Why Pakistan deserves generosity

August 25, 2010

Muhammad Atiq Ur Rehman Tariq is a Ph.D. student at Delft University of Technology and Dr Nick van de Giesen is Professor of Water Resources Management at Delft University of Technology. The opinions expressed are their own.

According to official reports of the Federal Flood Commission of Pakistan, at least 1,556 people have died and more than 568,000 homes have been badly damaged or totally destroyed as a result of the recent floods in Pakistan. Almost 6.5 million people have been affected by this flooding and 3650 sq km of Pakistan’s most fertile crop land have been destroyed.

The flooding hit 11,000 villages and cities. The situation is deteriorating in flooded areas, where waterborne diseases may increase the human death toll if measures are not taken in time.

The devastating flooding occurred at a moment at which Pakistan was still confronting the consequences of a severe drought. As such, the flood came as a complete surprise, especially in the province of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa where flash flooding occurred.

The country had suffered severe droughts from 1999 to 2001 and had not faced any major flooding since 1995. Historically, most occurrences of severe flooding had been caused by the Indus River, which were largely checked after the construction of the Terbela dam in 1974.

The present floods are atypical and their severity (the worst in at least 80 years) was not anticipated by the inhabitants of the floodplains.

The flooding has disrupted electricity supply through inundation of the Jinnah Hydro power plant and some other minor power plants. The flood has also damaged transmission lines, transformers, feeders and power houses in different flood-affected areas. People suffering the load-shedding of electricity outside the inundated area are protesting on the roads in different parts of the country.

Floods have damaged highways and railroads, causing disruption of transportation and communication. Relief operations are being rolled out at a slow pace, as many towns and villages are not accessible and communications have been disrupted.

The flood has destroyed much of the healthcare-infrastructure in the worst-affected areas. Outbreaks of diseases, such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and cholera due to lack of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation will pose a new risk to victims of flood. Survivors of flooding are already blocking highways to protest the lack of support being provided.

Lack of information on flooding in Pakistan exacerbates the impact.  The flood forecasting division of the Pakistan Meteorological Department has uploaded some GIS maps showing the area to be evacuated on their official website. In fact, these maps are not based on the present flood.

Instead, they were developed for simulated floods occurring with return periods of 5 and 50 years, whereas present flooding is much more severe and is caused by different mechanisms than historical floods. These flood maps may not reveal the actual information on the ground right now and can thus be extremely counter-productive.

Aid coming from the international community is also not sufficient. Possible reasons for this lack of support include the low regard that the Pakistani government is held in by local and international communities. Instead, most support is being channeled through NGOs and other institutions.

However, this can only be a partial explanation as the cyclone Nargis that hit Myanmar in 2008 did trigger a large international response, while Myanmar’s government was internationally extremely unpopular and media coverage was scant at best.

While the national government has been slow to respond, banned militant groups and extremist organisations, such as the Taliban, are active with relief activities. This could have unwelcome implications in the medium to long-term.

The flood will also divert Pakistani military forces from fighting the militants to help in the relief efforts.  Clearly, this will allow militants to regroup and also help them secure more public support.

The flooding requires swift help and aid from national and international donors, otherwise it may produce large scale and lasting damage at national and international levels. The Taliban understand the strategy of “minds and hearts” very well.

This is the moment for the international community to show genuine compassion. In the process, it stands to win many hearts for generations to come.

Picture Credit: A boy sits in front of houses destroyed by floodwater in  Muzaffargarh district of Punjab province August 25, 2010. REUTERS/Asim Tanveer


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Generosity is not essentially limited to donating money or other physical commodities, but sharing a light moment with the affectees would help them forget the pain they had gone through.

Posted by SZaman88 | Report as abusive

A good article to show the picture of present devastating situation in Pakistan. But relief operation on national and international level is very slow. As we know that Pakistan is not a rich country and is suffering the most in ‘War on Terror’ after Afghanistan and Iraq.In addition to it, Pakistan had to face a worst earthquake in the history just 5 years back in 2005. It has to face worst flood now. In these conditions, evan a developing and prosperous country cannot face the situation alone. So Pakistan needs badly a true and positive response from all over the world. But when we compare relief operation in Pakistan to any other country, we r really surprised.I’m presenting some facts of Haiti earthquake here from different resources, you can compare these.

According to a CBS report, by May 2010, enough aid had been raised internationally to give each displaced family a check for $37,000 and $3.1 billion was pledged for humanitarian aid and has paid for field hospitals, plastic tarps, bandages, and food, plus salaries, transportation and upkeep of relief workers.

According to cozay forum, Around 16,000 US troops have been deputed in the area now to help out the survivors.Aid and humanitarian efforts continue to come in and according to a latest press release by a spokesperson for the UN, the results of flash appeals as well international appeals are more than encouraging. So far, $575 million have been collected by agencies such as UNICEF, World Food Program and number of NGOs out of which, $195 million resulted of flash appeal alone.

According to disasters emergency committee, * UN Flash appeal for $US1.5 billion only 60.4% funded
* Enough emergency shelter, mostly tarpaulins, provided for 1.9 million people
* Three-quarters of the nearly 120,000 buildings that have been inspected so far can be lived in now or repaired
* Over 5,000 improved temporary shelters built with 125,000 planned
* 200,000 people have received cash or food for public work
* One emergency toilet now provided for every 200 survivors
* 300 truck loads of rubble and debris a day being cleared
* Total estimated cost of rebuilding is $US11.5b, taking 5-10 years
* There has been no major outbreak of potentially deadly communicable diseases such as measles, cholera or diahorrea

While the impact of earthquake was ,
* Two million people living in the most affected area
* 220,000 dead
* Over 180,000 homes damaged or destroyed, 1.5m homeless
* There are now 19 million cubic metres of rubble and debris in PaP – enough to fill a line of shipping containers stretching end to end from London to Beirut.
* One and a half million people living in camps including over 100,000 at critical risk from storms and flooding
* There are over 1,100 camps and 54 of these are home to 5,000 people or more
* Over 600,000 people have left their home area in Port-au-Prince and mostly are staying with host families
* Nearly 5,000 schools have been damaged or destroyed

Now you can compare it with present relief work in Pakistan.


Posted by Laiq | Report as abusive

This unprecedented destruction in Pakistan has posed tremendous problems to the nation. Mr. Atiq’s effort to bring a clear picture of the situation to the international sphere should be conducive. As he already mentioned that international donors are reluctant due to the bad reputation of the governments in Pakistan. But, I think this should not be a question, instead international donors should come up with a practical solution. Devastated people are hoping for the International organizations to come and help them. I will conclude with the following beautiful quote from Justin Martin.

“Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity.”

Posted by moazi | Report as abusive

A very decent insight of current devastation in pakistan. we must ensure that v play our part in generating awarenes about this matter.

Posted by hamzaomer | Report as abusive

Natural and man made disasters are converging to make life hell in Pakistan.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

Natural and man made disasters are converging to make life hell in Pakistan

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

@While the national government has been slow to respond, banned militant groups and extremist organisations, such as the Taliban, are active with relief activities. This could have unwelcome implications in the medium to long-term.

The flood will also divert Pakistani military forces from fighting the militants to help in the relief efforts. Clearly, this will allow militants to regroup and also help them secure more public support.”

–THis tells that even Nature is supporting the fundamentalists.

Posted by chakde | Report as abusive

It is unfortunate that even under adverse conditions, Pak government is still holding on to its egoistic stance against India. We only would like to help and the response is disappointing. Pak govt has told India to route its aid through the UN. This is ridiculous. These are the moments to open up relationships and diffuse issues.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-may- send-aid-to-Pakistan-through-UN/H1-Artic le1-593100.aspx

The last time during Kashmir earthquake, Indian aid was simply discarded and grains were left to rot. Pakistan has gone to a stage where they want India to be their enemy at all times. We have tried to reach out and help and look at how the response is.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

The mills of God grind slowly but exceedingly fine.

Posted by rrdas | Report as abusive

If the Pakistanis keep insisting on generosity on their terms, the rest of the world certainly won’t think they deserve any.

If the Pakistan’s leaders have any concern at all for the welfare of their people, then they’ll open up and left whoever wants to help in.

A major disaster that threaten a huge portion of the population is not a time for pride and grandstanding.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

While the authors make some good basic points on the need for foreign aid for Pakistan, they ignore to provide any substantial informtion with regards to critically important yet unanswered questions troubling the minds of the donors:

1) How can Americans be assured Pakistan will NOT continue to kill American troops in the AfPak theatre using Taliban and Al Qaida “assest” (see WikiLeaks for confirmed proof) while enjoying American aid?

2) What will prevent the Pakistani military and civilian leaders from stealing the billions already provided as they did in the Kashmir earthquake and as well previously?

3) With the current global economic downturn, how long do you think Pakistan can continue to survive solely on the generosty of American tax dollars and foreign aid when Americans themselves are in dire straights?

4) As the Pew poll confirms, majority of Pakistanis have hatered for Americnas and particularly Jews. They presently harbor terrorists such as Al Quaida within Pakistan. When will Pakistan give up aiding and supporting Islamic terrorists and join the free democractic nations of the world for a better future?

Appreciate some feedback from anyone to clear my concerns before I open my wallet.
Thank you. JB

Posted by Jimmybo | Report as abusive