Originally Published 2010-08-13 00:00:00 Published on Aug 13, 2010
The devastating floods in Pakistan have not only destroyed lives and property across the country but also seriously undermined the civilian government's reputation among the people.
Floods in Pakistan- An Assessment
The devastating floods in Pakistan have not only destroyed lives and property across the country but also seriously undermined the civilian government’s reputation among the people. The colossal failure of the government and its organisations to launch rescue and relief operations helped jihadi organisations and the Army to regain the respect of the people, a factor which will have serious ramifications for India and the region in the near future. President Asif Ali Zardari’s untimely foreign jaunts and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani’s fumbled response to the disaster have raised questions about the future electoral prospects of Pakistan People’s Party.

Extent of Damage

According to United Nations estimates floods in Pakistan have killed about 1600 people and uprooted close to 4.5 million. Affected regions include Chitral, Gilgit-Baltistan, Swat, Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Southern Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. Areas of KP and southern Punjab are the worst hit.  Swollen Indus and Chenab rivers have caused a mass exodus, with most people moving from one camp to another as each district successively gets flooded. Spread of water borne diseases has emerged as a major concern and the overall situation is grim as rains continue to pour.

Relief, rehabilitation and aid

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which was set up after the 2005 earthquake,  has proved to be slow and inefficient in its response to the crisis. NDMA’s officials estimate that relief work would only be completed by November end.

Pakistan army has taken the initiative with some 30,000 Pakistani soldiers rebuilding bridges, delivering food and setting up relief camps in the northwest, which incidentally is the main battleground in the fight against Al-Qaida and the Taliban.

International aid has been slower and lesser to come by. International charity organizations like OXFAM point out that the figures are lower when compared to that received during the Haiti disaster. The lack of confidence in the government’s ability to spend the aid money effectively has been an obstacle. Credible international and local organizations have been encouraged to step in.

United Kingdom (U.K) and United States (U.S) have emerged as the highest donors committing US$ 32 million and US$ 22 million respectively. U.N food program has a significant presence in the region. Aid, relief and rehabilitation measures have so far been delayed and inadequate.

Economic repercussions

Losses due to the floods are estimated to be more than those suffered in the 2005 earthquake. Agriculture sector which accounts for 21% of the GDP and employs about 45% of the labour force has suffered extensive losses with cotton, rice, sugarcane, tobacco and fruit orchards etc undergoing considerable damage. Residences, industries and infrastructure facilities have suffered likewise. According to IMF estimates, Pakistan will miss its 4.5 % GDP growth target this year. This does not bode well for an already fragile economy

Political aspects

The Prime Minister expressed the incapability of the government to deal with a crisis of this magnitude alone. President Zardari’s European tour has caused considerable angst. The delayed and ineffective official response has also become subject to severe criticism within the country.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan meanwhile announced the abating of terror strikes in flood hit areas. The Taliban was quoted as saying that the floods were a message that ‘people should seek forgiveness’ for siding with the Americans and ‘pledge support to the Mujahideen and Islam’.

Falah –e-Insaniat, relief wing for Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) (parent organisation of  Lashkar-e-Tayyeba), has set up  12 medical facilities, providing cooked food for 100,000 people every day, and planning to open shelters .The spokesman of the foundation was quoted as saying that given the magnitude of the tragedy, aid even form U.S and India would be appreciated.


The magnitude of the disaster has crippled the government’s ability to respond. The state has in a way violated its social contract by not being able to protect the lives of its citizens. The Prime Minister’s desperate public appeal serves to reinforce this idea. President Zardari’s ill-timed European visit has also worsened the political situation.

The Army has again proved to be one of the most efficient organizations in the country, coupled with General Kayani’s extension, this will only tilt the balance of political power in the Army’s favour.

Jihadi organizations like JuD have come to the forefront to help the affected victims which will create more political hurdles in the way of dismantling the terror infrastructure in the country.
India has in a delayed response offered US$ 5 million in aid relief. The tentativeness probably stemming from the bitter experience in 2005, when Pakistan did not use Indian cash contribution and the ’Indian’ tag was ripped off relief material before being distributed. Pakistan will ’decide’ on the Indian aid offer after gauging international response. Disappointingly, political constraints remain priority even in the face of a calamity of such a magnitude.

Akhilesh Variar is Research Assistant, ORF

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