Sunday, August 8, 2010

The floods in Pakistan

Natural disasters are testing times for governments as Bush found out during Katrina. The current floods in Pakistan have been a test for the Zardari/Gilani government which it seems to have failed miserably. That it would not be able to cope with the natural disaster was a given. The poor infrastructure which is a reflection of the lack of governance made it certain that the government could not respond. Zardari compounded the problem by showing a lack of sensitivity that put Bush in Clinton territory.

President Asif Zardari's trip to France and Britain as the floods raged last week created an image of an indifferent, arrogant leadership, say critics. Already unpopular, Zardari faced protests on Saturday at a rally for his Pakistan Peoples party in Birmingham, with one demonstrator trying to throw a shoe at him.

"Even when governments can't cope, they can at least show empathy. That was missing," said Ayaz Amir, a newspaper columnist and member of parliament for the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (N). "Who was the first person on the scene? The army chief. This has really cost [Zardari] heavily. This image will linger.

"The image of President Zardari visiting his chateau in France, while there was devastating flooding in Pakistan: this will have long-term effects."

... images of what some have dubbed Zardari's "joy ride" have played continuously on Pakistani TV, adding to public anger.

Zardari's party, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), with the help of a compliant police force, decided to shoot the messenger.
Transmission of Geo TV was blocked in some parts of the country and copies of The News and the daily Jang burnt in a few areas of Karachi and Sindh on Sunday as the media group gave coverage to the hurling of shoes at President Asif Ali Zardari during his party address in Birmingham.

Many offices of cable operators in Karachi were set ablaze by angry activists of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Newspaper vendors were robbed of copies of The News and the daily Jang upon the direction of PPP leaders, besides, PPP workers were accompanied by police officials in hurling threats at cable operators and hawkers, sources told the media.
While the US is trying to turn the floods into an opportunity to win hearts and minds it is not alone in this endeavor. The groups most active in relief operations are the Islamist groups which are accused of being fronts for jihadi organizations. More rains are forecast.

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