Pakistan floods continue on rain forecasts, further delaying aid distribution

Authorities battling Pakistan floods have forecast heavy monsoon rains and exceptionally high levels for the Indus River at two dams in Sindh Province.

Evan Schneider/AFP/UN Photo/Newscom
This image released by the United Nations shows a view of the flooding in the province of Punjab, near the city of Multan, in Pakistan, August 15. UN chief Ban Ki-moon pledged to speed up international aid for as many as 20 million people hit by Pakistan's floods, warning the "heart-wrenching" disaster was far from over.

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With forecasts for more rain, Pakistan warned Monday of increased flooding this week, which also threatens to disrupt aid distribution and increase the devastation that has already affected 20 million people.

The slow nature of the government’s response to the Pakistani floods, and the presence of militant networks providing aid, has caused worry that the flooding will further destabilize a nation already fighting terrorist groups for control of its own territory.

The Pakistani daily Dawn reports that heavy rain was falling Monday in Sukkur, in the southern province of Sindh. Bloomberg reports that Pakistani authorities have forecast heavy monsoon rains and exceptionally high levels of the Indus River at two dams in the Sindh Province over the next two days. Heavy rain is also expected in the northern province of Punjab, where the Indus had fallen to slightly lower levels.

Thousands of people are being evacuated in Sindh as the river swells above its banks, reports Al Jazeera.

The flooding is already thought to have killed 1,600 people and injured more than 2,000. It has destroyed not only homes but crops, and could cut Pakistan’s economic growth in half, according to the country's finance secretary.

The warning of further flooding comes after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Pakistan on Sunday and called the floods the worst natural disaster he has ever seen. Pakistan’s Daily Times reports that Mr. Ban urged the international community to increase its support for Pakistan. According to Reuters, only a quarter of the $459 million needed for initial relief has arrived in Pakistan.

“This has been a heart-wrenching day for me,” he said. “I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed today. In the past I have witnessed many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this.”

“The unprecedented flood needs an unprecedented assistance from the world. The scale of this disaster is so large that one out of 10 Pakistanis has been affected directly or indirectly,” Ban said.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the slow disbursement of aid has led to anger and resentment toward Pakistani politicians. President Asif Ali Zardari has been widely criticized for continuing a planned trip to Europe while the floods ravaged Pakistan, instead of returning home. But the criticism hasn’t stopped there. Local politicians are bearing the brunt of the anger, as people turn to local groups – some connected to militant organizations – that are providing the aid the government cannot.

The situation threatens to weaken Pakistan’s civil institutions, reports the Monitor:

Anger is spreading throughout this flooded region at the local politicians who have been missing from a scene in which Pakistan's Red Crescent, Red Cross, and even the United States Marines have been providing aid. The feeling of abandonment by local politicians is common among Pakistan's poorest, and raises questions about future support democracy in Pakistan. Militant groups who have challenged central government authority have been quick to jump in with promises of aid.…

[S]tepping in to fill a perceived void have been groups such as the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, allegedly a front organization for banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is believed to have been behind the Mumbai attacks in 2008, as well as the Al Khidmet Foundation, the charitable wing of Pakistan’s hard-line Jamaat-e-Islami.

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