FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Floods for Pakistan; Floods of Money For its Leader

by TARIQ ALI

A disaster of biblical scope: the floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains a month ago have affected more than 17.2 million people and killed over 1,500, according to Pakistan’s disaster management body | August is the monsoon season in Pakistan. This year a hard rain keeps falling, which is why the floodwaters are not abating. Nearly two thousand deaths and over 20 million people are homeless. The man-made disasters – war in Afghanistan, its spillage into Pakistan – are bad enough. Now the country faces its worst ever natural disaster. Most governments would find it difficult to cope, but the current regime is virtually paralyzed.

Over the last sixty years, the ruling elite in the country has never been able to construct a social infrastructure for its people. This is a structural defect that goes deep and affects the bulk of the population adversely. Today the country’s rulers eagerly follow the neoliberal dictates of the IMF, to keep the loans flowing. Not helpful at the best of times they are useless when the country is undergoing its worst humanitarian crisis of recent decades.

The response of the West has been less than generous causing panic in Islamabad with pro-US journalists in the country pleading that if help is not forthcoming the terrorists might take over the country. This is nonsense. The Pakistani Army is firmly in control of the flood-relief effort. The religious groups and others too are raising money and helping the homeless. It’s normal.

Since 9/11 a rampant Islamophobia has gripped Europe and parts of North America. A recent opinion-poll in “multicultural Britain” revealed that when asked what their first thought was on hearing the word “Islam” over fifty percent replied “Terrorist”. France and Germany, Holland and Denmark, are no different.

This treatment of Islam as the permanent “other” is not unrelated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but the attitude is as wrong as the anti-Semitism that ignited prejudice and genocide during the first half of the 20th century. A million Iraqis dead since the occupation: Who cares? Afghan civilians dying every day: It’s their own fault. Pakistani engulfed in floodwaters. Indifference. That is undoubtedly one reason for the lack of response.

Zardari joins the Shoe Club with Bush

Another is home-grown. Many citizens of Pakistani origin I have spoken to in recent weeks are reluctant to send money because they fear it will end up in the huge pockets of the corrupt leaders who govern the country. As the floodwaters began to surge through Pakistan, the country’s President left for Europe. Properties had to be inspected; his son had to be crowned as the future leader of Pakistan at a rally in Birmingham, England.

“1000s dying, president is holidaying”: As images of a drowning country were being shown on European television, Pakistan’s president was on his way to his 16th century chateau in the French countryside | The coronation in Birmingham was postponed. It was too crass even for the loyalists. Instead Zardari delivered an appalling speech and a Kashmiri elder, angered by the nonsense being spouted, rose to his feet and hurled one of his shoes at the businessman-president calling him “corrupt and a thief”. Zardari left the hall in anger. “Zardari joins the Shoe Club with Bush” was the headline in the largest Pakistani newspaper.

Some demonstrators held up shoes to pictures of Zardari, while others held placards reading, “1000s dying, president is holidaying”, “Thousands killed, millions homeless” and “Are the Zardaris enjoying England while Pakistan drowns?” None of this helped raise more money.

As images of Pakistan coping with the crisis and of its destitute people were being shown on European television, a French air force helicopter was transporting the richest man in Pakistan to his most extravagant European property, the 16th century chateau, Manoir de la Reine Blanche, with its five acres of parkland, lakes and forests. Originally built for the widow of King Philippe VI it is now the property of the Pakistani widower. How can he afford it? Everybody knows. Pay-offs from companies investing in the country.

Back at home the Jang group, the country’s largest media empire, was advised by the government to exercise restraint and not show images of the shoe-throwing incident on Geo TV. They rejected the suggestion and instead interviewed the shoe-thrower.

Unable to curb YouTube, Zardari’s men switched Geo and another network, ARY, off the air in Karachi and parts of Sind. And hundreds of Zardari’s jiyalas, i.e. unthinking party loyalists, gathered outside Geo’s Karachi office, pelting the building with stones and shoes. All in reaction to Geo’s decision to report on the shoe-hurling incident.

Jang groups newspapers torched all over Karachi. No sign of the police. In reaction, Geo started replaying clips of Benazir Bhutto defending press freedom. The floods continue…

TARIQ ALI’s latest book, The Protocols of the Elders of Sodom and other Essays,  has just been published by Verso.

Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 03, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Obama’s Legacy
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Christopher Brauchli
Parallel Lives: Trump and Temer
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail