Monday, August 16, 2010

Pakistan: from floods to revolution?

The government's shambling response to floods that have affected a third of the country has some analysts saying that President Asif Ali Zardari could be forced from office, possibly by the military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half its 63-year history.
It's clear to some observers that the full impact of the flood on the political system won't be felt in the coming days, but in the coming months.  More from a blogger about this at THERE LIVE. 

As the extent of human suffering has becomes more apparent, the tepid response of the world community to the disaster is conspicuous.   Comparable recent disasters in Haiti and Indonesia had raised ten times as much aid money by this point.   Both the State Department and the British prime minister are making an effort to solicit donations for the Pakistan floods directly from citizens.   That's all well and good up to a point.  Maybe the public will respond.  But I hope leaders aren't passing around the collection plate because these politicians see no domestic political support for unilaterally making large donations to relief efforts on behalf of taxpayers conditioned by the media to view Pakistan in the worst possible light.   I hope Western leaders are not counting on public donations.  That would be short-sighted, to say the least.  

The above map, dated Aug. 3, is from US Central Command, which is posting updates about the mobilization of the US military in response to the floods.  The map indicates that nearly one-third of Pakistan has been impacted by the disaster.   According to their post dated Aug. 13:
U.S. choppers picked up at least 2,700 flood victims in the Swat Valley over the past week, and delivered bags of flour and biscuits. We’re sending additional helicopters, too:  19 new heavy-lift helicopters — 12 CH-46E Sea Knights, four CH-53E Super Stallions and three MH-53E Sea Dragons — are aboard the USS Peleliu [shown in photo], part of a Marine expeditionary unit that has been positioned off the Pakistani coast to aid the effort. The new choppers will relieve four Chinooks and two Black Hawks, based in Afghanistan, that were sent here along with 90 troops on an emergency basis last week.
It sounds to me as if that "marine expeditionary unit" amounts to only one ship and some choppers.  You would think with all the US military assets in the region, they could be doing much more.

Medicins Sans Frontiers  has about 1,000 workers on the ground in Pakistan providing emergency medical care and support to flood victims.  You can donate online.

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