Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 5:02 AM

Floods Over Pakistan

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

For over 10 days now, floods of biblical proportions have been devastating many areas of Pakistan, including the perennially fertile Punjab as well as the Taliban safe haven in northwest Swat valley (Thank God for small favors…?). The floods have reportedly made a flowing and swirling stew of shanty homes, bridges, schools, health clinics, power facilities, sewage systems and everything else along their path.

This [scale of physical damage] is unprecedented … it’s beyond imagination, it’s beyond expectations. Our country has gone back several years.

(Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Reuters, August 8, 2010)

Relatively few people have died (last reported at 1,600), but 14 million have been displaced.  And it’s this number of displaced survivors that compelled the United Nations to declare these floods an even greater natural disaster than the 2004 Indonesian Tsunami, which killed approximately 220,000, or this year’s Haitian earthquake, which killed at least 250,000.  Of course, relief officials, as well of those affected, invariably hype the impact of disasters as a means of generating the maximum amount of emergency relief supplies and funds for long-term recovery….

At any rate, given its historic proportions, you’d think the floods in Pakistan would be receiving at least the same kind of international media coverage that was accorded the earthquake in Haiti.  Yet nothing could be further from the truth. 

I suspect the primary reason for this, though, is that no less a person than President Asif Ali Zardari has treated this national disaster as nothing more than a local problem for local officials to deal with. 

After all, Zardari was at the beginning of a European tour when the flood gates opened, and instead of returning home – as most politically savvy, if not genuinely concerned, leaders would have done – he continued on as scheduled until his official trip ended yesterday.  This is clearly Zardari’s Katrina….

Meanwhile, all indications are that the relief effort is so inadequate and disorganized that it’s making the Haitian relief effort seem like a well-oiled German machine.  (Recall the heart-rending complaints back then – even with the mighty USA leading the effort?) 

Even worse, it does not bode well that the Taliban, that infernal terrorist group, is doing a far better job of providing aid than the government.

All the local roads are destroyed. All the schools are destroyed. We never had any medical facilities… This is the basic reason for militancy: anger at the government. If we had a place to live, if we had food, if we had schools, there would be no militancy [i.e., Taliban] in Pakistan.

(Local Pakistani Obaid ur-Rehman, 26, Reuters, August 8, 2010)

But this is especially ironic because, only days before this disaster struck, President Zardari was lecturing the United States on how to compete with the Taliban for the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan.  Talk about “do as I say, not as I do”.

Anyway, it is noteworthy that the U.S. is in the vanguard of this relief effort too. But I’m sure the Obama administration’s primary concern is that these floods do not create political conditions that could turn Pakistan’s nuclear weapons into loose nukes….

NOTE: I would be remiss not to acknowledge the floods that are also devastating parts of Poland and the wild fires that have Muscovites wading through and inhaling thick plumes of toxic fumes, giving truly deadly meaning to concerns about second-hand smoke.  The end of times? All we need now is for the Sun to rise in the West instead of the East.

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