Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari has once again spoken of the danger of hardline Islamists exploiting the misery of the flood-affected to promote their cause, which must be cause for worry for security forces in not just Pakistan but over the border in Afghanistan as well, fed by the same militant fervour. Zardari called it the " ideal hope of the radical" that the floods would discredit Pakistan's government and warned that some of these extremist groups aimed to scoop up orphaned children and "create them into robots."
Such fears, though, didn't stop Zardari from proceeding on a heavily criticised foreign tour just as the flooding was getting worse, even though that was exactly the sort of thing that would fuel public anger and hand the initiative to the Islamist groups.
But quite apart from Zardari's fulminations, the question, nearly a month into the disaster is whether the Islamists charities linked to militant groups have really made a difference to the lives of the millions hit by the floods. Setting up a tent here, offering food and medicines at another place are all good, but they would seem like a drop in the ocean, literally, given the scale of the devastation Pakistan is confronted with.
If Pakistan's army, one of the few institutions in the country seen as effective, is struggling to reach aid to the people despite the assets at its command, it's difficult to see how the Jamaat-ud Dawa, a front of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, can supplant the state in providing assistance in a sustained manner and over such a vast stretch of territory.
On Wednesday, the head of the United States Agency for International Aid, Rajiv Shah, toured a camp which had received supplies from the Falah-e-Insaniyat, which is the name the banned Jamaat is using to operate in the flood areas. U.S. officials said the camp was not run by the Falah e-Insaniyat but the charity had independently distributed relief supplies a few days ago.