“It’s a national disaster,” screamed the Pakistani press. “The shame that this has brought on the country is almost too much to bear,” echoed the country’s top politicians.
Were they responding to the government’s failure to bring relief to the millions whose lives have been battered by floods, or the news that waters were diverted away from military bases into the paths of villages?
No. For them the more vital story is whether corruption has found its way into that most gentlemanly of games—cricket.
Meanwhile, millions of people are still forced to seek refuge in camps that are without food, water and basic medical supplies.
The squalor there seems certain to lead to an outbreak of disease that could kill hundreds of thousands.
Yet governments in the world’s richest countries continue to sit on their hands, justifying their inaction by demonising Pakistan as an outpost of “Islamic extremism”.
Humanitarian gestures by Western leaders did nothing for the thousands who last week fled the historic city of Thatta in Sind after the Indus River broke a levee and flooded new areas.
Around 175,000 people, almost three quarters of the city’s population, left their homes overnight, said government official Manzoor Sheikh.
Evidence of the growing crisis, and the almost non-existent reaction from the state, can be read in postings on the Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum.
One report comes from towns on the outskirts of Thatta: “The situation of camps at Makli: This is the only safe place nearby and has attracted a wide number of affected people…[conditions are] miserable, as there was no food for the people, who were staying in the open.
“More than 100,000 people have migrated from different flood-affected areas and are still pouring into there.
“They were crying for rations. The lack of food and shelter has exposed these people to the weather.
“In this situation it was obvious that due to the unavailability of food, safe water and health facilities the lives of women and children are under threat.”
Activists from the Pakistan Fisher Folk are using their small boats to attempt to rescue stranded villagers, and take food and medical supplies to others who are cut off.
Their brave efforts stand in contrast to the US military, which seems otherwise preoccupied—despite claiming that they are in the country to help ordinary people.
A US drone fired four missiles at two vehicles in the Shaidano Dand area of Kurram on Friday of last week.
At least six people were reported dead—and the toll is expected to rise, as more villagers trapped under the rubble of a building are discovered.
According to local residents, the drones were still carrying out aerial flights over the area after the initial attack, creating panic.
Since August 2008, over 1,000 people have died in raids by US drones, which have frequently targeted South and North Waziristan—areas that have been heavily affected by the recent floods.
If the Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan were to divert even a fraction of their efforts towards humanitarian relief, many thousands of lives could be saved.
But it seems that the “war on terror” is far too important for that.
To read more postings from the Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum go to www.pff.org.pk