Pakistanis start Ramadan fasting month amid flood misery

August 13, 2010

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(Photo: Evacuees from a flooded village dodge an army truck carrying relief supplies in Pakistan’s Punjab province on August 11, 2010/Adrees Latif)

They’ve been left homeless and hungry by the worst flooding in decades, but for many Pakistanis, their suffering is no reason to ignore Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month that began in their country on Thursday.

Floods triggered by heavy monsoon rain over much of Pakistan began nearly two weeks ago, and have killed about 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of about 14 million, including about two million who have been forced from their homes.

Many survivors from flooded villages have lost their stores of food as well as crops in the field and livestock, and are surviving on occasional handouts, living in the open.

But despite the hunger and hardship, for most people not observing the fast during the most sacred of months is unthinkable.

“We will fast but we don’t know how will be break the fast, whether we will find any food or not. Only Allah knows,” said Nusrat Shah, sitting beside a bridge in Sukkur, where she had laid out bedding for her family under the sky.

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(Photo: Flood victims wade through waist deep waters with their livestock in Pakistan’s Punjab province on August 11, 2010/Adrees Latif)

While the country might have a reputation as a haven for hardline Islamist militants, most Pakistanis are moderate Muslims who are conservative and devoted to the rituals of their faith.

“What kind of a question is that?” laughed Fakhar Zaman, a businessman in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad, which has been cut off this week by floods and landslides, when asked if he would be fasting this year. “You know the people of Swat, they would never skip fasting,” he said.

Read the full story by Faisal Aziz here.

Here’s a Reuters video report on Pakistan at the start of Ramadan:

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