2010 in Politics: Pakistan’s Year of Turmoil

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2010 in Pakistan – a country previously claimed to be the “most dangerous in the world”- was marked by political, economic and social tribulations. All of which were heightened by the floods in August.  Encompassing the entire length of the country, causing $460million in damages and affecting over 20 million people; the floods brought Pakistan to its knees.

Entire villages were wiped off, peoples’ lives were completely ruined; and very little was done in general. The Pakistani government was criticised for not doing it’s duty to it’s people. The President, Asif Ali Zardari went on a European tour allegedly to ‘introduce’ newly graduated Bilawal Bhutto to the party; this compounded with British Prime Minsiter David Cameron’s statement, alleging Pakistans involvement in aiding terrorism, in India earlier that summer; had made the visit already very controversial. That he had left in the wake of the floods had caused him to lose any and all trust the people had in him. The Pakistani people accused their President of not performing his duty to the country. His response was to assert that the Prime Minister Gilani had the “executive” role in Pakistan’s government as opposed to himself.

International response was also slow in coming. Pakistan’s international image has been declining in recent years, it being seen as a corrupt nation – it’s leader infamously known as “Mr. 10%” – as well as one housing terrorists. Furthermore, the media did not give it the coverage that Haiti had earlier the same year; despite the fact that the casualties from the floods were worse than the Haitian earthquake, the Indian Ocean tsunami and 2005 Pakistani earthquake combined. Despite the fact that UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon named it the worst natural disaster he had seen.

But what hit international media, what really drove the other people to donate? The fact that extremists were the ones helping. They were the only ones there when no one else was. When Zardari was traipsing across Europe, the extremists in Northern Pakistan were offering a helping hand. It was seen as an outrage – all those people would turn to them. The relief had to come from somewhere else.

Therefore, the large amounts donated by the United States. The United Kingdom donated (as of 30/9/10), US$92 million. This large donation, however was painted as ‘bribe’ money for reconciliation with Pakistan. Comparable donations were made from every corner of the world; however, they only covered 31% of the money needed to restore Pakistan.

Even the aid distribution came under considerable scrutiny from the international community as various groups complained of the prioritising of Muslims; richer landlords using the money for their ‘mansions’ before those who were in true need.

While governments were considerably generous in their donations,  the ‘general public’ of the global community was not so. They compounded Pakistan’s image with the general lack of information from the media and were highly apathetic in comparison to the global rush of aid for Haiti. ‘Experts’ put this down to the fact that after Haiti, people had no money for charity and were generally ‘tired’ of donations. The growing ‘argument’ was that Pakistan could ‘afford’ nuclear weapons; it did not need money for the floods. It was also said people did not know ‘who’ to give the money to; after all, Pakistan’s image of corruption comes before anything else. Pakistan did not have the International moral support it needed in such a tumultuous time.

Most private donations were made from Overseas Pakistanis hoping to help those back home; they donated to local charity organisations, like the trustworthy Edhi Foundation; many formed their own organisations in order to raise money. Aid-workers, for the most part, were Pakistani volunteers. Even the celebrations on 14th August – Pakistan’s Independence Day – were stopped; in preference of helping those in need. Something they felt they were alone in.

Months later, the Pakistani people are still suffering. The floods wiped away homes, crops, livestock, even graves. They destroyed lives immediately and continue to do so. Diseases are rife, and without food, many people are going hungry as prices are rising. Pakistan is in a period of hyperinflation, the average man barely affording life –  and the millions of poor, internally displaced, refugees, flood victims? They suffer. But they do not have voices. To the World, they make up a country full of vices; they make up a country that is full of extremism, political turmoil and terrorists. Their voices go unheard.

Today, Pakistan is at its lowest. It’s coalition government is on tenterhooks, the government is made of corrupt and highly disliked individuals; the army is as strong as ever; it is ever-pressurised by the US and NATO to continue hunting the Taleban; it’s only life-line is its nuclear weapons; relations with India are not improving; living is expensive; electricity and gas are as unreliable as ever; the people are on the brink of revolution.

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