Tariq Ali on the responses to the floods in Pakistan for Counterpunch, August 27, 2010
A disaster of biblical scope: the floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains a month ago have affected more than 17.2 million people and killed over 1,500, according to Pakistan’s disaster management body. August is the monsoon season in Pakistan. This year a hard rain keeps falling, which is why the floodwaters are not abating. Nearly two thousand deaths and over 20 million people are homeless. The man-made disasters—war in Afghanistan, its spillage into Pakistan—are bad enough. Now the country faces its worst ever natural disaster. Most governments would find it difficult to cope, but the current regime is virtually paralyzed.
Over the last sixty years, the ruling elite in the country has never been able to construct a social infrastructure for its people. This is a structural defect that goes deep and affects the bulk of the population adversely. Today the country’s rulers eagerly follow the neoliberal dictates of the IMF, to keep the loans flowing. Not helpful at the best of times they are useless when the country is undergoing its worst humanitarian crisis of recent decades.
The response of the West has been less than generous causing panic in Islamabad with pro-US journalists in the country pleading that if help is not forthcoming the terrorists might take over the country. This is nonsense. The Pakistani Army is firmly in control of the flood-relief effort. The religious groups and others too are raising money and helping the homeless. It’s normal.
Since 9/11 a rampant Islamophobia has gripped Europe and parts of North America. A recent opinion-poll in “multicultural Britain” revealed that when asked what their first thought was on hearing the word “Islam” over fifty percent replied “Terrorist”. France and Germany, Holland and Denmark, are no different. read more