Pakistan's Growing Pains

Villagers, displaced from their homes by flooding, hold empty containers as they queue for soup and relief rations on August 25, 2010 in the Sultan Colony Army flood relief camp near Muzaffargarh in Punjab, Pakistan. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Following recent flooding in Pakistan, Asia Society Associate Fellow Ayesha Haroon appealed for international aid after top US envoy Richard Holbrooke's visit to the Asia Society in New York last week.

"Soon it'll be winter throughout the country," Haroon said. "The government and the aid agencies will have to start thinking of the medium run, even while they evacuate stranded people, so that people do not die of hunger, cold, and lack of hope."

Five million Pakistanis have no shelter, and urgently need tents or plastic sheeting to protect them from the sun. More recently, however, some 200,000 people have been evacuated in the Thatta area of Sindh province, where dozens of villages are in fear of renewed monsoon rains.

Doctors in many areas are struggling to cope with the spread of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera. The task of coping with disease and urgent humanitarian needs across Pakistan is being made more difficult by the sheer number of people cut off by the floods.

As if the country's tumultuous times could not get worse, Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow Hassan Abbas said Pakistan began discussions with the IMF for loans to prepare for this long-term challenge, but the approach is being criticized by opposition forces in the country. In addition, he explained, "In the midst of all this debate, a leading political figure, Altaf Hussain, leader of MQM, has surprised everyone by declaring that he will welcome military takeover by 'patriotic generals' if they will eliminate feudalistic and corrupt politicians. Pakistan can ill afford any such adventure as the model has been tried on four occasions in the 63-year checkered history of Pakistan and it failed miserably on every occasion."

The World Food Programme says it already has enough food in Pakistan to feed six million people for a month, but distribution has been hampered by a lack of resources and the country's shattered infrastructure. Moreover, a corrupt government, a fear of aid landing in the wrong hands, and alleged donor fatigue when the name "Pakistan" comes up may be factors as well.

According to an article just published on, "Twenty million people are now struggling to find a dry place to sleep, a morsel of food to eat, a sip of clean water to drink—and the questions we are asking have to do with politics and international security. The problem is not in Pakistan. It is where those questions are coming from."

Watch the flood's destruction: