Pakistan Floods: 800,000 Can Only Be Reached by Air

Published on
by
the Telegraph/UK

Pakistan Floods: 800,000 Can Only Be Reached by Air

Some 800,000 people have been cut off by floods in Pakistan and can only be reached by air, according to the United Nations.

by
Rob Crilly in Islamabad and Ashfaq Yusufzai in Peshawar

Pakistani flood affected villagers receive food delivered by an army helicopter in the outskirts of Rajampur. (Photo: AFP)

The UN added that it needs at least 40 more helicopters to ferry lifesaving
aid to increasingly desperate people. More than 1,500 people have been
killed as floods swept from north to south across the country, while more
than 17 million have been affected.

The flood chaos has raised concerns that the humanitarian crisis is being
exploited by Islamist militants.

At least 16 aid camps run by militant Islamist groups sites have been shut
according to the authorities in the northwestern region of
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, as Islamabad to stop the spread of extremists.

With the Pakistani
government struggling to meet the needs of millions of homeless,
organisations such as the banned charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) were quick to
set up food and medicine distribution points in affected areas. JuD was
banned because of its connections to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group
that launched the 2008 attacks on Mumbai.

Abu Saad, a spokesman for Falah-e-Insaniat, a front for JuD, said he had been
ordered to shut the organisation's camp in Pir Sabak, close to the town of
Nowshera, at the weekend.

"There is no reason for this action", he said. "We are providing meals twice a
day to the affected persons in Pir Sabak.

"We are not in competition with the army but it seems to feel threatened by
our work."

The vast scale of the devastation overwhelmed the government's early emergency
response.

The widespread misery caused by the floods has triggered fresh worries about
social unrest, food riots or even a challenge to the government's rule
before its term ends in 2013.

Altaf Hussain, leader of one of the governing coalition parties, has called
for the return of military rule, sending shock waves through a country that
has spent half its short history being run by the generals.

President Asif Ali Zardari broke official silence over the threat posed by an
expansion of radical activity in the flooded regions, expressing concerns
that insurgents would try to exploit the hardship.

"I see always such organisations and such people taking advantage of this
human crisis," he told journalists in Islamabad.

"It is again a challenge to not let them take advantage of this human crisis."
He also admitted the scale of devastation meant his administration would
face anger in the months ahead, comparing it to the anti-government
sentiment generated by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the United
States.

"There will be discontent, there is no way any nation, even a superpower ....
can bring the same level of satisfaction that will be close to the
expectations of the people," he said.

But the military revealed it had redeployed helicopters from the fight along
the Afghan border against the Taliban to rescue and relief operations in
flooded regions. But an official said the move would not weaken the military
push against insurgents.

"The first priority of these helicopters is relief work," he said. "They
cannot be readily available, but we can bring them back any time if we
needed them. We haven't lowered our guard."

The Pakistan army has redeployed about 60,000 troops out of about 550,000
soldiers for relief efforts.

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