500,000 evacuated from Jacobabad as Floodwaters head toward Sindh

As Pakistan’s massive flooding continues, Some 500,000 people have been forced to evacuate the Sindhi city of Jacobabad, suddenly finding themselves homeless. Ordinarily this sort of catastrophe would be news in itself, but with 4 million or so Pakistanis displaced, it is just one more piece of bad news. In one area of Sindh, 25,000 villages are under water and 1.6 million people have been marooned.

Alex Rodriguez of the LAT in Muzaffargarh reports that the inundation is likely to have a long-term bad effect on Pakistani agriculture in south Punjab, killing mango trees and swamping rice paddies and sugar cane fields. Over two-thirds of farmers in the southern district of Muzaffargarh are affected. In fact nearly one and a half million acres of farm land has been affected, to the tune of $1 billion in losses. (A dollar goes a long way in Pakistan, so a billion of them is a pretty frightening number). Half of Pakistan’s work force is in agriculture, though that sector only accounts for 1/4 of the country’s gross national product. The damage to this sector seems likely, Rodriguez reports, to keep Pakistan from reaching its target growth of 4.5 percent this year. Pakistan has a high birth rate, so it needs to grow eight percent a year for people to get ahead on a per capita basis. At this rate this year Pakistanis will at most stand still economically, and every lost year is a threat to the country’s long-term prospects for stability.

ITN Reports that much of Pakistan now lacks clean water, a major public health dilemma that could especially harm infants.

Aljazeera English reports on the impact of the floods on the remaining Afghan refugees in northern Pakistan:

The huge natural disaster has become politicized. Some observers feel that a prompt, effective and visible American relief effort could win many friends for the US among the Pakistani public, which has long been suspicious of and hostile to Washington. In contrast, Ahmad Rashid argues that the disruption of the country presents an opportunity for the radical Muslim fundamentalists, the Pakistani Taliban, to gain in popularity at the West’s expense.

Certainly, President Asaf Ali Zardari, hailing from the relatively secular and center-left Pakistan People’s Party, has given secular governance a bad name. Zardari was widely pilloried for a posh visit to Europe in the midst of the crisis. That the Muslim fundamentalists could make hay with the PPP’s image problems is certainly possible, though most Pakistanis do not approve of fundamentalism.

12 Responses

  1. Oh great, time for the USA to pay up again.

    At least four million US citizens are long-term unemployed who have exhausted all benefits, the so-called “99ers”, who have been abandoned by their Congress and their President.

    We are told there there is no money available to help the 99ers, in spite of the fact that numerous economists of impeccable credentials have urgently recommended an extension of unemployment benefits as an effective measure of economic stimulus.

    And yet there is money to send to Pakistan, and money for unwinnable wars of shameless exploitation, which devastate civilian populations. How about the Saudis step up and pay for this one? America needs to take care of its own first.

    • /Agree Redpossum,

      Unfortunately Empires are expensive things to maintain. No surprise that the British willingly handed over the reigns to their Empire to the US after Suez. They had simply had enough.

      On Pakistan either the US should commit to a mini Marshall Plan or should withdraw from the entire region with the help of India and Iran for containment purposes. If you are not willing to spend enough to fix Pakistan society no point spending billions bombing Afghanistan.

  2. Today is the Pakistani Independence Day.
    Pakistan Zinzibad !!!
    Pakistan forever !!!
    Sooooo sad to hear about the problems in Pakistan. The US should leave South Asia and not make their lives worse than it would be otherwise.

  3. That is a very predictable response Red Possum. What could have been achieved if the money spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had been spent in the US? Still it is a concern and it seems to be the case in Germany, for instance, that there is a disinclination among the general population to support aid for those people affected by the Pakistan floods, although the German Government has doubled its commitment of aid.

    From what I hear and understand, the floods in Pakistan and the fires in Russia, are somehow related to, or attributable to, a blockage of the Jetstream, which may or may not be a product of global warming. The problem evidence of “aid fatigue” suggest it may be prudent might be to set up a global fund in anticipation of future extreme weather events that will follow climate change. The EU, at least, is moving in this direction.

  4. We have been spending billion of dollars in Pakistan, especially on the military, and Pakistan already has a large and powerful military, so why not use the military for civilian assistance rather than for needlessly warring?

  5. During the first Gulf War, money was never a problem. During that war, never herd President asking congress to approve billions of dollars for any aspect of the war. Same is true for Iran Contra war also.

    Bush Senior was bringing democracy to Kuwait, & Saudis were footing the bill.

    This time money has really become the problem since it is going from US treasury for the war of choice, chosen by Bush Jr, Tony Blair & lied to the public. Money has start pinching every one.

    Many times “loan money” given to many countries with many strings attached with hefty interest rate is normally called “AID”. Just call it loan that is what it is. Why is it called AID?

    If it is just aid then why every third world country is under the burden of Billions of dollars of debt?

    • “This time money has really become the problem since it is going from US treasury for the war of choice, chosen by Bush Jr, Tony Blair & lied to the public.”

      Please do not offend Obama by excluding him from the list. He is doing his best to show that he can do better than Bush, in every aspect, including civil liberties. See ACLU interview on Obama’s performance
      link to democracynow.org

  6. The humanitarian consequences of this flooding are appalling. In the next 6 months, with crops and seed stores destroyed in most of Pakistan’s agricultural areas, the chances of famine in Pakistan and Afghanistan must now be high. It is a massive relief that the Sukkur and Kotri barrages (The essential iinfrastructure for South Pakistan’s agriculture) have so far remained intact – their loss would have probably marked the end of Pakistan as a unitary state.

    The only chance of avoiding famine is massive international support through international institutions such as the world bank, as the image of Pakistan (and the vilification of muslims generally) is such that individual government will find it difficult to make commitments.

    The geopolitical consequences are also going to be ongoing. NATO’s main supply lines through Pakistan into Afghanistan are now cut and noone knows how long it will take for them to be reestablished. The short-fall can perhaps be made up through upgrades to the Northern Distribution Network which goes through Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – but this supply line has limited capacity until a rail link from Uzbekistan to Mazar-e-Sharif can be completed. Air transport of essential items from Bahrain is going to massively increase the costs of the occupation.

    Through Al Jazeera, it is clear that the NATO forces will be looking to purchase more food locally (presented as a way of helping the locals – which might be more convincing if put into place a few years ago).

    But the major consequence for the US occupation of Afghanistan is that the whole effort is currently entirely dependent on the goodwill of Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in keeping supply lines open.

    Perhaps the first consequence of this game changer can be seen in the Kremlin’s willingness to go ahead with charging the Bushehr nuclear reactor which seems to have met no real resistance from the White House.

  7. RedPossum suggests we “let Saudi pay for it”. They will pay for it…and it will be a sure way to increase fundamentalism in the area, as Saudi already spends a great deal of money on spreading its brand of wahabism. Why give them chances to do more of that?

  8. Pakistan has a high birth rate, so it needs to grow eight percent a year for people to get ahead on a per capita basis. At this rate this year Pakistanis will at most stand still economically, and every lost year is a threat to the country’s long-term prospects for stability.

    Seeing growth as the solution to an overpopulation issue seems akin to seeing an increase in rash as a sign that a case of poison ivy is abating.

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