Pakistan today stands devastated from North to South by unprecedented floods in which nearly 20 million people are critically affected, whole villages destroyed and widespread devastation of infrastructure has taken place. International estimates peg the figure at US$ 20 billion as crucial flood relief required to put Pakistan back on its feet. This is beyond Pakistan’s own finances where the Pakistan Army appropriates at least 30% of the national budget for its military adventurism against India and Afghanistan besides the billion of dollars provided by the United States.
International aid especially in terms of substantial funds is not forthcoming as it is being held back by Pakistan’s international political image. There is a widespread belief in the international community that the Pakistan Army is liable to divert such aid to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations under its control. Politicization of flood relief also bedevils flood relief in the current crisis
Such a perception about Pakistan is not without foundation as in the 2008 earthquake vast sums of international relief aid did not reach the intended victims. So if funds are now not flowing into Pakistan it is a case of external donors being once bitten and being twice shy.
Notably, it was logically expected that the oil-rich Islamic nations of the Organization of Islamic Countries, Pakistan’s traditional supporters on the Kashmir issue, would loosen their purse strings and contribute generously to aid Pakistan and their co-religionists in their hour of agony. Surprisingly, this has not taken place. It should be a sobering lesson for the Pakistan Army that when the chips are down its Islamic patrons would not go beyond plain rhetoric.
The European countries, many of whom are ardent supporters of bolstering the Pakistan Army, more out of fear of Pakistan Army’s nuclear waywardness, and also do not tire sermonizing on Kashmir to gain brownie points with Pakistan Army, have announced measly sums of flood relief.
No information is available to this Columnist as to what quantum of flood relief aid for Pakistan has been announced by China the patron-in chief of the Pakistan Army. If it would have been substantial then it would have made headlines, but it doesn’t seem so.
India in a spirit of good neighborliness despite Pakistan Army’s adversarial stances, made an offer of $5 million to be followed by more. Despite two personal calls made by the Indian Prime Minister to his Pakistani counterpart, no response has been forthcoming in terms of acceptance. Pakistan sources indicate that the Pakistan Prime Minister has been so far silent probably under pressure from the Pakistan Army that India would reap political capital from this gesture.
An indication emerged from the statements of a retired Pakistani Air Vice Marshal on a an Indian channel TY debate that what stopped India from donating the aid relief offer to the UN Fund rather than making it a bilateral affair. It seems that Pakistan cannot restrain itself from politicizing even human tragedy issues to score a political edge over India.
But then this sort of politicization of flood relief is taking place within Pakistan itself amongst the various stakeholders all jostling for scoring perception-points from the Pakistan citizenry.
The Pakistan Army has seized the moment as a wonderful opportunity to shore up its image with its countrymen. With all disaster-management resources only available with it the Pakistan Army was expected to be far more galvanized to provide effective and speedy flood relief. It does not seem to be happening so going by the media visuals emanating.
Competing with the Pakistan Army in terms of provision of flood relief are the various Islamist right-wing organizations and they seem to be more effective. It is a repeat performance of the 2008 earthquake relief operations within Pakistan.
For Pakistan’s hapless citizens whose lives stand destroyed or disrupted by this natural calamity it must be disappointing and frustrating that external donors are holding back aid because of their mistrust of the Pakistan Army that like in the past such monetary and materiel aid could possibly end up in being diverted from its intended legitimate aims.
Sadly a question that arises is as to why miseries are piling on the innocent common citizens of Pakistan from terrorism, to suicide bombings, to attempted Talibanization of their social mores and now Nature itself unleashing its fury on Pakistan as possibly a ‘wake-up’ call to its rulers.
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