Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Helping Pakistan; not if, but how

morefloodsOutside President Asif Ali Zardari's political rally in Birmingham last weekend, I chatted to a middle-aged woman passing by about the floods in Pakistan. "I have every sympathy for Pakistan and the Pakistanis, but he is not helping them much, is he?" she said. Another woman asked me to explain why it was that the  protesters were not focused on the floods but demonstrating "about all sorts".  Inside the rally, a young British Pakistani who had recently returned from a visit to his family home in Kashmir complained about negative stereotyping in the media of Pakistan that had reduced a country of some 170 million people to "a terrorist threat".

If there is a common thread to the relatively slow western response to one of the worst catastrophes in Pakistan's history, it is a sense of confusion, not about whether to help, but how to help. That, and the dehumanising impact of stereotypes - corrupt politicians, angry bearded protesters, suicide bombers to name but a few -- that obscure the impact of the floods on the very real people - 14 million of them - affected by the disaster.

In the short term, the weak civilian government has been slammed for failing to come up with a clear plan to address the immediate needs of those hit by the floods. Nor has it provided the leadership that might rally all institutions and people behind it. The result has been that the Pakistan Army, long the country's most efficient and effective national institution, has stepped in to fill the void, leading efforts to rescue flood victims.  Meanwhile, as Pakistani politicians squabbled amongst themselves and flew into disaster-hit areas with an eye for photo-ops, and as Zardari travelled abroad to France and Britain, the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa - the humanitarian wing of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group - quietly moved in to help, as it did in the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir. 

The United States, along with other countries, has been ratcheting up its aid efforts, offering financial assistance totallling $76 million and sending military helicopters for relief and rescue operations. However, I can't help but feel a bit uneasy when this is presented in terms of vying for influence with Islamist charities like the Jamaat ud-Dawa. This may be partially true, but it is also part of the same dehumanising process, as though the flood victims are no more than "hearts and minds" to be won over, rather than people facing death from hunger and disease.  International and Pakistani NGOs are doing what they can - although for those who want to help, it can be hard for outsiders to work out which charity best deserves donations (inside Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation is widely respected.)

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: a personal view of the water wars

 It was so long in the making,  so utterly predictable, that the news that Pakistan and India are now arguing over water carries with it the dull ache of inevitability.

When I was living in Delhi, which I left in 2004, a few analysts were already warning that the next war between Pakistan and India would be over water, rather than over Kashmir.  The mountain glaciers which fed the rivers which are the lifeline of both countries were melting, they said, and sooner or later India and Pakistan would blame each other for climate change. I did not take it that seriously at the time. Not even after seeing first hand how far the Siachen glacier - the world's longest glacier - had receded.  

Haiti’s plea: “We need help”


-This is a guest post from Rigoberto Giron, who is heading up CARE’s emergency response efforts in Haiti from CARE HQ in Atlanta. Any opinions expressed are his own.-

Just outside of CARE’s offices in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, hundreds of newly homeless people are camped out in a public square. During the day, they wait patiently in the scorching sun. But at night, when hunger and thirst overtake them, groups of people can be heard clapping and chanting. Daybreak reveals new banners that read, in English and Creole, “We need help!”