The world is on the threshold of a great tragedy.
All the gains in the war on terror are about to be lost, all thanks to sheer indifference that the international community is showing towards what shall rank as one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of the 21st century. (Americans are a notable exception – as usual- but their efforts find no projection from the hostile and bigoted Pakistani media).
In this void are stepping extremists of all kinds. Most of the relief camps in the otherwise liberal city of Lahore are run by Jamaat-ud-dawa. Indeed the government of Punjab has been forced to turn a blind eye to religious extremists for the reason that they are aiding relief efforts. For more on this, read Ahmad Nadeem Gehla’s article posted on our website. However one is heartened by the fact that there are voices of reason guiding the American administation:
Anthony Cordesman, who has advised the Obama administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the floods represent “a major opportunity” for Islamist groups to win further influence among people denied government services.
“If we have to deal with a radicalized Pakistan, that raises the threat that is posed by terrorism by several orders of magnitude,” he said.
Earlier today we posted Steve Soloman’s article on the looming water shortage issue for Pakistan. By playing a neutrality and allowing India to stretch the logic of the Indus Water Treaty, the world is laying the foundation for the next Afghanistan and need I remind you that this one will always have the spectre of nuclear weapons.
Deputy British Prime Minister Nick Clegg described the global response to Pakistani floods as lamentable.
A Pakistani mother carries her children through flood water in Muzaffargarh city, Punjab province. Photograph: KM Chaudary/APNick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, today described the international response to the plight of flood-striken Pakistan as “lamentable”.
Clegg, the public face of the government while David Cameron is on holiday for two weeks, said that the scale of the disaster was “overwhelming”.
Asked what Britain was doing to help those affected by floods in Pakistan and why it was not doing more, at a question and answer session today at the offices of MSN in London, Clegg said that a quarter of the aid given so far to Pakistan had come from Britain.
“The response from the international community as a whole, I have to say, has been lamentable. It’s been absolutely pitiful,” he said.
He added that people were struggling to grasp the extent of the damage inflicted.
It is an understatement. It is murderous. Culpable in this murderous indifference is Mr. Clegg’s senior coalition partner, Mr. David Cameron, who with his ill-advised, undiplomatic statement set the ball rolling on the global indifference towards Pakistan. And yet the world is only partly to blame, when our own TV Channels are more interested in shoes and Zardari baiting than giving adequate and effective coverage to the floods. Death and misery that has cornered Pakistan since 2007 has made all of us indifferent. Pakistani elite in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi continues to go about its business unconcerned with the fact that they are about to lose the plot in a story that has so far sustained their extravagant first world lifestyles in a third world country. We must stand up and be counted for others to help us.
There is no sense of entitlement, when we Pakistanis stake claim on international help. For many decades, we have played your great games and done your dirty work. The least the world can do is compensate us for the damages we have sustained in the process. If the West could rebuild Japan, Germany and Italy, surely it should have no qualms in rebuilding an ally that has sustained more in their wars for over half a century. Surely it is not much to ask for you to play an even-handed role when dealing with India and Pakistan on the issue of water.
Remember the worst is still to come:
Nature looks at the causes and consequences of the flooding of the Indus river.
Kate LarkinIt is over two weeks since the floods began in Pakistan, and the rains are still falling. Already termed the worst flooding to hit Pakistan for 80 years, this deluge has affected millions of people, and so far over 1,600 have died.
With the impacts of the flooding likely to continue well after the flood waters have retreated, Nature examines the escalating humanitarian disaster.
What is the main cause of the intense rainfall?
It is weather, not climate change, that is to blame, according to meteorologists. An unusual jet stream in the upper atmosphere from the north is intensifying rainfall in an area that is already in the midst of the summer monsoon (see animation showing the growing extent of the flood waters). “What sets this year apart from others is the intensity and localisation of the rainfall,” says Ramesh Kumar, a meteorologist at the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India. “Four months of rainfall has fallen in just a couple of days.”
Has human activity exacerbated the flooding?
Yes. The high population growth rate in Pakistan has contributed to a rapid deterioration of the country’s natural environment. This includes extensive deforestation and the building of dams for irrigation and power generation across tributaries of the Indus river. Years of political unrest have also left their mark, and flood waters are transporting land mines, posing an extra danger to the relief mission.
Is the humanitarian crisis larger than the 2004 Asian tsunami, as some media reports have claimed?
Not in terms of the death toll. With 1,600 people reported dead, this remains 100 times less than the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami. However, the scale of the tragedy continues to increase, with around 14 million people in immediate need of emergency aid. Many of Pakistan’s bridges and roads have been destroyed, and severe weather is grounding helicopters, slowing relief efforts.
On 11 August the UN and its partners launched an appeal for aid, and the World Bank has announced a grant of $900 million for relief and reconstruction.
What about disease?
The harsh reality is that waterborne diseases are linked to floods — and with cholera outbreaks reported in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, this flooding event seems to be no exception. The fear is that a lack of sanitation will see the fatal diarrhoeal disease spreading. And stagnant water may pose other threats. “The Pakistan floods and stagnant waters may also cause an increase in malarial cases,” says Sandy Cairncross, public health engineer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
How can Pakistan prepare for floods in future?
“There is currently no effective water management strategy to speak of in Pakistan,” says Shah Murad Aliani, country representative for the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Pakistan.
Such a strategy will include building adequate flood defences along the Indus River, where most of southern Pakistan’s population live, and improving flood forecasting systems. International efforts on this front include the European Commission Joint Research Centre, which is developing and testing a Global Flood Detection System to monitor the floods from space.
How will climate change affect the region in future?
“As the atmosphere gets warmer, the carrying capacity for moisture will increase,” says Kumar. Put bluntly: if Pakistan’s climate warms in the future, rainfall will increase.
There already seem to be more extreme rainstorms than ever before across the Indian subcontinent. A 2006 study indicated that this trend may be set to continue — though the researchers did not unequivocally link this to climate change1.
But many researchers believe that the present flooding may be part of a longer-term trend. “Climate change will be a small but steady contributor to rainfall in the region,” says Jeff Knight, climate variability expert at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre.
In the end, does the world really think that after using Pakistan like cannon fodder, it can allow Pakistan to die a natural death? This is an extraordinary proposition because our posterity will see the full horror of the collossal miscalculation all over the world.