Sunday, August 15, 2010

US MARINES IN SWAT FOR FLOOD RELIEF: MISGIVINGS IN PAKISTAN

B.RAMAN



On August 12,2010, the Federal Flood Commission of Pakistan gave the following figures of the damage and destruction caused by the floods in Pakistan:

At least 1,294 persons confirmed dead and 1,366 injured.

A total of 415,862 houses destroyed or partially damaged ----- 172,110 houses in Khyber-Pakhtunkwa (KP), 122,798 in Sindh, 90,618 in Punjab, 19,619 in Balochistan, 6,357 in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), 2,336 in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and 1,432 in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). ( My comment: There is a slight discrepancy in the figures. The total of these break-up figures comes to only 415,270)

Total area of land affected 2,698,041 acres of which 2,250,409 had standing crops

Total number of villages affected 4,885-----2,584 in Balochistan, 1,527 in Punjab, 581 in Khyber-Pakhtunkwa and 193 in Gilgit-Baltistan. He did not give the figures for Sindh, the POK and the FATA.

2. From the point of view of fatalities, the worst affected were as follows:

Khyber Pakhtoonkwa About 1000

FATA 64

Balochistan 60

Punjab 51

POK & Gilgit Baltistan 15

Sindh 11

My comment: According to the federal figures, the fatalities were 1294 and according to the provincial figures 1241

PROVINCIAL FIGURES---KHYBER-PAKHTUNKWA

3.Mr.Shakil Qadir, Director-General of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) of Khyber Pakhtunkwa, gave on August 11 the following figures of damages suffered by the province:

Total damage: Rs. 185 billion (US $2.2 billion).

Damage to houses : Rs. 78 billion (US $922m). About 200,000 houses were destroyed

Total fatalities: About 1,000.Ten districts – Charsadda, Dera Ismail Khan, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Nowshera, Peshawar, Shangla, Swat, Tank and Kohistan have been declared “severely affected”; Bannu, Battagram, Chital, Karak, Kohat, Lakki Marwat, Malakand, Mansehra and Swabi have been declared “medium affected”; Buner, Hangu, Mardan and Abbottabad “least affected.”

Civil unrest is a concern if the flood victims do not receive immediate financial assistance to repair their houses,Mr. Qadir said. He added: “These people may come onto the streets and start agitation … that is why we have recommended to the government to inject Rs. 6 billion (US $69.6m) to rebuild damaged homes to help these people restart life. We need to immediately pay each affected person Rs. 25,000 (US $290) so he can rebuild his life.”

Khyber Pakhtunkwa usually gets 962mm of rain annually, but from July 28 to August 3 it received 3,462mm of rain. The average annual rainfall in Peshawar is 400mm, but in the six same days 333mm of rain lashed the city.

He estimated other damages as follows:

• the livelihood sector Rs. 35.8 billion (US $420m)
• agriculture, livestock and irrigation Rs. 23 billion (US $270m)
• education and health sectors Rs. 3.25 billion (US 38.2m)

He added that the Government expected to pay Rs. 373m (US$4.388m) to compensate heirs of those killed by the floods.

PROVINCIAL FIGURES---FATA

4.Torrential rains and resulting floods have caused damage worth over Rs2.656 billion.

As many as 64 persons were killed and 59 others injured in the floods. The floods washed away 11 bridges, 12 high tension electricity poles, and damaged about 320km of roads.

Out of the total 64 dead, 23 belonged to North Waziristan, 10 were from Khyber and Bajaur each, five from Mohmand and South Waziristan each, eight from D.I.Khan, two from Orakzai and one from Lakki Marwat.

In all, 1,432 houses were damaged. As many as 376 houses were damaged in Bajaur, 368 in Mohmand and 122 in Lakki Marwat.

The floods also washed away standing crops on 6,500 acres of land and 900 feet of agricultural protection bunds/walls in different parts of the FATA.

In terms of monetary losses to government departments, communication toped the list to the tune of Rs2.539 billion, Public Health Rs79.74 million, education Rs26.35 million, agriculture/livestock Rs7.3 million, housing Rs2.1 million and health Rs1.32 million.


PROVINCIAL FIGURES---BALOCHISTAN

5.Fatalities---60

Thousands of people were rendered homeless in Barkhan, Kohlu and Sibi and aid and rescue work was affected because of long distances and damaged roads.

Train services from Balochistan to other parts of the country remained suspended as the flood damaged the railway track at five points in Sibi district’s Bakhtiarabad area.

Over five dozen villages were also submerged in Nasirabad district and Bakhtiarabad.

A large number of people were rendered homeless after their homes were washed away by the torrential rains which hit most parts of Balochistan, including Sibi, Dera Bugti, Kohlu and Barkhan.


PROVINCIAL FIGURES--PUNJAB

6.The provincial government needs Rs37 billion immediately for relief work out of which Rs25 billion have been received from the Federal Government. According to an estimate, Muzzafargarh needs Rs16 billion for rehabilitation, while D.G. Khan Rs10 billion, Rajanpur Rs11 billion, Mianwali Rs10 billion, Bhakkar Rs 5 billion, Laqyyah Rs3.5 billion, and Rahim Yar Khan Rs10 billion for rehabilitation. These funds are required for the construction of houses, restoration of infrastructure, and for the restoration the of the irrigation system. The floods have destroyed 3,132 villages, 5.2 million acre irrigated land, 8.2 million people are displaced and 51 people lost their lives.

PROVINCIAL FIGURES---POK & GILGIT-BALTISTAN

7. At least 15 people lost their lives.

Torrential rains damaged the Karakoram Highway at three points between Gilgit and Hunza-Nagar and the Gilgit-Skardu road at two places.

Boat service in the Hunza lake was suspended, adding to the hardship of the people of Hunza-Gojal.

The area was without electricity for seven days.

The Gilgit-Baltistan Disaster Management Authority has not yet been able to assess the damage because of disruption of the communications system.

PROVINCIAL FIGURES--SINDH

8.Fatalities --- 11

Number of people affected ---3.7 million

Total damage Rs. 40 billion

UN ESTIMATE OF AID REQUIRED BY PAKISTAN

10.The United Nations aid agencies and their partners on August 11 asked for about 460 million U.S. dollars. According to Mr.John Holmes, UN Emergency Relief Co-ordinator at the UN Headquarters: "The death toll has so far been relatively low compared to other major natural disasters, but the numbers of affected are extraordinarily high ( 20 million). If we don't act fast enough, many more people could die of diseases and food shortages." .

11.According to the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one hundred per cent crop losses have been recorded in many areas and tens of thousands of animals have died. Wheat, gram, lentil, tobacco, rapeseed, barley, cotton and mustard crops have been washed away in thousands of acres in the country.

12.The basic infrastructure including roads, railway lines, bridges, electricity and communication system and health centers have been completely damaged in the flooded areas.

13.The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the floods will cause "major harm to the economy" of Pakistan. An IMF spokesman said on August 10 that the floods "are very likely to cause major harm to the economy in terms of loss of output and budgetary consequences."

AID PLEDGED SO FAR

14.The US $ 71 million.

The European Union $ 39 million

Canada $ 32 million

China $ 10 million

India $ 5 million ( not yet accepted by the Pakistan Government)

Other countries Not available

US MARINES FOR FLOOD RELIEF, POOR RESPONSE FROM WESTERN PUBLIC

15.At a press conference at Washington on August 12 jointly addressed by Mr. Dan Feldman, the Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Mr. Mark Ward, acting Director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, the following details were given:.

* Mr.Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, has authorized the deployment of 19 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps helicopters consisting of 12 Sea Knight helicopters, four Super Stallion helicopters, and three Dragon helicopters. These will replace the six US Government helicopters that are currently in Pakistan on loan from the U.S. Senator John Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will be visiting Pakistan to make an on-the-spot study of the US aid effort.
* From the questions posed at the press conference, it was evident that the public response to the appeal made by the State Department to US citizens and corporate houses to contribute to the aid effort has been very poor as compared to the public response at the time of the Haiti quake. Whereas in the case of Haiti, the public contributions touched US $ one million a day, in the case of Pakistan the public contribution has been around a few thousand dollars a day. This disappointment over the inadequate response was evident from the following question posed by Mr.Anwar Iqbal, the Washington correspondent of the "Dawn" of Karachi: "Nineteen helicopters, ten boats, for more than 14, 15 million people, probably now almost 20 million people. This seemed very inadequate. I’m not trying to blame or belittle the U.S. contribution, but somehow the right response is not coming from the international community. Even the Pakistanis living in America or Britain are not coming forward. They’re very, very reluctant. What is preventing them? I mean, one reason that comes to mind is the lack of trust in the present Pakistani Government. People say, openly when you go to them, they will steal our money and run away, particularly with this President ( Mr.Zardari). They seem very upset. I’ve spoken to my American friends, they say that they feel that we will give them money and the credit will go to the Taliban. So how do you overcome this and what do you do? How to actually get the people involved and why are not they involved so far?" The two US officials could not give a satisfactory reply. They attributed the poor public response in the US to the fact that the fatalities in Haiti ran into thousands and that Haiti is a next-door neighbour.

16.An article dated August 9 in the Time magazine stated as follows on the public fury against President Asif Ali Zardari: “"Popular fury has settled on President Asif Ali Zardari, who has been criticized for abandoning his people to tour Europe. As television channels carried images of waters washing away buildings and homes, Zardari was seen racing off on a private plane, sporting blue jeans and his trademark high-voltage smile. As flood victims anxiously awaited the arrival of a rescue helicopter from the Pakistan military's limited fleet or the half-dozen Chinooks supplied by the U.S. military, Zardari was seen floating across northern France in a private helicopter to visit his family's ch√Ęteau in Normandy. And when he made a nationally televised speech, while addressing a gathering of party supporters in the British city of Birmingham, there was only a glancing reference made to the tragedy unfolding at home. During the Birmingham speech, a protester who had managed to sneak into the hall hurled his two shoes at Zardari, missing by some distance. Zardari's supporters insist that his visit was necessary to secure aid for disaster relief. Opponents counter that such aid could have been appealed for from home and that even the $150 million that has been received, $35 million of which was donated by the U.S., is barely a fraction of the amount needed. One of Zardari's ministers was less fortunate. In a sign of the rage that has built up in recent days, crowds pelted the junior economic-affairs minister Hina Rabbani Khar's convoy with stones as it arrived in southern Punjab on Sunday, Aug. 8. It was the first time, enraged constituents said, that she had ventured there since the floods had hit."

17. The same article contrasted the Army’s role with that of Mr.Zardari in the following words: “Although its response has been limited, the Pakistan army at least has been visible. Television images prominently showed soldiers plunging into high waters to rescue the stranded, though critics said the footage was courtesy of camera crews dispatched there on helicopters that could have been used for further rescues. Some 30,000 soldiers are currently at work in the affected areas. In the country's major towns and cities, men in fatigues have set up makeshift tents to gather donations. In sharp contrast to Zardari's summer sojourn, Army General Ashfaq Kayani was the first of Pakistan's prominent leaders to hasten to see flood victims. He announced that every soldier in his force would donate a day's pay to flood relief — a gesture that shamed lawmakers who refused to do the same.”

18.The "Daily Telegraph" of London attributed the poor response to the fact that more than 300 million pounds of aid to help rebuild parts of Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake was diverted to other projects. Citing unnamed senior Pakistani officials, it said there were fears this diversion of funds would put off foreign donors from giving money to help 20 million people affected by the floods. “There's reluctance, even people in this country are not giving generously into this flood fund because they're not too sure the money will be spent honestly,” opposition leader Nawaz Sharif told the newspaper.

19. While the Pakistani public has been reluctant to contribute to official flood relief funds, it has been contributing readily to funds set up by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jamaat-e-Islami both of which have been very active in flood relief as they were in quake relief in 2005. As a result, the prestige of these organizations has shot up. People have been comparing their selfless service with the indifferent attitude of Mr.Zardari and his colleagues.

20. The same article of Time stated as follows in this regard: "Also standing to benefit from the disaster are Pakistan's hard-line Islamist groups, pushed to the sidelines by elections and weakened by military offensives. Unlike the civilian government and the army, which took days to marshal aid, Islamist groups boasted of efficient networks of volunteers. This is especially true in the volatile northwest, where the bulk of the devastation is taking place. The Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, a charity with alleged links to the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) — which was blamed for the 2008 Mumbai massacre — has for days been feeding tens of thousands of affected people. Drawing on a similar popularity achieved during the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, members of the group say they receive donations from the urban middle class of Punjab, who are turning increasingly to religious conservatism. Such aid will make it difficult for the government to crack down on the do-gooders, no matter how malevolent Islamabad alleges their motives to be.”

21.The magazine quoted Farzana Sheikh at London's Royal Institute of International Affairs as saying as follows: "The Government now finds itself in an awkward position. If there is any pressure for it to move against these groups, it's going to find itself in much the same position as Gen. Musharraf, who during the Kashmir earthquake said, 'We need all the help we can get from whatever source.' Given the circumstances, for it to now act against groups who are seen to be doing a sterling job in terms of helping people will be absolutely suicidal." The article added: “Working alongside the LeT-affiliated charities are the social-welfare wings of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the hard-line Islamist political party. It and other Islamist parties have lately been polling poorly in elections, perceived as having been too close to former dictator Pervez Musharraf and too indulgent of the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest when they controlled the provincial government there. But observers warn that with the failures of the current civilian government, the Islamists could seize the opportunity to rebuild local support. More worrying, the devastation wrought by the disaster might give armed militants — chastened by a Pakistani army offensive last year — an opportunity to stage a comeback, seizing advantage of a government in crisis, an army overstretched and a local population enraged."

US MARINES IN SWAT

22.There has been speculation in Pakistan that the US has been inducting a large number of its Marines into the Swat Valley of Khyber Pakhtoonkwa and the FATA ostensibly for implementing its flood relief projects and that some of them could actually be used for ground operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and for catching or killing Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, both of whom are believed to be in North Waziristan. These misgivings were reflected in the questions posed to Brigadier General Michael Nagata, deputy commander of the Office of the US Defence Representative, Pakistan, who briefed the Pakistani media on the US aid effort at Islamabad on August 13.

23.He said, inter alia, in his replies: " The first Marine element landed here at Ghazi Air Base yesterday ( August 12 ). We’ve been receiving additional aviation assets and personnel throughout the day. As a matter of fact, a couple of additional helicopters just landed within the last hour. But it’s going to take us a few days to get the entire complement in here. Meanwhile, the army element that has been here now for almost two weeks continues to operate. And our goal is to make this transition from army aviation to Marine aviation as seamless and as transparent as possible to the Pakistani military partners that we are – have been working with ever since this effort began. In terms of operational focus, I anticipate right now that the focus of the Marine aviation effort, once the army element leaves, will be the same as what we have been doing already, which is focused on the Swat valley, where we have been delivering hundreds of thousands of pounds of relief supplies and recovering thousands of stranded personnel from this very large river valley, because of infrastructure damage, bridge destruction, road erosion, etc, many, many people are in need. ..... First of all, as is pretty obvious, our focus is purely humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Secondly, while there is, obviously, a militant threat in this region, not just in Pakistan, there are some security challenges here, but the Pakistani military, ever since we stood up this task force, have done simply an incredibly energetic and totally committed job at providing multiple layers of security around our activities both in the air and on the ground. I think the best transparency I can provide is to simply tell you what we have here. We do have Marines here in Pakistan. We have Marine security guards at our US embassy, as we do in every embassy around the world. I just talked about the Marines that are coming in with the aviation element, coming here to help Pakistani citizens in need, and partner with Pakistani military forces. You started your first question or you started the question earlier talking about how some people talk about thousands of Marines or thousands of US military personnel that are in Pakistan. It is not true. It is – it wasn’t true then. It isn’t true now. Everything we do here, every single US service member we bring to Pakistan is based on one thing and one thing only: the request for support and partnership that we receive from the Pakistan military and appropriate government authorities. That is as literally as transparent as I can be."

24.In spite of this, there is persistent speculation in Pakistan that the Pakistan Government, which is in desperate need of US assistance, has agreed to the Marines coming for flood relief mounting a hunt for bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.

DISCRIMINATION AGAINST BALOCHISTAN, POK & GILGIT-BALTISTAN

25.There have been allegations of discrimination in the distribution of flood relief materials against the people of Balochistan, the POK and Gilgit-Baltistan. The “Dawn” of Karachi wrote on August 15 as follows: “The National Disaster Management Authority has so far not covered itself with glory in the delivery of relief goods in flood-hit areas. According to NDMA’s own statistics, it does not appear to have reached the millions in need of shelter, food and medicine. The authority has so far sent only 59 emergency medicine kits — 17 to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 24 to Punjab and 18 to Sindh. Balochistan, Azad Kashmir and Gilgilt Baltistan have not received any medicine kit. And this was the authority’s own admission on Friday (August 13), two weeks after the calamity struck the country. The large-scale displacement in hot, humid weather, where camps are makeshift and amenities minimal has increased the chances of outbreak of diseases such as cholera. The NDMA has distributed 149 cholera kits — all in Punjab. The other provinces got nothing. The authority has distributed 3,500 mosquito nets among the affected people — 600 in Balochistan, 750 each in KP and Punjab and 1,500 in Sindh. But whether or not the distribution has been driven by some empirical evidence of more mosquitoes in Sindh remains unknown. For general health and welfare of the flood victims, the NDMA has sent 59 emergency medicine kits of which the lion’s share of 24 went to Punjab and 17 to KP.Clean drinking water is a major issue. According to NDMA data, it has provided 41 water purification plants — 13 to KP, 15 to Punjab, 13 to Sindh. Balochistan, AJK and GB have received nothing. The authority has so far distributed 1,272 water bottles — 300 each in KP and Sindh and 672 in Punjab. With the millions affected, it does appear to be the proverbial drop in the ocean, but then the authority has provided 80 more water tanks — 35 in Balochistan, 13 in KP, 19 in Punjab and 13 in Sindh. But where the flood victims are desperate for basic things such as clothes, the NDMA has generously distributed over 2,000 towels, but strategically so — only Sindh and Punjab got this amenity; perhaps the people in KP, AJK and Balochistan did not need any. A similar logic was followed for soap which too only went to the two bigger provinces and not to other regions. All the buckets, however, went to KP as did the 24 foam beds, a luxury that the other areas did not get. Punjab got all 15 tons of dates distributed by NDMA. When it came to provision of other food items, the NDMA said it had so far distributed 2300 bags — 650 each in KP and Sindh and 1,000 in Punjab. However, all 437 food bags and their unknown contents were sent to KP, perhaps in exchange for all dates that were sent to Punjab.” (15-8-2010)



( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )