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Flood of Misery
Lurching from crisis to crisis
Pakistan's devastating floods follow a series of humanitarian and political disasters.
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2010 09:09 GMT

The Pakistani government - unpopular to begin with - has been roundly criticised for its response to recent flooding. Many of those affected say the government has been slow to provide food, medicine, and other basic necessities.

And the devastasting floods come on the back of a series of other humanitarian and political disasters, all of which have intensified pressure on the government.

The Wikileaks revelations

The release of more than 75,000 classified US military documents by Wikileaks left Pakistan's government scrambling to deny suggestions that its Inter-Services Intelligence agency was secretly supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The ISI has long been accused of playing a "double game" in Afghanistan. The leaked documents offered support for that theory, describing plans to funnel money and weapons to insurgents, and to build religious schools in eastern Afghanistan.

Hamid Gul, the former head of the ISI, was singled out as a particularly bad actor. His name appeared in eight different reports: One outlined a plot to use magnetic mines against Nato soldiers in Afghanistan; another detailed a plan to kidnap UN aid workers.

Gul called the allegations "a pack of lies" in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Islamabad plane crash

A few days later, a passenger jet crashed in bad weather outside Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board.

The plane, which belonged to the private Airblue airline, went down in the Margalla Hills area north of the capital. Heavy rains hampered recovery efforts, with some rescue crews traveling to the site on foot because roads were impassable.

Workers described a horrific scene at the crash site, with charred bodies scattered around the wreckage. The government declared a day of mourning in honor of the victims.

It remains unclear why the plane was flying so low in such bad weather. Officials said the flight might have been diverted on account of the rain.

Pakistani investigators recovered the plane's "black box" shortly after the crash.

Targeted killings in Karachi

Riots, killings and arson have gripped the country's commercial capital after the assassination of a local politician.

Raza Haidar, a leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was shot dead at a funeral in early August. The MQM is the party that runs Karachi, and is composed largely of Urdu speakers, many descended from migrants who fled India after the partition in 1947.

MQM's main opposition is the Awami National Party (ANP), a secular Pashtun party, which draws its support from Pashtuns who have fled to Karachi to escape fighting in northwest Pakistan.

Haidar's murder sparked a wave of sectarian killings across the city, with dozens of people - predominantly Pashtuns working in low-wage jobs, like taxi and rickshaw drivers - killed over several days. Gangs also set fire to buildings and cars.

Zardari jets off to Europe

Amidst all of this - and as his country was struggling to deal with its worst flooding in decades - Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, left for a European tour.

Zardari stopped first in France, where he met with French president Nicolas Sarkozy and visited his family's vacation chalet.

Then he flew to the United Kingdom for a five-day visit. That leg of the trip included a meeting with David Cameron, the British prime minister; and a political rally with his son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who recently finished a degree at Oxford University.

Pakistani analysts called the trip politically tone-deaf; Zardari's estranged niece, Fatima Bhutto, called it his "Katrina," a reference to former US president George Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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