Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

The skewed narrative on Pakistan flood aid: “help me or I’ll kill you”


handsOne of the arguments that comes up frequently for helping the victims of Pakistan’s floods is that otherwise Islamist militants will exploit the disaster, and the threat of terrorism to the west will rise. It’s an argument that makes me wince every time I read it. 

It implies that wanting to help people simply because they are suffering from hunger, homelessness and disease is a hopelessly outdated concept; that until these hungry, homeless and diseased people turn up at a bombing near you, then there is no reason to give them money.  (For a great take on this, do read Manan Ahmed’s “I am a bhains” at Chapati Mystery).

Perhaps I am caricaturising a bit – many well-intentioned people who have urged the international community to give more aid to Pakistan’s 20 million flood victims have tried to give their appeals added urgency by lacing them with dark warnings of what might happen if they don’t. 

But I’d like to ask readers here whether they think people are more likely to give money out of fear or out of kindness.

Giving a voice to Pakistan’s flood victims


charpoyIf you were to give the flood victims in Pakistan a voice, they would tell you that they need seeds to replant the crops destroyed by the water and enough emergency relief to tide them through the winter. After that the land, newly fertilised by the floods, could yield bumper crops in the years ahead.

The children would tell you that the floods hit so powerfully that the memory of feeling in panic while loudspeakers broadcast warnings from the mosques will be forever etched on their minds. They don’t blame the government for a disaster so big that not even in the tales of their ancestors had they heard stories of such floods. They just want enough help to rebuild their homes so they don’t have to sleep in half-destroyed buildings with sunken floors, worrying about them collapsing on top of them in the night.

from India Insight:

India offers fresh peace talks to Kashmir

Kashmiri protesters throw stones towards police during an anti-India protest in Srinagar September 4, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailNew Delhi has expressed its willingness to hold talks with "any group" from Kashmir where protests against Indian rule have mounted in recent weeks and government forces have killed at least 65 people, mostly stone-throwing protesters.

The civilian deaths have fuelled anger in the disputed Himalayan region where anti-India sentiments run deep though militant violence has gone down.

Down the River: What Is To Be Done?



On Friday, Sept 3, a boy stands outside a house destroyed by flood waters that swept through Mehmood Kot a month ago. Residents of Mehmood Kot have been waiting a month for relief aid, which they say they have not received. (REUTERS/Chris Allbritton)

After three days traveling the flood path down the Indus River Valley, from Nowshera in the northwest down to Multan and to the confluence of the Indus and Pakistan’s other major rivers, it’s clear the devastation is as great as everyone feared.

Down the River: Memories and livelihoods gone forever

- (A house washed away by floods in Pakistan's Punjab province. By Faisal Mahmood )

(A house washed away by floods in Pakistan's Punjab province. By Faisal Mahmood )

By Rebecca Conway

Along a sun-scorched Indus River, fishermen point to the low-lying sandbanks banked by a swollen, drifting current.

Down the River: Behind the Images


New Reuters templateFor three days members of the Reuters Pakistan bureau are traveling down the Indus River valley surveying the extent of destruction from Pakistan’s worst ever natural disaster. Photographer Faisal Mehmood shares his thoughts:

When the water started coming, I started going out for two or three days at a time, and working. I saw people who had left their homes. Some families who had left one or two people behind to guard their houses and land; they said they were waiting for help from the government

Women and children most at risk from Pakistan floods



                                                                     By Rebecca Conway

Women in flowing burkas carrying tiny children flood the entrance halls of the noisy, hot Pabi Satellite Hospital. Scores of children linger on steps and lean on railings, and crowds form around the doorways of doctors’ offices and wards.
The hospital’s Diarrhea Treatment Centre, though, seems a world away from this – a quiet and spotlessly clean ward. The scent of disinfectant lingers – something not always true of small, rural Pakistani hospitals – and a compulsory anti-bacterial spray applied to the shoes of anyone entering the ward was a surprise.  Here, doctors have been dealing with hundreds of cases of an illness that in Pakistan can mean death. Run by British non-governmental organisation Merlin and the World Health Organisation, the ward is an example of the drive by NGOs to reach out to flood victims with tangible efforts and high-quality care.
Eleven days ago, the wards were four feet deep in mud, but a team of doctors and cleaners worked overnight to ensure the ward could open the next day to the victims of Pakistan’s flood disaster. 
The result has been a centre where, despite treating 1180 sufferers since it opened on August 21, has seen no fatalities. Dr. Asad Ullah says he has seen severe cases among the 120 – 130 patients that have come in every day.  “The first two people we treated on that first morning shocked us because they were so malnourished and dehydrated,” he said.
As he surveys the ward, the exhausted-looking doctor warns dehydration and diarrhea pose an extremely serious risk.  “In Pakistan, diarrhea and dehydration are enough to kill you. And we’re not yet seeing a leveling-off of the numbers coming here for treatment.”
Those that do though – and they are mostly women and children under the age of five – are led to one of the narrow beds that line the wards and hooked up to drips. Family members sit alongside patients, cooled by ceiling fans.
Treatment here, Dr. Ullah says, will continue around the clock. Both the drive by the organizations that provide the medicines and materials to run the treatment centre and doctors dedicated to non-stop care seem single-mindedly fixed on helping as many flood victims as possible recover from what was Pakistan’s biggest killer among the under-fives before the flooding, and that is now spreading among people who have already lost so much.

Down the river : ‘Tent’-ion in Pakistan’s Northwest




We left at first light, before the sun could crank itself up to its full, ground-baking strength. The road to Nowshera from Islamabad is a good one, with the appearance of modernity, including good shoulders, toll booths and freshly painted lines.

That impression doesn’t last once you start getting into the northwest province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The roads become narrower and the signs of rural poverty become more apparent. Despite the lush fields on either side, the mud-brick shops and vendor stalls are run-down and appear ready to collapse.

Down the River: A Journey Through Pakistan’s Devastation


A man warns flood victims how overloaded their boat is as they cross the floodwaters toward villages in Sultan Kot, about 51 km (31 miles) from Sukkur in Pakistan's Sindh province August 31, 2010. A month after torrential monsoon rains triggered Pakistan's worst natural disaster on record, flood waters are starting to recede -- but there are countless survivors at risk of death from hunger and disease. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Starting tomorrow, members of the Pakistan bureau — including myself, two cameramen and a photographer — will travel down the Indus River valley to document the scope and scale of Pakistan’s devastating floods, approximately one month after they began.

More than 1,600 people have been killed and at least six million made homeless. But the numbers don’t tell the story in themselves, and that’s part of what we’re going to attempt to do. With a disaster so great in scale, no single area can convey what has happened, or what will happen next.

from The Great Debate UK:

Why Pakistan deserves generosity

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.