It is ridiculous to suggest the sluggish response from the donor-world to Pakistan's utter devastation is not related to that country's terrorism troubles, but does it have a president who can stop hard-line Islamists from winning the hearts and minds?
Well knock me over with a feather…Islamist groups are trying to win the hearts and minds of utterly distraught Pakistanis, 20 million or so who have so far been cut adrift literally by yet another natural disaster, and figuratively (well on second thought literally also) by yet another seemingly corrupt and uncaring government.
President Asif Ali Zardari has of course now deigned to return to his flooded nation following an extraordinarily good sojourn swanning around
One minute a baby-faced Tory leader with five seconds experience is lecturing a volatile nation at the crossroads of the world’s key current problems and triggering an outcry of racism and preference for
But that is mere piffle in the face of what is actually going on in
It is no surprise that charity and terrorism do not mix – well not in the so-called Western donating world, as the relatively miserable trickle of funds so far pledged or actually given would indicate.
To suggest that this is anything but a reaction to
“Psst…got a few extra mill to chuck off into the great unknown of Taliban and terrorism?”
Not likely…unfortunately for those who are bereft of a present and a future.
Who is going to give money, in serious enough wads, to a country where no-one even seems to be able to fully account for the billions the Americans have poured in over the years, ostensibly tagged to fight terrorism and corruption, but suspected of just as likely funding terrorism and corruption.
Where will aid dollars go? Into whose pocket? Which tribal group will be favoured over another?
Is this all a bunch of convenient excuses to refrain from opening our wallets? That may be a little harsh, but there will be an element of truth in it.
Some within the
And as per usual it is the masses who suffer from the ineptitude of inept governments. The vast majority of Pakistanis are trying to get on with their lives, avoid extremism, make a living and ensure there’s a future for their children. Oh how the gods have conspired.
The humanitarian disaster was not helped by the fact that it took days for the Pakistani administration to realise – or perhaps acknowledge- the magnitude of what had hit its charges … now about one quarter of the country is under water and cholera has been confirmed.
It has been the perfect storm for hard-line Islamist intervention to fill a glaring void. Public anger with government can be intensified when the job of medicating and feeding starving and thirsty infants and elderly is done by militant organizations. When the flood waters reside, as they will, it will be those who have gone out of their way to restore some sort of dignity to those who have had all their meagre possessions washed away who will be remembered.
That is Zardari’s issue now. While he was in
NATO can go into places announcing its intention to win hearts and minds, but they have no mortgage on this as a strategy.
The obvious worries strobe for all to see -a deeply unpopular administration; a restless army; a vigilant and wily extremist reality determined to make sure this crisis does not go to waste. Oh and don’t forget the nuclear capacity.
If President Zardari does not recognize the need for him to show leadership he may well find he soon has little to lead. His country has been devastated and the world has not exactly shrugged its shoulders, but done not much more in terms of aid that usually flows in to natural disasters.
This is Zardari’s chance to show he can get it together…not swan off on another European tour. The ‘rich’ world needs a confidence trigger so the aid that is needed now and well into the future will eventuate and prove to Pakistanis they don’t have to back various strains of extremism and the Taliban in general to be delivered from this unholy disaster.