PAKISTAN

"The President’s absence gives fundamentalist groups the opportunity to infiltrate the region"

Aid distribution in Pakistan. Photo published on by the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organization of 13 UK NGOs. They have no links to militants. One of our Observers in Pakistan condemns Zardari’s tour of France and Britain, asserting that the lack of civilian leadership in overseeing flood relief efforts is allowing militants to infiltrate the region and recruit new members.

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Aid distribution in Pakistan. Photo published on flickr by the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organization of 13 UK NGOs. They have no links to militants.

One of our Observers in Pakistan condemns Zardari’s tour of France and Britain, asserting that the lack of civilian leadership in overseeing flood relief efforts is allowing militants to infiltrate the region and recruit new members.

The flooding in the northern regions of Pakistan have killed around 15,000 people and left several thousand homeless. The people of northern Pakistan are awaiting much-needed aid whilst their president is on a diplomatic tour in Europe. Meanwhile, charitable organisations affiliated with militant groups, notably Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation, are distributing aid.

Sana Saleem is a prominent blogger and social activist from Karachi.

The President’s absence is very symbolic - the people in the northern region feel abandoned. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the government’s disaster management is abysmal and gives fundamentalist groups the opportunity to infiltrate the region. NGOs are always the first to arrive because the government’s civil response is so slow; this means that the conditions are ideal for the fundamentalist groups to recruit new people.

I don’t blame the people - they are desperate. They were affected by the earthquake in 2005 (although aid and media attention was biased towards Kashmir), then by army clashes with the Taliban insurgents. On each occasion the militants have infiltrated the civilian population. Already they feel neglected in that region as there is so little infrastructure - for many of the children, the only way to get an education is through the madrasas. What choice do these people have if the government abandons them and doesn’t do what it is supposed to? Zardari’s actions are foolish and people here are angry.

Although technically Pakistan is a democracy, the fact that the president is out of the country, the militants are dealing with the relief efforts, and the government response is not civilian but military speaks volumes about the state of our democracy. Who is running the country? Zardari should come back and his priority should be getting aid to the people who need it, because if the situation is not tackled soon then this could be a huge security problem in the future."