Saturday, October 23, 2010

Playing politics with Pakistan's flood relief

Mariam Mufti: The scale of the calamitous floods experienced in Pakistan after the monsoonal rains this year has quite clearly been beyond the capacity of an administratively and financially drained state. But instead of concentrating on the flooding itself, the media and political analysts have instead concentrated on revelations made about Pakistan's apparent double game in Afghanistan and on criticizing the government severely after President Zardari made the politically unwise decision to leave Pakistan after the onset of the flood for a state trip to Europe. The disaster wreaked by the floods has also been analyzed through the lens of terrorism and corruption, rhetoric that is commonly used when talking about Pakistan, taking away the focus from the flood and the vulnerability of Pakistan's population.

This vulnerability is both physical and institutional. Much of the death and destruction that has ensued since the floods began could have been prevented if the institutions responsible for the provision of security (the Pakistani government and the irrigation department in particular) had responded more effectively to the crisis. An uncritical media has reproduced not only stereotypical depiction of hazards and disasters as natural but, in this particular case, has contributed to vulnerability by creating a particular depiction of Pakistan, its people and government. Furthermore, vulnerability of the Pakistani state needs to be examined at yet another level and that is the dependency of the government on foreign aid and its alliance with the United States for its sustenance.

The lack of capacity and expertise of the Pakistani government was made apparent by the mismanagement of the national disaster and the unsatisfactory response to provide relief to the flood-affected areas. There has been a complete lack of initiative taken by the Pakistani government towards natural disaster management and relief, whether after the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, Cyclone Yemyin in 2007, an earthquake in Ziarat district in Baluchistan in 2008, or the current flooding….

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