Pakistan Floods: Is Social Unrest, And A Take Over By The Taliban Next?

Pakistan has become a slow hell on earth under water: An estimated 20 million- 12 percent of the country’s population- people is affected by the three weeks of  floods, which means more prosaically that they are homeless. About 20 percent of the country is under water, the crops and grain reserves have being wiped out and the fertile valleys of the Indus river will take years to recover. Yet the international community has being desperately slow to react despite the key geopolitical role of Pakistan.

Of course, humanely, it is the right thing to do to help Pakistanis deal with  a disaster of such catastrophic scope, but it is also the right thing to do on a geopolitical level. In the context of AfPak, the Obama administration must do more to drum up international help for Pakistan. So far UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, despite his valiant efforts, has failed to fully convey the urgency of  the situation, and the response of the rich countries able to commit money has been anemic at best. This is in complete contrast of the media and celebrity blitz in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake, and of course it will reinforce the existing perception shared by a majority of Pakistanis that the West views them as outcast or even potential enemies.

Today, the UN will be holding a much needed emergency session to raise more financial aid for Pakistan amid growing criticism that the global community as, so far, fallen far short. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for the special UN session after his return from Pakistan.

On the ground, more than 6 millions survivors are completely dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive, and have been in desperate need of drinking water, food and shelters for more than three weeks. Meanwhile, concerns are growing over major outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis with some cases already reported by the UN and several Non Governmental Organizations.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to announce today extra US aid, currently standing at $90 millions. Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry, who currently heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-sponsored a $7.5 billion aid bill for Pakistan, is in Pakistan holding talks with Pakistani leaders and will visit the flood devastated areas. The US government said it could use parts of the $7.5 billion non-military aid program for Pakistan into short term emergency relief.

For its part the European Union has now committed 70 million Euros for Pakistan. The Asian Development Bank is ready to offer a $2 billion loan to “repair the nation’s damaged infrastructure”, and the World Bank has promised to lend $900 million to the country.

Amongst NGOs, such as British based Oxfam, the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum urges the international community to play its part in meeting the immediate needs of millions of Pakistanis, as well as tens of thousands of Afghan refugees, and also warns that without long-term funding, “rebuilding this devastated country will be virtually impossible”.

Meanwhile, anger is mounting amongst survivors over the slow pace of the aid effort from both Pakistani authorities and the international community. The situation is getting desperate for survivors with an urgent need for temporary shelter, clean drinking water and toilets to avert a public health catastrophe. The frustration, despair and anger of Pakistanis over the incompetence of the Zardari administration in dealing with the floods is likely to provoke more social unrest and become a recruiting tool for the Taliban.

As we reported here twelve days ago, Islamic charities, some with suspected link to Taliban militant groups, by stepping in to help flood victims are boosting their image with Pakistanis at the expense of the US-backed government of Zardari, which a majority of Pakistanis views as a puppet of the United States. The days of President Zardari may be counted, and a take over by the army( with the approval of the US) could be a consequence of the floods.


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