Floods for Pakistan; Floods of Money For its Leader


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).

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Lara Santoro
Terror as Method: a Journalist’s Search for Truth in Rwanda
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs