Pakistan Is Dying The World Yawns

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Written by Siv O'Neall   
Friday, 17 September 2010

 The slow media response to the disaster

Map showing areas of worst flooding - the North-West Frontier Province, including Swat Valley, being the worst hit at the beginning - Sindh Province in the south was hit the last

News about the torrential monsoon rains, beginning with the Swat Valley in the North-West Frontier Province began trickling down in the carefully censored Corporate media, the BBC and the PBS being among the first sources to uncover the ongoing devastation.

On August 2, PBS News reported:

JUDY WOODRUFF: The devastating flood in Pakistan, some in areas where the military has been fighting insurgents. More than 1,000 people have died, up to two million displaced.
JONATHAN MILLER: Villages and villagers reportedly washed away by walls of water, entire districts submerged, cropland inundated, drinking water contaminated, communications down, bridges destroyed, roads gone, schools gone, homes gone, thousands of them.

On August 9, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a lame appeal to the world, mentioning hundreds of people dead when already the number of deaths were in the thousands. He did, however, talk about the catastrophic floods that have killed hundreds of people in Pakistan and urged donors to contribute generously to the humanitarian response.[9]

The Secretary-General upped the ante on August 21, after having visited the devastated country. He gave a fairly stirring account of the disaster that had so far left the world unmoved. He emphasized the sheer scale of the disaster, almost defying comprehension, and stated that, around the country, an estimated 15 to 20 million people had been affected. He said that we could not stand by and let this natural disaster turn into a manmade catastrophe. [10]

Well, it already was a partly manmade disaster, so his words rang a bit empty.

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI in his article Why Doesn't the World Care About Pakistanis? in Foreign Policy gives us the scope of this natural plus manmade catastrophe:

His answer to the question is: Because they live in Pakistan.
The United Nations has characterized the destruction caused by the floods in Pakistan as greater than the damage from the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined. Yet nearly three weeks since the floods began, aid is trickling in slowly and reluctantly to the United Nations, NGOs, and the Pakistani government.

Three weeks after the beginning of the flooding, one fifth of the country was under water, a surface the size of Italy or England. Money for the rescue started coming in at a somewhat faster rate than the first couple of weeks, when the world was blind to the catastrophe. But it does not nearly equal the amount of aid that was rushed to the disaster areas after the three preceding monumental disasters.

Juan Cole in CommonDreams on September 9 sums up the indifference of the world:

The Media as a Security Threat to America - The Great Pakistani Deluge Never Happened; Dont Tune In, Its Not Important  The Great Deluge in Pakistan passed almost unnoticed in the United States despite President Obamas repeated assertions that the country is central to American security.  Now, with new evacuations and flooding afflicting Sindh Province and the long-term crisis only beginning in Pakistan, it has washed almost completely off American television and out of popular consciousness...
News junkies who watch a lot of television broadcasts could not help but notice with puzzlement that as the cosmic catastrophe unfolded in Pakistan, it was nearly invisible on American networks.

What rescue efforts are made? By whom?

The latest figures for victims of this catastrophic disaster amount to 20 million people who have lost their homes (nearly 12 percent of Pakistans population of 180 million) and 1600 people killed by the floods. Almost 10 million people are suffering from hunger and disease and millions are without a roof over their heads.

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI in Why Doesn't the World Care About Pakistanis? Foreign Policy, continues on August 19:

 Yet nearly three weeks since the floods began, aid is trickling in slowly and reluctantly to the United Nations, NGOs, and the Pakistani government.
Why has the most devastating natural disaster in recent memory generated such a tepid response from the international community? Something of a cottage industry is emerging to try to answer this latest and most sober of international mysteries.
There is no shortage of theories. It's donor fatigue. It's Pakistan fatigue. It's because the Pakistani government is corrupt and can't be trusted. It's because the victims are Muslim.

Politicians and numerous opportunist leaders of Islamist religious groups[11] are trying to outdo each other in their eagerness to seem like the best-organized rescue group. They are shuffling and posturing in the corridors of power, ready to declare that time is up for the current Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari and they are more than ready to step in quite possibly more eager to take over his privileges than his responsibilities. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif[12], one of Pakistans richest men, is eagerly expecting this crisis to be the end of Zardari, in order to come back to power for the third time, after having been ousted twice in 1993.

Hard-line religious groups are organizing aid to the millions of displaced persons. Even the Taliban have now called a truce on violence and are organizing aid operations. The military are transporting stranded and homeless people to safe ground. Is this a sign of an upcoming military putsch? Who knows. What we do know is that the Pakistani people, above all, dont want another military dictatorship, on the models of former prime ministers, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf who was the Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army.

And then, at the height of the flooding, to our horror, comes the news about the Pakistan Air Force Base Shahbaz:

Airbase near Jacobabad under US control, Senate panel told/ ISLAMABAD: Health relief operations in Jacobabad are not possible because the airbase in the area is controlled by the US.
The stunning statement was made by Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari during an appearance at the Senate Standing Committee on Health on Wednesday.[13]

What we can wonder about is why the U.S. military, instead of continuing their drone attacks among all this suffering, well aware of the refugees being in the most urgent need of help, why the U.S. is not using its military bases to help the stranded and famished victims of the flooding. They would be in an excellent position to help with evacuation and supply shelter, food and clean water to the homeless.

 On August 20, my friend Husna Ali wrote:

The international community must pressure the US government to allow the air base in Jacobabad to be used for rescue and relief... Thousands of people are still waiting there - without food and water for days - to be rescued... Why can't the fucking drones be used for relief... They have killed scores of innocents, cant they be used to save a few lives?

Zardari has spectacularly mismanaged the rescue work in this disaster, in the first place leaving the country for pre-arranged visits to Britain and France when his people were in great distress and shock and in need of a leader who could organize the rescue work and, secondly, not having any relief plans ready to put into immediate action. There are also strong suspicions that politicians and influential people have done their utmost to lead the torrents of water away from their own precious properties and thus purposely allowing poor farmers lands to be devastated. Corruption is second nature to human beings and we can clearly see the effects of it here.

There was nobody at the helm those first couple of weeks after the flooding began in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Swat Valley) and spread to Balochistan, Punjab and finally to the southern province of Sindh

continuation p3: What went wrong? what is the future?

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In memoriam
In memoriam
After a long battle against the disease Franck Biancheri passed away 30th of October 2012, at the age of 51. A great European, a militant democrat, a wonderful person.
Franck Biancheri was founder of AEGEE and founding fathers of the ERASMUS programme. He also was research director of the European thinktank LEAP 2020. In 2005, following the no of the Dutch and French to the Constitutional Treaty, Franck Biancheri founded the European citizens movement Newropeans.