Traders Respond to Government’s Energy Saving Measures

The Gillani Cabinet had to designate three Ministers to explain why two off days every week would bring about monumental savings in power consumption. Like always, no industrialist or businessmen will do what the government so desperately desires. Factories would run as usual, markets would be humming with the hustle and bustle, and the economic activity would continue on weekends just like before.

We industrialists are determined to earn foreign exchange for the nation, we are all geared to provide quality employment, and we are dedicated towards our goal of making Pakistan an economic powerhouse.

Meantime, the Cabinet and the Parliamentarians can enjoy their weekend holidays and let us industrialists do what we do best. Keep the wheels of industry running.

Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO) Update on Sindh Flood

The recent torrential rains have created havoc in Sindh. More than 350 people have lost their lives, 8,8million people have been affected among them 1.36 million are children and 240000 pregnant women facing hardships under open sky.

Now the rains have stopped, the flood water is standing in almost all cities and villages of Sindh. Due to breaches in the left bank outfall Drainage, in the kacha area of Dadu , Nain Gaj ,more than 25ft of water flowed into the area and caused human loss. Live stock and house hold items poverty stricken people also washed away. This is not the first time that the LBOD has severely affected and displaced the population of Badin.

The recent spell of heavy rains and flood has reinforced the losses caused by last year’s devastating floods. People are still struggling with severe problems like shortage food and clean drinking water, unhygienic living conditions, pregnant women have their own health problems and children are facing vector borne diseases. On the other hand, Government’s relief operation is too slow to address their needs. People also complain of political influence while distribution of relief goods.

Following table will help in understanding the level damage in different districts;

Sr # District Affected Taluqa UCs Villages Population Agri Land Houses
01 Badin 5 46 6300 1021000 343000 382000
02 MP Khas 6 41 5700 705000 134000 118000
03 Jamshoroo 4 25 614 8400 5820 75000
04 Benazirabad 4 51 4100 900000 125000 300000
05 Tando AY 3 19 1254 270890 66500 28000
06 Tando MK 3 16 1555 267000 68000 51000
07 Umarkot 4 27 1651 180000 160745 Acers 84474 Fully Damage & 77076 Partially Damage


Sr # District Deaths Livestock Relief Camps Population of Camps
01 Badin 50 60% 500 670,000
02 MP Khas 43 230 147 57269
03 Jamshoroo 15 14 9000 – 1000 local IDPs6000 IDPs from other district.
04 Benazirabad 32 80 Thousand to 1 Lac 625 28630
05 Tando AY
06 Tando MK 15 75 119 11873
07 Umarkot 42 Loses17368Vaccinated 340960

Drenched 9385

Treated 13360

Total Affected


132 238976 IDPs in schools,Tents City, Open Sky & Other Govt Building

For more on the Sindh flood, watch the interview by SPO chief Naseer Memon to Netherlands Web based television ‘The Water Channel

Tenth Anniversary of US Invasion of Afghanistan

As the US marks the tenth anniversary of its invasion of Afghanistan, pro Taliban terror networks – driven out of Kabul in October 2001 – have reinvented themselves inside Pakistan.

They are enabled by an inept foreign policy and absence of governance that allows the most brutal ideologues to consolidate themselves within failing states.

The militants have found the most fertile ground in Balochistan, where the PPP government – operating on a single principle of obeying the most powerful – teeters between toeing a foreign policy that breeds international isolationism, even as it has become a punching bag for political parties vying to return to power.

For the Hazara Shias in Balochistan – protesting against the failure of the provincial government for failing to protect them – the bigger news is the PPP government in Balochistan is unable to protect itself from terrorism.

This week, Pakistan’s chief opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League (N) spearheaded a rally of political groups outside the parliament in Islamabad to protest issues like the absence of governance that has led to the massacres of Shia Hazaras, and “load-shedding” – a euphemism for massive power outages – that people suffer on account of mismanagement and corruption.

It was an event that brought “strange bed-fellows,” like Nawaz Sharif to ally with the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman – the ideologue cum politician who allied with Sharif’s nemesis, Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf.

But these are shifting alliances that have the March Senate elections in mind, and will be likely disbanded thereafter.

Similarly, the politics that have brought the ethnic MQM back into accepting ministerial positions with the PPP is an alliance built in sand. Indeed, the calm in Karachi can quickly turn into a storm, once criminal elements patronized by every political party returns to action.

Ten years on, the politicking goes on at the expense of real developmental progress …a situation that has grown worse as target assassinations grow from the fall out in Afghanistan.

Balochistan new hub of sectarian killings

October 06-11: “They ordered the passengers off the bus,” said Hassan, a 16-year-old construction worker who survived the September 19 sectarian attack on Hazaras, a minority Shia group in Pakistan’s southwest Balouchistan province. Carrying around forty passengers, mostly pilgrims going to Iran, the bus was stopped in the Mastung area, just an hour drive outside the provincial capital Quetta, and only half a kilometre from a Paksitani police checkpost.

“Everybody got off, but I hid under one of the seats. The gunmen did not come up to check the bus. They just ordered everyone off.”

The Hazaras were separated from the four or five Balouch passengers, who stood watching. They were lined up for an execution-style massacre.

“After that, I heard no words. They said nothing to them and just opened fire.” The gunmen sped away in two pick up trucks. When Hassan came out of hiding and stepped out of the bus, he saw bodies and blood. Twenty six were killed and six injured, according to media reports. But Hasan remembers only seeing three injured, among them 19-year-old Mohamed Ayaz, a carpet weaver from a family with nine siblings. On his first pilgrimage to Iran, Ayaz was shot in the leg, but what saved him was two other bodies that collapsed on top of him absorbing the subsequent bullets.

“It is on my mind every day,” Ayaz told Al Jazeera, “because even within Quetta city, they can kill.” The recent spate of violence targeting the minority Hazaras, Shia by sect, has left the community of about 500,000 people fearing for their safety. According to local leaders, at least 90 Hazaras have been gunned down in and around Quetta since July 30. In the most recent incidents, on October 4, at least thirteen people were killed when gunmen stormed a bus and opened fire indiscriminately.

Lashkar-e-Jangvi, an extremist group with links to al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the October 4 assault as well as several other targeted attacks on Shias – particularly Hazara Shias – in Balochistan. ”We hundred per cent believe that it is Lashkar e Jangvi (LEJ) because they always take responsibility,” says Ahmed Kohzad, General Secretary of Hazara Democratic Party.

Formed during the military regime of General Zia ul haq, LEJ was banned after the government of Parviz Musharraf annouced that Pakistan was joining the US alliance in the “war against terror”. But it has continued to operate in many parts of Pakistan, particularly in Punjab, and has been linked to the attack on Islamabad’s Marriot hotel in 2008, as well as the assault on visiting Sir Lankan cricket team in 2009. Also in 2009, LEJ members reportedly played a role in the siege on the army headquarters in Islamabad.

Imprisoned since 1997 for over 50 cases ranging from murder to terrorism, LEJ’s leader, Malik Ishaq, was freed on July 15 from jail for a lack of evidence. In his speaking tours since his release, he has continued to incite violence against Shias, as on September 19, he was welcomed into Alipur by a “party of 800 men on motorcycles chanting anti-Shia slogans,” the Pakistani paperThe Tribune reported. Reacting to his release, the Imamia Students Association, a shia group, warned that his release would mean more violence against Shias.

“The planned release of terror kingpin Malik Ishaq who is also the co-founder of banned organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, with the blessing of Punjab government’s weak prosecution and the court’s blind decision is likely to fuel the ruthless killings of Shias across the country,” they said. Reza Nasim Jan, Pakistan team lead at the American Enterprise Institute, says although there is no direct evidence tying Ishaq to the rapid increase in violence, his anti-Shia rhetoric, on display during speaking tours and rallies focused in Sindh and Punjab, has not changed since his release.

“While there is no smoking gun linking Ishaq’s release with the spike in violence in Balochistan, based on the reporting of rallies and Ishaq’s speaking tour, his rhetoric remains pretty virulently anti-Shia,” he said. ”Ishaq and another Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader, Ghulam Rasool Shah, were arrested after the Mustang attack, indicating that the police, at least, were drawing connections between Ishaq’s activities and the rise in killings.” ”When you release a man accused of 70 murders, a man whose followers actively attack the state, it sends a message that you are not willing to take these guys on. And it will likely encourage further such activity,” said Jan.

Failing to provide security
“People live in strange environment of fear,” said a 26-year-old doctor who cannot be named for his own safety. A recent graduate, the doctor had worked in one of Quetta’s largest hospitals for the past year, but was forced to quit for safety reasons. ”My mother and sister would cry every day as I left for work, afraid that I might not return.”

After protests against government inaction on October 4, Pakistan’s police announced that they have launched a crackdown and rounded up nearly 100 people in a raid for the latest attack. The provincial government has also formed an investigation committeethat is expected to submit a report within 15 days. Additionally, the government has promised increased security measures and police presence, but locals say such measures could not assure their safety. ”There are only about 1,100 policemen across Quetta for all purposes including regular policing, providing security for VIPs and other things,” Jan says. “Given how stretched authorities are, and with an active separatist insurgency in Balochistan among other issues, I doubt providing security for Hazaras is a top priority for the law enforcement.”Despite repeated attempts, Al Jazeera could not reach a spokesman in the provincial government for comment.

‘Erosion of respect for rights’
A persecuted ethnic minority in Afghanistan, the Hazaras first migrated to current-day Pakistan in 1890′s, fleeing the wrath of Abdul Rahman Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan. They took up residence around Quetta, then a British Garrison town. ”We struggled for Pakistan’s independence, we fought wars for this country,” says Ahmed Kohzad, General Secretary of the Hazara Democratic Party.

In 1965, when Pakistan went to war with India over Kashmir, Hazara commanders were given titles for their bravery. At least two commanders, he said, were given the title of “Lion of Kashmir.” ”But since 1999, at least 550 members of our community have been killed,” he said
Hazaras mostly live in two neighbourhoods of Quetta, Mari Abad, near an army base in the eastern part of the city, and Hazara Town, in the west. Since July, the doctor said, the residents have minimised going back and forth between the two neighbourhoods. ”People are scared to even go to the other town for funerals,” he said. “And when they go out, they make sure it’s not a Hazara bus they travel in. They recite their prayers, not knowing whether they will make it.”

According to Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director, the Pakistani government has failed to address the collapse of law and order in Balochistan. Kill-and-dump operations have gone unanswered by authorities. ”The Pakistani government has clearly not taken enough steps as the attacks are increasing,” Zarifi told Al Jazeera. ”It’s very worrying that groups like Lashkar-e-Jangvi explicitly say they want to target minorities, and the government is yet to take concrete action against them. Some of their members have been detained, but without a proper trial to ensure justice.”

In July 2008, two members of Lashkar-e-Jangvi, one of them on death row, escaped from a high-security prison in Quetta. Usman Saifullah and Shafiq ur Rehman were convicted for, among other things, the raid on Shia mosque in Quetta in 2003 that killed 53 people. ”In the past ten years, we have seen a general erosion of the respect for the rights of minorities,” says Amnesty’s Zarifi. “The Human rights community in Pakistan has been crying out against this phenomenon for years: that by not doing anything in the face of those who call for violence against minorities, by not doing enough to show that Pakistani society has a history of inclusivity, it gives signals to the culture at large that this violence is ok. ”When the government does nothing against the people who call for violence on things very trivial, it clearly sends a wrong message about the value of human life.”

Hazaras have launched country wide protests, hoping the government will take more take steps to ensure their safety. Their notice has been heard at the Balochistan high court, and they hope to take their appeal to the country’s supreme court in Islamabad. ”We want the government to go after Lashkar e Jangvi,” says Kohzad. ” It’s a network of possibly 20 to 30 men, and they have wreaked fear in this city. They only thing that can bring us security is a targeted operation against them.”

Citizens Celebrate 25th anniversary of Literacy Drive for Pakistan’s Children

Citizen’s Education Development Foundation (CEDF) celebrated 25 years on October1, 2011. CEDF is a small NGO with only one goal—Functional literacy for all.

The organization has been imparting literacy to the forgotten children of Karachi through its network of 21 informal Home Schools and the Mobile School. After a year with CEDF, students are assisted with admission to government schools. CEDF provides these students with books and uniforms each year and follows their progress.

An estimated 10,000 boys and girls have been helped by CEDF in the past years. Many have completed their matriculation and are continuing with college or vocational education—still helped financially by CEDF. Some are gainfully employed.

CEDF believes that social equality can be achieved only through quality education, CEDF organized a seminar titled: “Education for Enlightenment and better job Opportunities”. The event was held in the grounds of Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.

This was a unique event because of the nature of the subject and diversity of participants from all sections of society- from the illiterate to the professional. Over 400 persons attended, among whom were domestic servants, their children, housewives, small shop owners, as well as educationists, social activists, scientists, doctors, lawyers, artists and university faculty.

This integration of diverse participants was intended to let the wealthy stratum of society understand the deprivations and injustices faced by the underprivileged class where it relates to lack of schools and poor standard of education, and to engage them in helping to uplift this class.

Describing the gulf between rich and poor classes of Pakistan as being analogous to the first and third world countries, Dr Naseem Salahuddin, founder of CEDF said that this gulf is responsible for the disparities in social structures where the poor serve the rich, where young children are employed in homes to clean and sweep, rather than to help them get education. It is the duty of the privileged class to realize this and inculcate education rather than service.

The Vocation Fest was a novel idea. There were ten stalls put up by different vocational institutes so that information and direction were available to CEDF students after matriculation that would guide them towards job opportunities such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, computer, hairdressing, nursing, etc.

Potential vocation seekers picked up information of their interest and would contact the organizations at a later time.

Oxfam Warns of Second Disaster

Sluggish donor response to Pakistan floods is
another disaster in the making: Oxfam
September 27th, 2011 at 3.02 pm.

Islamabad – International aid agency Oxfam expressed alarm over the floods in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, as only $1.30 has been committed per person by international donors in the first 10 days of the UN appeal as opposed to $3.20 committed in the same period during last year’s floods.

Oxfam calls on the Government of Pakistan and the international donor community to dig deep into their resources and rapidly increase their funding to prevent the disaster from deteriorating further. The agency warns that the situation of millions of people in Sindh and Balochistan will worsen unless more aid arrives.

According to the latest figures, more than 8.8 million people in Sindh and 14,000 people in Balochistan so far have been affected by the 2011 monsoon rains. The human impact of this disaster in terms of the number of people affected is more than the combined impact of the Haiti earthquake and the Pakistan earthquake of 2005. Reported losses are being estimated at $215 million, and that number is likely to increase as some areas are inaccessible, and the impact of the floods cannot be assessed.

“This is a cruel repeat of last year. Again funding is too little and far too slow. Donors must recognise the gravity of the situation. Millions of innocent people, the majority of which are women and children, are in desperate need of the basics: food, water, sanitation, healthcare and shelter. If assistance does not come quickly, then a second emergency of rising malnutrition and rising water-borne diseases risks making a public health disaster a reality. There is no time to waste. We must all act now,” said Neva Khan, Country Director of Oxfam in Pakistan.

Approximately 6.8 million acres of land have been damaged by the floods – an area nearly as large as Haiti.

According to the UN, the floods have wiped out 73 percent of standing crops, 36 percent of livestock and 67 percent of food stocks in the 13 worst affected districts of Sindh. In a province where already 72 percent of the population is acutely short of food, this loss of crops means hundreds of thousands more people don’t have enough to eat.

“Some of the most agriculturally productive districts have been hit this time. Sugar cane, chilli, cotton and rice crops have been damaged right before the harvest season. The women I met in some of the unofficial camps in Sanghar and Mirpurkhas districts of Sindh told me about the very difficult life choices they have to make every day. Many are going without food in order to feed their children. No one should have to make such choices. It is time to truly show the women, men and children of Sindh that we are human and have compassion. This must be shown through our actions — now,” said Khan.

Approximately 97 percent of the UN’s $357 million appeal remains unfunded. So far only $11.5 million has been committed by donors. This pales in comparison with the amounts committed to other crises. Within the first 10 days of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, which left some 3.5 million people homeless, the international community had committed $247 million and pledged $45 million. This works out to $70 committed per person, during that time period.

Likewise, some $742 million was committed to Haiti 10 days after the quake and $920 million pledged. Some 1.5 million were directly affected by the quake, which works out at $495 per person in the first 10 days.

“People are living in desperate conditions. Each passing day puts more people at risk of deadly diseases, forces more people into hunger and destroys more futures. We are in a battle against time. Donors, the UN, aid agencies and the government, need to step up their response immediately.

Two weeks into the response, Oxfam and our partners have reached more than 238,191 people. We have provided 137,979 people with clean water supplies, conducted hygiene promotion sessions with 8,428 people, provided 20,335 people with hygiene kits and assisted in the search and rescue of 58,208 people. Oxfam aims to reach 850,000 people over the duration of its response and is working in the eight worst affected districts of Sindh.

Conditions for Monsoon Affected People of Sindh

Torrential monsoon rains have pounded southern Pakistan, triggering serious flooding affecting more than five million people. The disaster has reportedly claimed the lives of 199 people, destroyed or damaged nearly one million houses, and flooded 4.2 million acres of land, prompting the Government of Pakistan to call for support from the United Nations.


Photo Courtesy by : Dr Sono Khangrahani

Thousands of people are in urgent need of assistance due to lack of food and safe drinking water, as well as the loss of livelihoods and homes. Sindh is by far the worst affected province, with torrential rains in the hardest hit areas having led to rainfall exceeding, in a few days, what on average accumulates in an entire monsoon season.


Photo Courtesy : Manzoor Mirani


The Government reports 22 out of 23 districts of Sindh are covered in floodwater. In a second spell of torrential rains causing a massive flood opposed to breaches in the River Indus last year, has left thousands homeless and hundreds of men, women and Children marooned in various villages of TRDPs operational area of Umerkot, Tharparkar and at the bordering strip of Tharparkar with Naukot and Umerkot with Sanghar and Mirpurkhas.


It’s feared that the losses are on a great scale in this area as standing crops on thousands of acres are also affected. In Mithi and other towns of Tharparkar the prices of various

commodities are also shot up and availability of much needed items like flour, vegetables and medicines is affected as well. The area had been without electricity for four days and out of communication for about same period, private and Government infrastructure is also severely affected.

 Only way to reach Mithi is through Umerkot as Mithi-Mirpurkhas and Mithi-Badin roads are damaged at various points. Hundreds of homeless people are looking for help and rescue especially in Umerkot and the situation is likely to be deteriorated.


Photos courtesy : Manzoor Mirani


Human Rights body Condemns Mastung Massacre

September 21: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has slammed the killing of at least 29 Shia pilgrims in Tuesday’s attack on their bus near Mastung, calling the absence of security for them outrageous and adding that the killers had been emboldened by a persistent lack of action against sectarian militant groups.

A statement by the Commission said on Wednesday: “HRCP is appalled by the gruesome killing of Shia pilgrims near Mastung and finds the utter lack of protection for them outrageous, particularly when pilgrims travelling in the area had been attacked previously and were known to be at risk. HRCP is equally shocked by the official line that the authorities were not given prior intimation about the pilgrims’ bus. How convenient that instead of finding those who failed to perform their duty, the victims have been blamed. This just adds insult to injury. What good are the checkpoints set up everywhere if they cannot even find out if a vehicle using the road needs additional security?

Tuesday’s attack is a failure on many levels and exposes once again the diminishing writ of the state. HRCP believes that continued sectarian bloodshed across the country, particularly in Balochistan, is a direct consequence of the authorities’ perpetual failure to take note of sectarian killings in Quetta which have been going on for many years. It is difficult to comprehend why no action has been taken against the banned militant group that has claimed responsibility for this ghastly attack and for numerous sectarian killings earlier. How do they still manage to roam free with their weapons and vehicles?

The official condemnations that have followed the attack give little comfort to the bereaved families and no one buys the oft-repeated vows of action which never materialise. There is a complete breakdown of writ of the state with the citizens finding themselves increasingly on their own. We fear that the utter lack of competence and inability to adequately respond to the security situation is bound to contribute to further bloodshed. The government must move beyond rhetoric and its current casual and reactive approach to law and order challenges and start functioning as a responsible authority.”

Zohra Yusuf

Proxy Wars Fan Sectarian Massacre in Balochistan

The proxy wars between Saudi and Iran backed militant groups in Pakistan – linked to the US battle against the Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan – took an ugly turn this week in the lawless province of Balochistan.

On Sept 20, pilgrims traveling on a bus to Iran, were stopped by armed men near Mastung, some 30 km southeast of Quetta. Some 26 pilgrims were forced to disembark… and shot point blank after being identified as Shias. Two family members of the victims who rushed to the scene to help, were chased by gunmen and shot dead.

The Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LEJ) a Sunni Deobandi group affiliated with the Taliban, claimed responsibility. In recent months, Mastung has become a strong hold for the LEJ – whence the sectarian group emerges to inflict lethal attacks on Shias and non Muslims.

The administration’s response was mild. In Balochistan, authorities hunkered down and advised tour buses not to move around without security.

Ten years after the US toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan, today their resurgence has given the LEJ an umbrella to inflict repeated pain on Shias in Pakistan. The Iran backed Tehrik-i-Jafria, sometimes engages against the LEJ, but is no match for the antagonists.

In the last few months, the LEJ and its parent organization – Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (formerly Anjuman Sipah Sahaba Pakistan) have found a soft target in the Hazara community in Balochistan. These Shias, originally from Afghanistan, have been repeatedly killed on sectarian grounds. This week’s massacre brought nationwide protests, including Hazara women to demonstrate against the lack of safety.

Sectarian strife has escalated since LEJ chief Malik Ishaq was released from Kot Lakhpat prison, Punjab in July 2011. Although wanted in the murders of some 70 Shias, the Supreme Court reportedly released him because of the absence of witnesses. Prima facie, this seemed logical in a country where witnesses in heinous crimes have little or no protection.

But the Punjab administration failed to act against the LEJ chief even after he moved around giving hate speeches on sectarian grounds.

Victims families found cold comfort in the fact that Malik Ishaq has been temporarily detained at home after the massacre in Mastung.

Interestingly, in recent months the paradigm of sectarian violence has moved out of the Punjab into Balochistan. That comes on the heels of a blooper by the Punjab chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif… when he apparently spoke his mind in telling militants to “at least leave my province alone.”

Today, lawlessness and poor governance in Balochistan has turned it into ideal ground for sectarian outfits. Despite being declared terrorists, the organizations constantly rename themselves and avail of the type of protection they enjoyed since the days of Gen. Zia ul Haq.

The Shia massacres in Mastung mirror the brutal pattern in which Christians were killed nine years ago in Karachi. In September 2002, as the US invasion of Afghanistan dislodged the Taliban, their LEJ affiliates headed straight to the Institute for Peace and Justice in Karachi. Here, the activists – mostly Christians – were bound and gagged and shot point blank after being identified by their faith.

Today, while US presence in Afghanistan fuels national resistance, it also spawns violent extremists. As experience shows, the attempts to use militants for political gain invites more blow-back. With neighboring countries fighting their proxy wars in Pakistan, the ingredients in the cauldron turn the mix into a matter for global concern.

Pakistan’s Epic Monsoon Floods

Pakistan’s catastrophic monsoon floods of 2010 – which scientists link to climate change and global warming and which has mostly hurt the farmers who eke a living along the Indus River – have turned into a defining moment for the nation.

The world watched with disbelief as the torrential rains, which bloated the Kabul and Indus rivers, swept away hundreds of people, homes and livestock in the north of Pakistan. As bridges and hotels collapsed in the scenic Kalam and Swat valley, the northern areas of Gilgit and Baltistan were cut off from the world.

Despite this, crisis-ridden Islamabad appeared unaware and unprepared for the most devastating natural disaster in its history.

Only then – as the Indus River, swollen to nearly 12 times its normal size, wreaked havoc on villages and towns in its southward journey to the Arabian ocean – did the government wake to the existential threat to Pakistan.

“It’s like partition,” said a dazed PPP Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who compared the sheer scale of the devastation caused by the 2010 floods to the events of 1947, when Pakistan was carved out of India.

Prime Minister Gilani, who has stepped into the late Benazir Bhutto’s shoes, had the unenviable position of answering to millions of people who voted for the PPP because of its founder Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter, Benazir’s pledge to provide “Food, Clothing and Shelter” to the people.

The government came under global scrutiny as the media zeroed in on shirtless villagers stranded on highways, hands outstretched with vessels for food and drinking water. Modestly draped mothers, clutching their infants, waded through waistdeep currents, farmers sloshed through the waters with sheep on their backs and people waited for rescue helicopters on islands along river beds that looked like chapattis (an Indian flatbread) floating in gravy.

Adding insult to injury, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari chose the occasion to visit his family’s chateau in France. His meeting with President Nicholas Sarkozy was ill-timed, given that French prosecutors prepared a case against Sarkozy for funding his political campaign through kickbacks from the submarines provided to Pakistan. Zardari is also named for receiving kickbacks, although he was in prison when the French engineers building the submarines were killed in 2002.

But in July 2002, President Zardari was en route to London to coronate his eldest son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, as the party co-chairman. It was a program arranged ahead of time. As hundreds were swept away by the deluge and their sufferings appeared in the world media, his ill-timed foreign tour would send a message of disconnectedness with the people.

The US quickly demonstrated the importance it attached to Pakistan, becoming the first nation to respond with USD 50 million aid, helicopters, boats and halal meals. Helicopters were sent to the Gilgit Baltistan area to rescue stranded people. As torrential rains rushed down the denuded Koh-i-Suleman mountain range, the US coordinated with Pakistan’s federal National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the army to save villagers fl eeing the rising Indus waters in southern Punjab and Balochistan.

Early into the disaster, US Secretary Hillary Clinton took to the airwaves in Washington DC to appeal to the American public to come forward and donate to the flood victims. It was a commendable move, laced only with the irony of being issued while President Zardari fiddled in London.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s visit to flood-ravaged Pakistan and his declaration that he had before never seen such devastation gave pause to those who were listening. As the UN declared that the disaster was bigger than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2010 Haitian earthquake and Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake combined, the world reached deeper into its pockets in a gesture on a scale that seemed like it might just fulfill the humanitarian needs of the flood’s victims.

But as weeks went by and the world media depicted poor, ill fed and homeless people displaced by floods, it did nothing to win global confidence. The UN’s first fund appeal for USD 460 million fetched 70 percent of its target with great difficulty. That forced the UN to launch a second appeal for USD 2 billion. Still, as winter set in, UN officials, working hard for flood victims in Pakistan, reported that they had already run out of essential supplies.

In his visits to Washington, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureishi told the world that if it did not help Pakistan in the flood relief efforts, the nation would fall prey to militants. It was an argument repeated like a mantra. Indeed, where the PPP government had fallen short of providing for the enormous needs of flood ravaged Pakistan, Islamic fronts for jihadist organizations had emerged to dispense relief aid.

If the world needed proof that floods had not washed away the militants, they did not have to wait long. Barely had the floodwaters stopped ravaging communities in the north of Pakistan and the Punjab than the suicide bombers began detonating. A succession of suicide blasts on religious processions in Lahore, Quetta and against security officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would convince the world that the bombers were alive and ticking.

As the Indus River made its south ward journey toward the riverine areas of Sindh – wiped clean of the marshy jungles cut down at the height of the dacoit menace in 1992 – it threatened the thickly-populated towns of upper Sindh. The PPP government issued flood warnings in its home turf – Sukkur, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Shahdadkot, Dadu, Badin and the southern town of Thatta – forcing millions to evacuate their homes.

Still despite trains and bus services run by the government for the flood affected to go to Karachi, the victims preferred to take temporary shelter with relatives or simply move to higher ground. Indeed, with floods coinciding with the ethnic flare-up between Pashtuns and Mohajirs in Karachi, the rural Sindhis, already battered and robbed of their life savings, took chances with the vagaries of nature rather than a tense ethnic situation in the city.

There was high drama in Bhutto’s birthplace of Larkana, where the government worked frantically to make cuts in Kirthar canal to save the graves of Zulfi kar Ali Bhutto and his children – Benazir, Murtaza and Shahnawaz. PPP officials rushed to create a four-kilometer-long embankment around Garhi Khuda Baksh in Larkana to save the graves of the Bhuttos, whose murders have come to symbolize the eternal sufferings of the people of Pakistan.

Sindh and southern Punjab swirls with tales of feudal lords, including those from the ruling party, who arm-twisted irrigation officials to breach the dikes and save their lands. A pattern emerged where the most influential managed to protect their assets at the cost of the weakest. It would increase resentment in an environment where millions lost their crops and livestock and became internally displaced persons in their own territory.

In October 2010, a survey conducted by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank said that Pakistan’s floods caused an estimated USD 9.7 billion damages to homes, roads, farms and personal property. PPP officials called the figures grossly under-estimated. There were fears that in an agriculturally based economy like Pakistan the damage to the crops alone could be as high as USD 43 billion – 25 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product the year before.

About two thousand were killed in Pakistan’s floods – dramatically lower than the estimated eighty thousand casualties caused by the earthquake five years before. Still there was more bad news ahead, as hundreds of thousands fell victim to acute diarrhea, respiratory infections, skin disease and malaria. Children who saw their parents being washed away had been traumatized and put up for adoption.

Under world scrutiny, Pakistan made payments of PKR 20,000 (USD 233) in four installments to each family. The United Nations and civil society networks injected a modicum of transparency that involved disbursing aid after verifying the national identity cards of flood victims. Still, double payments occurred, as did complaints from families that they had received no money. With food supplies running out, the UN was faced with the difficult choice staggering the aid or giving people less than their nutritional requirements.

For the US government, the biggest concern is that the economic devastation created by the floods will fuel militancy. The army operation against the Taliban in Swat, for example, resulted in massive losses of infrastructure and livelihood for 2.9 million residents of Malakand division. Barely had government surveys reported that the division would need USD 1 billion for recovery, when the floods struck.

Awami National Party’s Minister for Information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain touched a note with the people when he declared, “First we were devastated by the terrorists. Whatever was left was finished by the floods.” For the ANP minister, it was a particularly emotional time, when, just prior to the floods, the Taliban had killed his only son.

The US would prioritize its aid programs to Pakistan with a view to thwarting potential militant attacks. In September 2010, the Obama administration diverted USD 831 million set aside under the Kerry Lugar Berman act for Pakistan’s developmental needs like energy and water and earmarked it instead for humanitarian assistance in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

But with the US and Europe waging their own financial battles for recovery, the US Coordinator for Economic and Development Assistance, Robin Raphael urged Pakistan to pass meaningful reforms, including expanding its tax base. There was a muted response from the government. The feudal ruling elite has traditionally shunned land reforms, even as the urban industrial class is hostile to suggestions that it should pay more taxes. There was consensus to raise sales tax, which would have the consequence of raising prices for already stressed consumers.

The fact that the floods struck in the post-9/11 scenario and not when the world was busy somewhere else should give pause to Pakistan’s observers. With aid coming in, the civilian government has gone into autopilot – leaving flood recovery and civilian development to foreign and international organizations. As people watch to see if the leadership cuts back on their extravagant lifestyles, the international community, too, has put Pakistan under a microscope to see if it is able to get its act together.