Anger and desperation grip Pakistani village

Imran Khan

    Just a few hours outside of the capital Islamabad and deep into the Pakistani countryside I visit one village affected by the floods.

    Risalabad village is its name and as I walk along the road I see several makeshift tents.

    Suddenly, I am surrounded by homeless villagers.

    My Western clothing marks me out, many wonder whether I have brought aid with me, others just look right at me, the pain evident in their eyes.

    One man takes me from the makeshift village and into the heart of the destruction.

    Zarwali Khan was at home when the rains began. At first he was thankful for some respite from the punishing heat.

    "Then rains got harder and harder, and my family began to panic, saying water's coming, water's coming," says Khan.

    "We ran to higher ground wearing nothing but the clothes on our backs."

    Whooshing sound

    As he reached higher ground, Khan heard a whooshing sound, unlike anything he's heard before.

    The Swat valley river had burst its banks. The river is five or so kilometres from the village. Within minutes it's underwater.

    I stand in what was once a street and imagine that rush of water coat the village. Within 15 minutes the now submerged village begins to fall apart.

    All around me, buried in thick brown mud, are the artefacts of everyday life.

    This was a poor village. Khan had 15 members of his family living with him. They had just two rooms. Two rooms they all called home.

    As he speaks, his daughter sits by us, rolling the mud into balls.

    She's too young to understand what happened. All she knows is now she must live under a tent.

    I see her father give her loving look.

    "When I come back here my heart breaks that we have lost everything, but I thank god all of my family is safe," says Khan.

    "These material things, god willing, will come again. But your family, once lost, is always lost."


    As he takes me around the village the stench rises. Dead animals have been buried under the rubble for days now.

    My boots sink into mud. There has been no rain for five days now, but still the water clogs the soil. It feels like it rained just an hour ago.

    Khan and his family humble me by offering me water. A precious commodity here.

    As no one died from the village, food aid and other supplies have not yet reached here.

    Village anger

    The simple maths of charity mean that other, worst affected areas, have been given priority. These people have nothing.

    The villagers are clearly angry about this.

    In one tent, a sick child lies still. He is a statistic in the grand scheme of things, just one of the millions displaced.

    But in this village he is a son, a younger brother, a cousin. His name is Khan. I manage a smile when a villager tells me that in broken English.

    It's the title of a very famous Bollywood film.

    I look out across the broken, battered village. It will be a long time before families gather in living rooms to watch movies, to talk, to share.

    At least can leave. And I leave behind me desperate people in desperate times.


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