Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

from Photographers' Blog:

Retracing my steps in Pakistan

On August 7, 2010, with a camera in hand, I dropped into a flooded village on an army helicopter that was delivering food aid to marooned villagers. As a crewman slid the door open to find solid ground, I leaped out, took some photographs, and managed to get back on before the chopper departed.

Time stamps on the images show the hover-stop lasted less than the length of an average song. For those three minutes, my thoughts were focused on finding an image that would bring the Pakistan floods story to life.

After getting back to base, I worded the caption, “Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province August 7, 2010.”

I never got a chance to speak to the villagers in my image. Trapped in the belly of the chopper, I did not even know where we had descended. All I could confirm was that I had leaped onto a graveyard, where the winds from the propellers threw me from one dirt mound to another.

Guest contribution:Reconstruction, the silver lining of Pakistan’s flood disaster

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(The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK)

winter flood suppliesBy Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Is the flood over in Pakistan? No. Most certainly not! Notwithstanding the massive relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction operations, the devastation from the worst  natural disaster in recent times continues to claim lives in scores due to the outbreak of epidemics, lack of health facilities, and shortage of food, shelter and clothing.

Guest contribution-Unifying Pakistan

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sindh floodsThe following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is a defence expert and author of two books on the Pakistan Army.

By Brian Cloughley

Many of Pakistan’s problems are of its own making, courtesy of uniformed dictators or ineffective politicians or weird alliances of both. When military rulers took over the country in their bloodless coups they were welcomed by the majority of citizens, which was understandable given that the governments they replaced were feudally authoritarian and grossly incompetent.

Pakistan, India and the value of democracy

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gilani kayaniOf the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia?  It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.

What had India achieved, he asked, with its long years of near-uninterrupted democracy, to reduce the gap between rich and poor?  What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? Maybe, he said, democracy was just not suited to countries like India and Pakistan.

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

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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).

Giving a voice to Pakistan’s flood victims

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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.

Down the River: What Is To Be Done?

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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: A Journey Through Pakistan’s Devastation

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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.

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