punjab, the densely populated region that borders India and produces much of Pakistan’s food.

So far, this official said, the greatest damage has been in regions that are also hotbeds for Islamic insurgents, which has set back the army’s fight against extremist groups. Local governments in those places have largely collapsed, leaving the army as the only source of authority.

With 20 million people displaced from their homes, the Pakistani authorities are girding themselves for an immense migration to the major cities, which they fear could sow further instability.

“Americans have not yet registered the enormity of the crisis,” Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said in a telephone interview from Islamabad, the capital.

Pakistani and American officials said reports of hard-line Islamic charities providing relief were exaggerated. One pointed out that the floods had hurt the insurgents as well: there was a report of small arms and ammunition belonging to a militant group floating in the water.

Still, people in both countries warned that if rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts bogged down, the Taliban and other militant groups would try to take advantage of it. “The real test is, can their government provide the most fundamental services?” said an administration official.

Parallels to this crisis are hard to find. One official cited the example of the Indonesian province of Aceh, which had been racked by a three-decade insurgency fought by the separatist Free Aceh Movement. After the tsunami swept through in 2004, killing 170,000 people, the separatists and the Indonesian government quickly signed a peace treaty, in August 2005.

There are, however, big differences between a localized separatist group and an international jihadist movement.

“If the flood proves to tilt the balance of power in Pakistan, it’s more likely to tilt toward the militants than toward the government,” said Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence official who helped the administration formulate its initial policy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Already, Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, has been exposed to withering criticism at home for going on a trip to Europe during the early days of the flood. American officials said they were determined not to get drawn into the dispute, noting that in any event, Mr. Zardari had been stripped of many of his powers in a recent constitutional change.

Decisions on how the flood will affect American economic aid may be influenced by a trip to Pakistan by Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who co-sponsored the five-year nonmilitary assistance package with Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana.

Senator Kerry, accompanied by Dan Feldman, a deputy to Mr. Holbrooke, is scheduled to tour the flooded areas on Thursday. Mr. Kerry has said he is open to redirecting aid money, though some analysts said they were skeptical that Congress would approve additional financing. Military aid may also come under scrutiny, according to administration officials.

“Every dimension of our relationship — politics, economics, security — is going to see major shifts as a result of this historic disaster,” said Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the White House coordinator for Afghanistan and Pakistan. “All the tools of diplomacy have to be examined in light of this new reality.”

Pakistan Floods: Why Should We Care?

By Ethan Casey for EthanCasey.com

Yesterday a non-Pakistani friend here in Seattle emailed me: “I wanted to ask you which you think would be the best organization to make a donation to for the current crisis in Pakistan. We usually give to MSF, but their website doesn’t seem to offer the opportunity to give specifically for Pakistan. Can you offer advice?”

This friend is British and greatly prefers British media outlets, but I need to believe that there are many Americans who also want to help flood victims in Pakistan – or who would want to, if they knew the scale and severity of the disaster.

Why don’t they know? We can, and I do, blame “the media,” but that’s unhelpful and ultimately a cop-out. Each of us individually has the opportunity and responsibility to be aware of every tragedy in our world, and we should be willing to exert ourselves to redress them. We’re all in this together. But the real problem is that there’s too much tragedy, and it’s happening too fast, and these days Americans are distracted and confused and worried about serious problems close to home, like our own jobs and mortgages.

This is understandable. But you need to know that all indicators are pointing toward an enormous, long-term human tragedy unfolding in Pakistan, and we need to do something about it, for several good reasons. The New York Times acknowledged one of these when – belatedly, in its first significant coverage of the floods that I noticed – it headlined an August 6 article “Hard-Line Islam Fills Void in Flooded Pakistan.”

A related point is that we Americans owe Pakistanis a measure of basic human respect and compassion, as well as gratitude specifically for the sacrifices they’ve made at our behest in several wars in Afghanistan. When we repay this debt, it will also redound to our benefit. “It’s high time we showed Pakistanis the best of America,” disaster relief specialist Todd Shea told me last year. “If you’re a true friend, you don’t run out on somebody when you don’t need them anymore. … Pakistanis don’t trust America anymore. We need to show Pakistanis who we really are.”

Todd Shea runs a charity hospital in the Pakistan-administered portion of the disputed region of Kashmir, where he has been working since the October 2005 earthquake that killed 80,000 people. He also responded urgently and effectively to the World Trade Center attack, the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake this January in Haiti. He’s currently on the ground in Pakistan, running medical camps and providing drinking water, food, and other relief. An August 11 update on his organization’s website suggests the scale of the challenge:

In a recent statement appealing for more aid to Pakistan, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said: “While the death toll may be much lower than in some major disasters, taking together the vast geographical area affected, the numbers of people requiring assistance and the access difficulties currently affecting operations in many parts of the country, it is clear that this disaster is one of the most challenging that any country has faced in recent years.”

Thousands of people are camped out on roads, bridges and railway tracks – any dry ground they could find – often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and perhaps a plastic sheet to keep off the rain. “I have no utensils. I have no food for my children. I have no money,” said one survivor, sitting on a rain-soaked road in Sukkur along with hundreds of other people. “We were able to escape the floodwaters, but hunger may kill us.” …

There is a desperate need to send more well-equipped medical teams to the flood-hit areas to prevent the further spread of disease. The victims of the flood have lost everything and cannot cope with potential epidemics on their own.

I’m writing this article because I live and work between two worlds: the mainstream North America that I come from, and the Pakistani immigrant community. My job is to help bridge the gulf in awareness and sympathy between those worlds. What I’m seeing right now is that Pakistani-Americans and their admirable and effective nonprofit groups are jumping once more into the breach, as they always do. And, as always, they’re confined – and confining themselves – to soliciting funds from each other.

The flooding is “well timed” in the sense that the fasting month of Ramadan has just begun, and many Muslims will be directing their annual zakat charity contributions toward flood relief. Pakistani-Americans are generally an affluent community, but there’s a limit to what they can do. Wealthy Pakistanis in Pakistan also need to help, and surely are helping. Just as important, we non-Pakistani Americans and Canadians must help. We also must somehow self-raise our own awareness, given the paucity of decent media coverage. This is important both for obvious-enough political reasons, and simply because it’s the right thing to do.

I see troubling contrasts between the outpouring of generosity and attention that followed the earthquake in Haiti and the averting of eyes from the flooding in Pakistan. I see several reasons for this: Haiti is nearby; the earthquake killed 200,000 or more people all at once. In addition, though, there’s the fact that Haiti is not a Muslim country. The earthquake fit right in with the story we were already telling ourselves about Haiti, which is all about poverty and tragedy. Dr. Paul Farmer sums it up pithily in the title of his book The Uses of Haiti. The uses of Pakistan are different. We need to move beyond the uses of both countries and toward understanding them accurately and respectfully, in their own terms. Our awareness of Haiti should be more political and of Pakistan less so, or differently so.

Anyway, back to my friend’s question. The short answer is that, as always, grassroots groups are more nimble and effective, and your money will be put to better use if you give it to groups that are nearer the ground. This is why the nonprofit groups founded and run by Pakistani-Americans are crucially important. I’m including links to several of these below, and I recommend them all.

I was jolted the other day when another friend suggested that being asked to donate to the excellent Islamic Medical Association of North America “could possibly turn some people off.” He’s probably right, but we goras need to get over our knee-jerk aversion to the word “Islamic.” Your doctor might be a member of IMANA. As a Haitian woman told Paul Farmer years ago, “Tout moun se moun” – all people are people. We’re all in this together.

Please contribute to flood relief in Pakistan through one of these organizations (listed in alphabetical order):

APPNA    www.appna.org/

The Citizens Foundation   www.thecitizensfoundation.org/

Developments in Literacy   www.dil.org/

Edhi Foundation    www.edhifoundation.com

Human Development Foundation     www.hdf.com/

IMANA    www.imana.org/

Islamic Relief USA    www.islamicreliefusa.org/ 

Relief International   www.ri.org/

SHINE Humanity   www.shinehumanity.org/

UNICEF    www.unicef.org/

Rescuing Pakistan’s Flood Survivors

Recovery efforts are underway in Pakistan where monsoon rains and severe flooding washed away tens of thousands of homes, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless.

How you can help? A number of charities are mobilizing medical, shelter and humanitarian aid, responding to the great need for flood survivors’ immediate needs.

AmeriCares emergency relief experts are working to send medical assistance and other aid to the flood-affected region in Pakistan. They are accepting online donations as well as phone donations at  1-800-486-HELP (4357)

British Red Cross is accepting donations of goods to the Pakistan Flood Appeal. Monetary donations in pounds can also be made online or by calling 0845 054 7206 in England.

CARE is supporting the distribution of emergency supplies and providing aid to health teams and mobile clinics in the affected communities in Pakistan. You can help by making an online donation.

Catholic Relief Services is currently organizing shipments of humanitarian aid to Balochistan, one of the affected areas. They are also sending emergency shelter kits and hygiene supplies to other flood-affected regions in Pakistan. Donations to their Emergency Relief fund are being accepted online and by phone at   1-800-736-3467.       

Concern Worldwide US is responding by sending emergency teams to the region, and they have launched their Pakistan Emergency Flood Appeal. They are working to provide about 9,000 families with kitchen sets and hygiene kits, clean water, temporary sanitation, and dry rations of food. Online donations can be made dollars, euros and pounds.

Church World Service is distributing food packages and shelter material for flood-affected families in Balochistan, Khan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as mobilizing a health unit to offer emergency medical assistance in Mansehra. Your donation can be made online and by phone at  1-800.297-1516        

Direct Relief International is providing emergency medical aid to healthcare partners responding to disaster in Pakistan. Donations to their Emergency Response fund can me made online and by calling  1-800-676-1638    

Doctor’s Without Borders is supporting basic health units in the flood-affected areas of Pakistan. The organization is also helping with water distribution to health structures, as well as hygiene products, cooking sets and other supplies. They are planning to send additional personnel and mobilizing resources to assist relief efforts. Contributions can be made online and by phone at 1-888-392-0392      

International Committee of the Red Cross continues to distribute relief supplies to over 7,000 flood victims in Balochistan. The ICRC and its partners are finalizing medical contingency plans for flood-affected areas, and for repairing critical water infrastructure. You contribute by making a donation in numerous currencies online.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are performing rapid needs assessments in affected areas and distributing food coupons and other relief items including tents, hygiene kits, tarpaulin sheets and kerosene stoves. They have also set up a medical camp in Sultan to offer immediate medical aid to affected families. You can help now by making an online donation.

Islamic Relief USA is providing food and water for 700 families In Noshara, distributing emergency supplies and working with the United Nations World Food Program to distribute food to 2,000 families in Bakhtiarabad. Islamic Relief has launched a campaign to aid the victims of the floods, which you can support by making an online donation.

Mercy Corps is accepting donations to provide flood victims in the hard-hit Swat Valley with water, food and tools to clean up and rebuild. You can donate online.

Oxfam Great Britain is looking to provide the needed temporary shelter, clean drinking water and toilets to help avert a public health catastrophe. They are accepting online donations in pounds, euros and dollars, and can be reached by telephone internationally at  +44 (0) 1865 47 2602. In England, you can text ‘DONATE’ to 70066 to make a donation of 5 pounds to their Pakistan Floods Appeal.

ShelterBox distributed hundreds of ShelterBoxes to families rescued from the flood in the Punjab and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK) regions. Find out how to become part of the ShelterBox Team or help the efforts by making an online donation in the UK and the US.

SOS Children’s Villages supports the children of Pakistan through different programs across the country and offers care of lone children following the disaster, as they did after the Kashmir Earthquake. You can make a direct donation in dollars or pounds and you can sponsor a child in Pakistan here.

UNICEF‘s Pakistan office is providing assistance for water and sanitation, health, and nutrition. They are distributing clean water and water purification tablets to prevent water-borne diseases and will continue to asses the situation to determine if further fundraising appeal is needed. If you are interested in becoming a UNICEF volunteer click here or support flood-relief efforts by making an online donation.

World Food Programme is making food distributions to 35,000 families affected by the flooding in Northwestern Pakistan. WFP Pakistan plans to assist up to 150,000 families over the next few months as access to the affected areas improves. You can help by making an online donation in either euros, dollars, pounds or yens.

World Vision is working to distribute food and clean water to the affected communities in Pakistan. They have created the World Vision’s Flood Relief Fund which you can support it by making an online donation.

Operation Blessing International is sending emergency medical relief teams to Peshawar, Pakistan. Working with their disaster relief partner charity Humedica, OBI will offer medical treatment and distribute food, clean drinking water and emergency building supplies to thousands in need from this flood. Support for OBI’s disaster relief efforts can be made online or by calling 1-800-730-2537  

Save the Children is providing food and water, shelter, sanitation and other immediate needs for the families and communities affected by this disaster. They are accepting donations to their Pakistan Children in Emergency Fund online as well as by phone by calling in the US    1-800-728-3843

Pakistan Floods: World Bank to Lend $900m For Recovery

As Reported by the BBC

The World Bank is to loan $900m (£574m) to Pakistan to help it recover from its worst ever flooding. The devastating floods have affected up to 20 million people and left some 2,000 dead, say officials.

But the UN says international aid has been slow and that it has raised only a third of the $460m (£294m) needed for emergency relief.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain said it could take five years and $15bn (£9.6bn) for the country to recover. The World Bank funds will come through the reprogramming of planned projects and the reallocation of money, a World Bank spokesman said.

“We are reprioritising to make the funds immediately available,” he told Reuters news agency.

Health officials have warned that disease could spread quickly among the millions of displaced people and that 3.5m children are at risk.

Maurizio Giuliano, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), warned that Pakistan would face “a second wave of deaths” from water-borne diseases and food shortages unless more aid arrived soon.

He estimated the number of people at risk from such diseases was six million.

Meanwhile, rival political groups in Sindh province have been accusing each other of creating breaches in embankments and dykes to save their own towns and property.

Many of the breaches were reportedly made to divert flood waters away from military garrisons in the area.

Jacobabad city, for example, has been saved, but low-lying areas around it, including Dera Allahyar and some other towns in Balochistan province, have been inundated.

In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised more funds to help areas affected by the recent devastating floods in Ladakh, a remote mountain region in Indian-administered Kashmir.

During a visit to the heavily damaged town of Leh, he said all the destroyed homes would be rebuilt within the next two-and-a-half months with money from a government relief fund.

The flash floods over 10 days ago killed more than 80 people and caused heavy damage to property. Many people are still missing.

‘Marshall Plan’

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain Wajid Shamsul Hasan told the AFP news agency that 2,000 people had now been killed by the floods – previous estimates have put the number of dead at around 1,500. He said it would take at least five years for the country to recover, and put the reconstruction bill at “more than $10 to $15bn”.

He warned that a failure to provide sufficient relief and rebuilding assistance could lead to an increase in extremism and instability in the wider region.

He called for a new Marshall Plan, referring to the extensive US development programme in Europe after World War II.

Not only have the floods affected around one-fifth of the country, they have also caused considerable damage to roads, bridges and communications, says the BBC’s Mike Wooldridge in Islamabad.

Thousands of homes and other buildings including schools and hospitals have been swept away, and crops for domestic food consumption and for export have been lost.

One of the key questions is whether farmers will be able to use their land to plant their winter wheat crop in September, our correspondent adds.

‘Image deficit’

The UN has so far only received about a third of its appeal amount – the US has made the biggest contribution so far, followed by the UK.

Aid agencies have blamed Pakistan’s “image deficit” for the shortfall, as potential donors fear the funds would be diverted into extremism in the country.

A spokeswoman for Care International told AFP the UN had to do more to convince donors that the money was “not going to go to the hands of the Taliban”.

“The victims are the mothers, the farmers, children. But in the past, information linked to Pakistan has always been linked to Taliban and terrorism,” said Melanie Brooks.

Bill Berger, USAID’s principal regional adviser for South Asia, told the BBC it had been difficult to communicate the scale of the disaster to the rest of the world:

“Remember that this flood has built up over time… I just don’t think the world has realised the magnitude of this now, because this story has just been slowly increasing. It doesn’t have the drama of an earthquake that impacts a huge number of people all at once.”

The floods began more than two weeks ago in the mountainous north-west and has swept south across a quarter of the country, including its agricultural heartland.

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