Socialist Worker

Pakistan floods: Victims betrayed by ruling elites

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2214

The floods across Pakistan threaten the lives and safety of more than 13 million people. But the response has been woefully inadequate—from the Pakistani government and internationally.

Hundreds of thousands of people living in the provinces that border Afghanistan have already been ravaged by the US and Pakistani military’s “war on terror”.

Now, having seen what remains of their villages washed away by monsoon rains, they live in mud and squalor.

Many more are completely cut off from help as the roads that connect their towns have been destroyed.

Rescue workers have so far been unable to reach upwards of 600,000 people marooned in the Swat Valley.

Many of them live in refugee camps following intense fighting between the army against the Pakistani Taliban.

There are growing fears that major cities like Hyderabad in Sindh and Muzaffargarh in the Punjab could also be threatened by rivers and canals that have burst their banks.

This has raised the prospect of disease for millions.

But, at the beginning of this week, as aid coordinators

issued ever-starker warnings, United Nations workers said they were short of the most basic supplies.

There were dire shortages of clean water, food and plastic sheets for shelters.

“I haven’t even seen a police officer or a local or provincial representative to at least console us,” said Sagheer Khan, from the inundated village of Nowshera Kalan.

“If any government representative is seen now, he will be pelted with stones.”

And, while the West has been able to supply the Pakistani military with seemingly unending credit, humanitarian aid has been less than forthcoming.

Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from the US for its help combating “militants”.

But, this week the US government only managed to lift its initial pledge for disaster relief in the country from

$10 million to $25 million.

Fled

Manzoor Ahmed, who fled the town of Shikarpur, told the Dawn newspaper that the situation he finds himself in is unbearable.

“It would have been better if we had died in the floods as our current miserable life is more painful,” he said, after spending the night shivering in the rain that continues to lash the country.

The failure of relief operations causes many Pakistanis to be sceptical about their government’s priorities.

Millions of Pakistanis were left wondering last week why their head of state was not at home to deal with the disaster.

The US-backed placeman President Zardari was too busy touring Britain pledging loyalty to Cameron’s war in Afghanistan.

Monsoon rains are a yearly occurrence, and Pakistan has faced 12 major floods since 1973, yet basic protection infrastructure remains unbuilt.

Officials at the ministry of power and water this week admitted—“many projects exist only on paper and the quality of construction of others is substandard”.

This in a country that can boast one of the world’s only seven-star hotels.

But it seems that the huge human cost of Pakistan’s flooding disaster is not the main concern of the ruling classes internationally.

The Financial Times newspaper last week reported fears in Washington that “extremists” will exploit the crisis.

Of particular concern is the work of charities suspected of working as a front for radical Islamist parties.

“We are out with our people,” said Asadullah Bhutto, head of the radical Jamaat-e-Islaami party in the southern Sindh province. “Pakistan is led by corrupt leaders who have no interest in the lives of our people.”

As the Pakistani elite abandons millions of its poorest people to poverty, pestilence and disease, the US has every reason to worry that those who are suffering will turn against its client state.


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Article information

News
Tue 10 Aug 2010, 17:16 BST
Issue No. 2214
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