A natural, political crisis

Pakistan’s government has been heavily criticised over its response to sweeping floods, but will it now plan for future

There are times, few and far between I might add, that flying has its benefits.

Arriving into Pakistan from London I got a birds eye view of the massive flood that has left millions stranded and, according to some estimates, nearly 1,300 people dead.

From this height the water shimmers in the sun. Huge swathes of the countryside seem to be covered.

That this is a tragedy is beyond doubt, but what is in doubt is the government’s response to it.

Over the last few days the administration has been hugely criticised by a cross section of Pakistani society.

In the Swat valley, in the country’s northwest, many complain of aid not getting through.

One man who I spoke to, Min Hajuddin was blunt. “President Asif Ali Zardari is simply useless.” It seems to be a common refrain.

The president is currently on a tour of Europe where he will visit the UK.

His visit comes after scathing comments by David Cameron, the British prime minister, accusing Pakistan of playing a double game when it comes to terrorism.

That Zardari will shake hands with Cameron whilst Pakistanis die in the floods has not won him much acclaim.

But it’s not just him. Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Reza Gilani has only been seen once since this crisis began.

All in all its a PR disaster for the government.

There is some hope though. Donors are making pledges and some are even in the process of delivering much needed aid. This has given the government a much needed boost.

However, could this crisis have been averted?

Well, yes and no, according to experts. The country’s natural disaster management has always seemed to be in a reactive rather active mode. There has been little forward planning to deal with such events.

In the coming days and months the focus will be on immediate relief, but at what point though will Pakistan decide to plan for the inevitable natural disasters still to come?

That was what one passenger asked me as we both looked out of the window as our plane descended into a country once again gripped by crisis.

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