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Pakistan: Anger Mounts At President's Apathy

Flood relief distribution in Pakistan, Ausgust 2, 2010. Image by Flickr user Globovisión. CC BY-NC

Over 1500 people have lost their live in the recent episode of torrential rains resulting in floods in various areas of Pakistan. Thousands have become homeless and many more are fleeing fearing hunger and death. According to the United Nations estimates over 4 million people have been effected by the recent disaster. While heavy floods have wrecked havoc in the northern areas of the country, target killing and ethnic clashes continue to haunt the metropolitan hub, Karachi. At least 62 people have lost their lives, in three-days of violence following the assassination of a politician. The grief turned in to fury as the President embarked on a foreign trip despite the abysmal conditions in the country and overlooking staunch opposition.

Many on twitter, including politicians, have joined in to criticize President's Europe Trip:

@ijazulhaq: The President continues his private vacation while the people are suffering. Leaders moving for photo opportunities.

@Naeem705: Welcome to pakistan! <zardari pvt limited>, we are a limited liability company! (taxes apply @ 10%)

@Amna_Saeed: Can't believe Zardari is chilling in Europe while our people are dying in these floods. Wth!? How does he sleep?

@bentusman: The New York Times, Telegrah, The Independent The Sun, The Daily Mirror +others reminded Asif Zardari to return to Pakistan #shame #pkfloods

@fbhutto: 32 killed in Karachi over MP's murder. 2.5 million affected by floods. President chilling in the UK. And begging. Mostly chilling though.

Needless to say Pakistan is going through a critical phase. With death toll mounting everyday the need for better disaster management strategy becomes crucial, may it be natural disasters or civil unrest. However, with the President being indifferent to the worsening situation, getting the situation under control has become tougher.

In a post titled “A Time For Governance” Naveen Naqvi emphasized on the importance of governance, with a tinge of anger:

The financial capital of Pakistan is made a ghost town with deserted streets, business at a standstill, and petrol pumps, offices and shops closed. It is not as though we could not have predicted the flare up of tension. After all, the target killings of MQM and ANP activists or the armed conflict between Muhajirs and Pathans has been continuing unchecked for a few months now (..) Where most Pakistanis have been complaining about the long wait for governance, here is yet another opportunity missed. An increasing number of people are questioning the sincerity of an already unpopular leader, Asif Ali Zardari. Why would the President cancel his visit to Europe? Why would he stay with his people at their hour of need and weather the storm with them? The answer that seems to come most readily is that he does not care.

Kalsoom Lakhani at CHUP reiterates the anger and frustration at the President:

Given this enormous devastation, [as well as the wave of targeted killings in Karachi that have killed 47 people after the assassination of MQM's Raza Haider], it is no bloody wonder that the country is pissed off at President Asif Ali Zardari, who is off on a jaunt around Europe while Pakistan is drowning. Regardless whether Zardari is needed to make decisions related to disaster relief or he is merely a figurehead, the decision to press forward with his tour comes across as callous and disconnected, and does not bode well for his already dismal popularity ratings.

Towards the end of her post Kalsoom makes a very valid point:

While this is certainly a time to be angry at our leadership, or lack thereof, it’s also a time to concentrate our energy towards helping the many people in need.

Perhaps what Pakistan needs the most now is to concentrate on helping those that have been effected by the floods and focus on the need to control the growing civic unrest. The title of Kalsoom's post is most apt - Pakistan needs to turn it's grief into action.

  • Jeddy

    With this rage over the president’s going abroad in a time at the time of a nationwide crisis. All official visits in which tremendous amount of the tax payers money goes in providing comfortable flights to them, will be seen as thing is wrong. Pre-Internet years I started distributing pamphlets condemning these international official visits as a tremendous waste of money.Musharraf and Zardari all the other politicians do the same once in power. They travel abroad because they have nothing to give to the people of Pakistan. These are bunch of idiots who are completely corrupt, unable to think about the things which concern people. High prices and unemployment being the most important. A taxi driver said he was soooo fed up with Musharraf always going abroad, whereas he is doing two jobs, driving the taxi and later driving an ambulance and still cannot save enough money to see his wife and kids in Hyderabad.

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