Saturday, September 4, 2010


Pakistanis are perplexed at how slow the world is to provide aid for victims of the huge floods of the last month. With nearly 2,000 dead and six million homeless, Pakistan is receiving less money than it did for the earthquakes that hit the northern part of the country five years ago. But some Pakistanis remember, and acknowledge that, in the wake of the earthquake relief effort if was found that most of the relief aid was stolen (as much as 70 percent by some estimates) and some of it was diverted to Islamic terrorist groups. The donors have not forgotten, although many Pakistanis would like to. Another factor dissuading many Western donors is the very anti-Western tone of the Pakistani media. The U.S. is a particularly popular target, even though the United States is the largest donor to the flood relief effort. In the last few weeks, for example, the U.S. has moved over 30 helicopters to Pakistan, for relief work. The choppers came from Afghanistan, and an amphibious ship off the Pakistani coast. Meanwhile, Islamic radical groups, especially the Taliban, have threatened to kidnap or kill Western aid workers. Some of the people left homeless by the floods, angered by the lack of government aid, have taken their frustrations out on foreign aid workers struggling to do whatever they can.

The flood damage has been devastating to the economy, causing, by one estimate, losses of over $40 billion (a quarter of last year's GDP, a similar disaster in the U.S. would have to cause $3,700 billion in losses). Pakistan is being offered large loans to recover from the damage, and assistance in spending the money most efficiently. The government has an incentive to do this right. If the aid does not enable the six million displaced to return to their farms, rebuild and replant, there will instead be millions of internal refugees. This kind of population just produces a lot of crime and easy recruiting for terrorists.