Worst moment in Pak’s history

MSN news | 11/08/2010

Pakistan has been hit by floods of unimaginable magnitude – with over 13.8 million affected – which the UN has categorised as bigger human catastrophe than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined! The Pakistani government has been found severely wanting in providing relief and succour, and the angst against the government has only been compounded by the ill-timed visit of President Zardari to Europe, which has been characterised as being akin to Nero fiddling when Rome was burning. His foreign sojourn included a function in London, where he was jeered and shoes thrown at him by people who wanted to register their protest at the President’ ill-timed visit. The reaction only worsened when it was revealed he had visited his family’s elegant chateau in France, which some have alleged was acquired through ill-gotten wealth.

Zardari’s return to Pakistan recently has only heightened and primed the growing political and social discontent. Like his sojourn, his return was also inauspicious. His arrival back to Pakistan came as thousands fled a major city in central Pakistan threatened by swollen rivers, and as the United Nations said the nationwide aid response needed to be scaled up “massively.” The world body says it is working on a response plan that will likely require hundreds of millions of dollars in initial international assistance. However, the Pakistani Taliban, which is allied to al-Qaeda and is fighting for the overthrow of the Pakistani state, urged the government not to accept any Western aid for flood relief. Spokesman Azam Tariq said the group would itself fund relief efforts. The Taliban have attacked Western aid groups in Pakistan and called for them to leave the country, saying they are trying to implement a Western agenda. “Pakistan should reject this aid to maintain sovereignty and independence. “There are also fears that the Taliban and the other terrorist organisations are using the tragedy by rushing help and providing relief to the flood-affected better and more efficiently than the Pakistan state agencies – for instance, banned organisation like the Jamat-ud-Dawa, the charitable organisation fronting for the dreaded LeT

This, it is feared, will increase the entrenchment and acceptance of the extremists and their ideology and further weaken the hold of democracy among the masses. The UN says the number of people affected by flooding over the past two weeks is 13.8 million – more than the combined total of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, although the death toll in each of those disasters was much higher than the 1,500 people killed in the floods. The widespread crisis has overwhelmed the government and frustrated citizens who have complained about slow or non-existent aid efforts. A person is considered “affected” by the floods if he or she will need some form of assistance to recover, either short-term humanitarian aid or longer-term reconstruction help, the UN said. Meanwhile, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) cadres attacked two prominent Pakistani channels for showing footage of the shoe-throwing incident and forced the shutting down of transmission of the channels, particularly in Sindh, the President’s home province. “Geo television remains off the air in Karachi and other parts of Sindh province,” its managing director, Azhar Abbas, said.

A graffiti campaign has also been launched against Geo in Karachi while bundles of the Jang daily and English language The News owned by the same group were snatched and burnt in other cities and towns, he added. “The cable operators have been threatened, their offices have been attacked, while hawkers have been warned that copies would be torched if they sell our newspapers,” he said. “It is all being done by PPP activists and I am 100 per cent sure the government is behind this campaign,” Abbas said. It happened only in Sindh, President Asif Ali Zardari’s home province. The government denied involvement, saying it opposed such attacks.


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