ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Pakistan: Rescuing a Drowning State

The floods in Pakistan are a humanitarian disaster of massive proportions, yet international assistance has been slow to come due to the purported lack of credibility of the State. The Pakistani state has been weakened over decades of abuse, in which the west has been complicit. Today this is being used to further discredit and weaken the State, a course which will only strengthen the military establishment and the militants. The international community should understand that aid needs to be given in large amounts and in ways which reinforce the legitimacy of the State.

A cruel month of unprecedented floods and widespread displace- ment of people has virtually broken Pakistan’s back. The international community is yet to show its full resolve in helping a country in dire need. Twenty million people or more may have lost their homes and livelihoods and remain acutely vulnerable to disease. As estimated by the United Nations (UN), nearly 10 million are without food and water and Pakistan’s cumulative losses are tentatively pegged at $20 billion. This should have been enough to propel the world into action, if not on the basis of a humane response but even on a utilitarian calculation, given Pakistan’s strategic placement in the world and its inherent instability. But the response has been slower than expected and scepticism pervades the mainstream discourse on saving Pakistan.1

The reasons for this slow response have been speciously understood in the context of the civilian government in power. Nevertheless, the real distrust shown by the world is at the Pakistani state and not the quasi-autonomous government in power. The situation is also reflective of the disingenuousness of the international opinionmakers and power-centres in labelling Pakistan as a place with an “image problem”. Elizabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, recently remarked, “We note often an image deficit with regard to Pakistan among Western public opinion. As a result, Pakistan is among countries that are poorly financed, like Yemen.” If image was really an issue then perhaps the United States should not even be coming close to a wide variety of states in Asia, Latin America and the Arab world. But this is about iniquitous power relations.

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