Tuesday, September 28, 2010

DAWN.COM | National | Flood-affected youth being tricked into ‘evil’ jobs

UMERKOT: Floods washed away the infrastructure, economy, houses, hearths crops and livestock and mafias taking advantage of the situation shattered the dreams of our future generations by sending Sindh’s youth into male prostitution.

Floods have made many a princes pauper bringing them to a naught. Their homes, belongings and future prospects all drained down in waters.

Fifteen-year-old Nadeem Chandio of Larkana lost everything to floods and was living with his family in a roadside camp in Hyderabad. He fell in an ugly trap for substance. He was lured for a waiter’s job by an Ustad (mafia man) but is learning to dance. This is only a tip of the iceberg as many thousands of vulnerable children are being trained first to become dancers and subsequently prostitutes. Exploitation of children is now a lucrative business for those in this business and they find ample of opportunities to milk these innocent boys.

Chilling realities came to fore when Dawn’s correspondent bumped into some youths who were staying in hotels near railway stations. The place, it came to knowledge, was previously occupied by some dancing boys which was now replaced by some new comers.

Further investigation revealed that a mafia was on a lookout for flood-affected families and their children.
Posing as gentlemen, mafia people first gel into families through fake kindness and then successfully become guardian of their children by promising job and money both, while children end up as dancing boys who are then sent to festivals, private functions, dance parties and prostitution.

Not only their dreams get shattered but their education, social and physical prospects are totally drowned in the sea of vice. These poor chaps wearing anklets not only dance to the tunes of music but are also used for sexual amusements.

Ustad Hashim Chandio is busy exploiting the vulnerability of such families by hiring their boys for fake jobs while brain-washing their innocent mind with his evil thoughts.

Nadeem is not alone as there are scores of boys from Thatta, Dadu, Ghotki, Sukkur, Larkana, Qambar Shahdadkot and Jamshoro districts and were tricked into becoming dancers and languishing in hotels-cum-sexual amusement dens near Karachi, Lahore and Mirpurkhas railway stations and at places near Badin stop, new bridge, Railway station Hyderabad.

Another 16 year old boy hailing from Tando Adam narrating his ordeals said that he came to Hyderabad three years ago with one of his teenaged relative who said that he was working at a bungalow. The two boys shared the same hotel room where his relative sexually exploited him and eventually he too, became like his relative.

Few among them work as masseurs for enticing such customers. Ustad Chandio’s den is near Mirpurkhas railway station. He blames is diabetes for not letting him do a proper job work and thus teaches dancing to teenage boys and sends them to festivals with each earning Rs1000 to Rs1500 per night, of which he bears expenses of transportation, makeup, laundry, food and accommodation and gives Rs7,000 to parents of each boy.

He doesn’t fear any action for having good relations with local politician while paying police its share regularly.

He says that he is not the only man involved in this business as many Ustads in Sindh and other provinces provide entertainment to politician, feudal lords and police officials, he said.

Recruitment of children for dancing is a severe crime and falls into the domain of child trafficking or forced labour. Moreover, Prevention of Human Trafficking Ordinance 2002 prohibits any kind of exploitation in which children are exposed to abuse.

The government should take serious notice of this, specially, after floods as unemployment and poverty have increased manifold.

It is more likely that children will be exploited by sex traffickers through employment opportunities, said Salam Dharejo, National Manager on Child Labour, Society for the Protection of the Rights of Child (SPARC).

District Police Officer Mirpurkhas, Zulfiqar Maher expressed his unawareness about the presence of dancing boys in his jurisdiction and assured of assigning officers for the job. He said that in the record of Mirpurkhas police no sex trafficker or entertainer boy has ever been arrested.

DAWN.COM | National | Flood-affected youth being tricked into ‘evil’ jobs

Monday, September 27, 2010

US Ambassador visits Nine Zero

What should the minimum stature of a political worker be that warrants a condolence visit from the US ambassador?
US Ambassador visits Nine Zero
Updated at: 1805 PST, Monday, September 27, 2010
KARACHI: US Ambassador Anne Patterson on Monday paid a farewell visit to the headquarters of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Nine Zero and expressed condolence on the demise of former convener Rabita Committee Dr Imram Farooq.

She was accompanied by US Consul General in Karachi William Martin. She was received by the deputy convener MQM Rabita Committee Dr Farooq Sattar.

Later, talking to media Dr Farooq Sattar said that MQM leadership expressed concerns over the conviction of Pakistani scientist Dr Afia Siddiqui by US court.

The party also sought US support and influence in seeking security for MQM leader Altaf Hussain in London, he added.

Dr Sattar said that US Ambassador expressed condolences over the assassination of Dr Imran Farooq in London.

US Ambassador visits Nine Zero

Friday, September 24, 2010

Higher Education and Technological Advances as Countries Develop-Becker - The Becker-Posner Blog

Policy-making in Pakistan is out of sync with the rest of the world. While the leading economic thinkers recognize the importance of higher education for developing countries, the government in Pakistan has cut-off funding for higher education, leading the public sector universities to go on strike.

It is an amazing coincidence as to what appeared on the Becker-Posner blog this week. Every one involved with the higher eduation Pakistan should give the following comments by Professor Gary Becker, a noble laureate in economics, a thorough read:

The essence of traditional international trade theory is that poorer countries produce goods and services with resources that they have in abundance, mainly low skilled labor and sometimes natural resources. They export these goods, and import goods from the richer countries that require skilled labor, and considerable physical and financial capital. This theory provides many insights, and must be followed if poor countries are to start on the path of economic development. However, it does not go nearly far enough in mapping out how countries can continue rapid development, and go from being poor to becoming middle-income, and eventually to becoming rich.
To continue their economic progress, developing countries have to move up the product ladder and start producing more sophisticated goods. To do this, they need to import technologies from the rich counties, and increase the training and education of their populations. Advanced technologies are partly acquired through foreign direct investment and from trade with rich countries. Along with the more sophisticated goods and services imported, developing countries also acquire some of the technologies developed in the economically advanced nations.
Importing advanced technologies can carry developing countries to middle income status. To eventually reach much higher income levels, these countries must begin to innovate themselves as well. International trade and foreign direct investment are also necessary for this further stage of economic growth, but it is not sufficient. Continuing rapid development toward becoming a rich country requires skilled entrepreneurs and workers who can not only utilize and adapt technologies imported from developed countries, but who can also create develop their own technologies and processes.
Several ingredients are needed to accomplish this- of course, particularly important are competitive markets and creative entrepreneurs- but in the limited space for the present discussion I want to stress the role of education, especially higher education. In early stages of economic development, a country needs a literate and energetic population with a wide education base of perhaps only a few years. But as countries continue to grow, they need to upgrade their education levels beyond elementary school toward high rates of secondary school completion among young persons.
Economists and other students of economic development have learned only in recent years about the great significance also of higher education for countries that want to progress beyond middle-income status. Higher education has become important to the development process mainly because of the growing value in the modern world of command over information and knowledge. The spread of university education and training toward a much larger fraction of young persons is crucial to producing efficiently the kinds of products and services that would help developing countries continue to drive forward.
For several years, along with others, I have been studying the worldwide boom in higher education in both developing and developed nations. These studies document that the rates at which young men, and especially young women, have been graduating from universities have accelerated in almost every country during the past 30 years. China, for example, has had a growth in enrollments at universities of both young men and women since about 1990, and a sharp growth since the late 1990s. A similar rapid expansion of higher education has also occurred in many other still developing countries, such as South Korea. Developed countries too have generally also greatly increased enrollments at universities, although the US has fallen behind in the fraction of young men who go on from high school to receive a college education.
The signal given to young persons that higher education pays off much more now than in the past is the sizable growth during the past several decades in the average earnings of individuals with a college education compared to the earnings of those who do not go to college. Earnings of persons with college education increased faster in recent decades not only in developed countries, but also in many rapidly developing countries, such as China and Brazil, that are supposedly specializing in goods that use less human capital. Developing countries imperil their continued economic advance if they fail to provide much greater opportunities for their young men and women to achieve a university education.
To conclude, the main message of my comments is that in order for poorer countries to continue to grow at fast rates, they must move beyond specialization in goods produced with relatively unskilled labor. They need to upgrade the goods they produce by utilizing more advanced technologies, and more skilled workers and entrepreneurs. At first, most advanced technologies are imported from other countries, but eventually developing nations need to produce themselves many of the technologies required to upgrade and expand their production. To accomplish this last great stage of economic development, both public policy and private households and businesses must begin to emphasize higher education, and other ways to greatly improve the advanced human capital of working men and women.

Higher Education and Technological Advances as Countries Develop-Becker - The Becker-Posner Blog

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Universities in Pakistan go on strike

Public sector university teachers have gone on strike after the government slashed the higher education budget.

The state machinery has started to slowly shut down because of mismanagement and the havoc caused by the floods.

AFP: Pakistan floods hit more than 10,000 schools: UN

From AFP:
SLAMABAD — Pakistan's flood crisis has damaged more than 10,000 schools, affecting several million pupils and requiring massive investment in a nation struggling with literacy, the UN warned Wednesday.

Torrential rain began falling in northern Pakistan in July and the floods have since moved slowly south, wiping out villages and farmland, and affecting an area roughly the size of England.

"Five to six percent of all schools have been damaged by the floods. This means that between 1.5 to 2.5 million students have been affected," Umar Amal, an official with UNESCO, told a news conference.

"That number can rise and it will rise," he said, unable to estimate how much it would cost to repair the damaged infrastructure.

The United Nations has issued a record two-billion-dollar appeal to cope the disaster, which UN agencies say affected 21 million people and and left 12 million in need of emergency food aid.

Amal said more than 9,780 government schools were damaged -- 2,700 fully and 7,000 partially.

The number of private schools affected -- a statistic he said was not yet available -- would push the figure beyond 10,000, he said.

The UN Children's Fund has said over 10 million children have been affected by the flooding, including 2.8 million under five-year-olds.

Education standards are poor in much of Pakistan, particularly in the most impoverished, rural areas worst hit by the floods.

Primary school enrollment is around 57 percent and government expenditure on education accounts for just 2.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

The overall adult literacy rate is 57 percent and Pakistan has three years to meet a Millennium Development Goal target of 88 percent.

But many of the flood-affected areas have far worse rates -- for example in rural parts of southwestern province Baluchistan female literacy can be as low as seven percent, Amal said.

"Already before the floods, they were lagging behind... If 9,000 schools are partially damaged and 2,000 schools fully damaged you need a huge investment in education to re-activate it," he warned.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said a further 5,563 schools are still being used to shelter about 567,000 people displaced in the crisis.

AFP: Pakistan floods hit more than 10,000 schools: UN

Censorship of The Economist: Blacked out | The Economist

From the Economist:

SINCE January 2009 The Economist has been banned or censored in 12 of the 190-odd countries in which it is sold, with news-stand (as opposed to subscription) copies particularly at risk. India, the only democracy on our list, has censored 31 issues and at first glance might look like the worst culprit. However its censorship consists of stamping “Illegal” on maps of Kashmir because it disputes the borders shown. China is more proscriptive. Distributors destroy copies or remove articles that contain contentious political content, and maps of Taiwan are usually blacked out. In Sri Lanka both news-stand and subscription copies with coverage of the country may be confiscated at customs. They are then released a couple of weeks later (sometimes sooner if the story is also reported by another news outlet). In Malaysia the information ministry blacks out some stories that it judges may offend Muslims, among other things. And in Libya, four consecutive editions were confiscated in late August/early September 2009, the first of which featured a piece critical of Muammar Qaddafi.

Images can also prompt action. The cover of last year's Christmas issue showing Adam and Eve was censored in five countries. Malaysian officials covered up Eve's breasts. Pakistan objected to the depiction of Adam, which it said broke a prohibition on depicting Koranic figures.

Censorship of The Economist: Blacked out | The Economist

Monday, September 20, 2010

Al-Ahram newspaper defends doctored photo of Hosni Mubarak | World news | The Guardian

Altered image in state-run paper shows Egyptian president in lead role at Middle East peace talks

Al-Ahram's Photoshopped image of President Hosni Mubarak at the Middle East peace talks. Al-Ahram's doctored image of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and other leaders at the Middle East peace talks in Washington. Photograph: Al-Ahram

Egypt's oldest newspaper today defended its decision to publish a doctored photograph that appeared to put president Hosni Mubarak at the forefront of key figures at the Middle East peace talks in Washington.

The original photo showed US president Barack Obama walking in the lead on a red carpet, with Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II slightly behind.

But the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper altered the image in its Tuesday edition to show Mubarak in the lead, with Obama slightly behind him to his right, then placed it over a broadsheet article titled "the Road to Sharm El Sheikh", referring to the Egyptian Red Sea resort that hosted the second round of negotiations.

US President Barack Obama leads President Hosni Mubarak.
The original photograph of the five leaders. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Egyptian bloggers and activists said the picture was an example of the regime's deception of its own people. Critics also said the photo was an attempt to distract attention from Egypt's waning role in the Middle East peace process.

But the newspaper's editor-in chief, Osama Saraya defended the decision in an editorial today, saying the original photo had been published on the day talks began and the new version was only meant to illustrate Egypt's leading role in the peace process.

"The expressionist photo is … a brief, live and true expression of the prominent stance of President Mubarak in the Palestinian issue, his unique role in leading it before Washington or any other," Saraya wrote. The photo is still posted on the newspaper's website.

Opponents of Mubarak's near three-decade rule seized on the controversy to criticize the government, which is accused of widespread abuses aimed at suppressing dissent. Wael Khalil, the Egyptian blogger who first called attention to the altered photo, said it was a "snapshot" of what he called daily deception about a number of issues, including democratic change and social justice.

"They lie to us all the time," he said. "Instead of addressing the real issues, they just Photoshop it."

Saraya accused critics of launching a smear campaign against Al-Ahram, which was first published in 1876. The newspaper has enjoyed the widest circulation in Egypt but has faced a growing challenge in recent years from a new breed of private publications and the internet.

It is not unusual for Egyptian newspapers to retouch pictures of senior officials to improve their appearance or light.

Al-Ahram newspaper defends doctored photo of Hosni Mubarak | World news | The Guardian

The Associated Press: Pakistan floods renew heated debate on dam project

Pakistan floods renew heated debate on dam project

ISLAMABAD — This summer's floods in Pakistan have reopened a quarter-century-old debate on whether to build a large hydroelectric dam on the River Indus, a dispute that has split the nation along regional lines. Supporters say the water reservoir could have prevented much of the floods' devastation and boosted agricultural production along the river. Opponents say just the opposite.

The debate over the Kalabagh Dam shows how the worst natural disaster in Pakistan's history, affecting some 20 million people, has unearthed deep fissures in its society. There is a chronic mistrust among Pakistan's four provinces and the central government, and critics accuse wealthy landowners of naked self-interest in wanting to ensure the Indus keeps irrigating their crops.

Kalabagh is in eastern Punjab province, the country's most populous and prosperous region, where the glacier-fed River Indus moves from northwestern mountains to plains and nourishes millions of acres (hectares) of wheat, cotton and sugar cane crops. The dam was first proposed in 1984, but political sensitivities mean it has never passed the planning stage.

In the northwest, politicians and farmers fear the dam could mean more flooding and not less. They say if the dam's reservoir was full, surplus water would be diverted into some districts in the region. South of Punjab, where the Indus runs into the Arabian Sea, they fear the dam would mean drought and poor crops. Both regions ultimately think that it would give Punjab even more economic and political clout.

The governor of Punjab dismisses the arguments as "nonsense."

"It is an emotional issue that they play up and say the 'Punjabis are stealing your water,'" said Salman Taseer, a vocal proponent of the dam. "It is a storage dam, it is not diverting any water. The studies have been done. It is cheap to build, near the national grid and the studies have been done. Kalabagh is ideal in every way."

This year's floods began six weeks ago in the northwest after exceptionally heavy monsoon rains. The deluge slowly worked its way down the Indus and its tributaries, washing over at least 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of farm land, and destroying or damaging more than 1.8 million homes.

Shams-ul-Mulk, a former chairman of Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority and a strong supporter of the dam, said even a "common man" could see that having the dam in place would have mitigated the floods.

The Indus already has two large dams on it. He said one of them, the Tarbela Dam, was able to control water flows of 238,000 cubic feet per second just days before the July 29 floods. The proposed Kalabagh Dam, which would lie further south, could handle another 300,000 cubic feet per second of water that would be gradually released down the country.

Meteorological official Riaz Khan said that at their peak, the floodwaters in southern Pakistan flowed at 1.15 million cubic feet per second.

"The floods wouldn't have been a monster" with the dam, said Mulk, who is himself from the northwest.

No one disputes the electricity that would be supplied from the dam would benefit the whole country. Pakistan has for years struggled with electricity shortages, leading to outages for up to 16 hours a day in some areas and damaging industrial growth. The suffering is worst in summer, when the temperatures soar but power cuts mean fans and air conditioners won't work.

Studies show the dam would generate some 3,400 megawatts of electricity and could be built in under five years.

Still, few outside Punjab support it.

Leaders in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa say the dam will destroy farmlands in the Peshawar valley — the main source of agriculture in the region — as water from its reservoir would seep into surrounding land, raising the water table.

They also fear the dam would force incoming floodwaters to spread to areas beyond the already vulnerable district of Nowshera, which is susceptible because of its geography and was badly hit in this summer's deluge.

"We will never let it happen," said Bashir Bilour, a senior minister in the northwest province.

Mulk disagreed, saying the proposed Kalabagh dam's site is too far south of Nowshera district to worsen any flooding in the northwest.

Aurangzeb Khan, 57, who owns a farm on the outskirts of Peshawar city, opposes it. He said before the construction of the two dams in the province decades ago, his land used to yields fruits such as grapes and oranges.

"It's been years since I can recall them growing. More dams mean lesser or no crops at all" because the land is too soaked with water, he said.

In southern Sindh province, there are fears Punjab will use the Kalabagh dam to hog water, meaning even less will reach their farmlands. That could also lead to greater salination. Waters from the Indus help hold back salt water flowing in from the Arabian Sea that inundates increasing amounts of the delta region.

"The dam means our lands will turn into deserts," said Khaliq Junejo, vice chairman of a Sindhi nationalist party.

Punjab's governor alleged the resistance in Sindh was being led by wealthy feudal landowners whose sole interest was personal profit.

"They are all occupying huge areas, that is one reason that they don't want the Kalabagh Dam," Taseer said.

Tahir Qureshi, an adviser with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said Pakistan could build multiple dams, but it first has to introduce an efficient water management scheme and upgrade its canal system, otherwise it risks drying out Sindh.

While the fierce debate over the dam is likely to rage on, its politics are so perilous it looks unlikely to be built soon. Two of Pakistan's military rulers who backed the project, Pervez Musharraf and Zia ul-Haq, were unable to push it through during their tenures.

The current civilian administration has avoided taking a clear stand. The ruling Pakistan People's Party would risk alienating its main support base in Sindh and coalition allies both there and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa if it pushed for the dam.

For now, President Asif Ali Zardari favors pursuing smaller, less controversial projects instead.

"Until there is national consensus on it, we should not insist on it and seek to build small and medium dams for which sites have already been identified at various locations in all provinces," his spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

Associated Press writers Chris Brummitt in Islamabad, Riaz Khan in Peshawar, and Ashraf Khan in Karachi contributed to this report.

The Associated Press: Pakistan floods renew heated debate on dam project

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Flood victim torches himself outside PM house

It will be foolish for the ruling elites in Pakistan to think that the anguish faced by the millions of flood victims will not turn into anger against those who have the very job to protect the vulnerable.

The man who set himself on fire outside Prime Minister's Gilani's house is not the only father of four left incapable by the floods to cater for his househld. There are million others and they may not direct their frustration at themselves. They may turn into rage against the civil and military elite that has denied the poor their fare share.

It is still not too late to return to the very poor of Pakistan what was there to begin with.

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Flood victim torches himself outside PM house

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pinpointing the causes of Pakistan's devastating floods - World - NZ Herald News

Pinpointing the causes of Pakistan's devastating floods - World - NZ Herald News
By Jesse Dykstra

So why has this monsoon season caused the worst flooding in Pakistan's history? The overall impression given by the media is that this year's flood is unprecedented. But is it?

On July 29, 2010, nearly 300 mm of rain fell in parts of the upper Indus catchment. As should be expected during the summer monsoon season, this very heavy rainfall was followed by additional precipitation in the headwaters of Indus catchment. Over one month later, flood waters in the lower reaches of the Indus (where most people live), have only begun to recede.

So is such a wet summer monsoon season unheard of? Knowing that it is not unheard of for 10,000 mm of rain to fall over a period of approximately four weeks during July and August in some parts of the southern Himalaya, a back of the envelope calculation suggests an average daily rainfall of nearly 170 mm, for 60 days straight! So it would appear that at least in the wettest regions of the Himalaya, 300mm in 24 hours is a somewhat regular occurrence.

Science Provides a Warning

Looking for more concrete evidence, I did a quick search of the literature, which brought up a recent paper appropriately titled "Flood risk assessment of the River Indus of Pakistan" (Khan et al., 2010, Arabian Journal of Geosciences). The authors estimated the future risk of flooding in the Indus valley by expanding upon the mathematical distribution of the last 60 years of historical river gauge data for peak river discharge, in order to simulate future flood events. The Indus river system is the primary source of hydroelectric generation in Pakistan, with several crucial dams and reservoirs in the lower catchment.

The authors' results showed that the design capacity of many of the various dams and spillways on the River Indus were barely sufficient to handle a one in 20 year flood event. For example, at the GUDDU dam site, which is designed to handle a maximum discharge of 1.2 million cubic feet per second (cfs), the authors estimated that the 1 in 18 year flood event would have a peak discharge of nearly 1.1 million cfs. The authors concluded that "there is an urgent need to construct new dams/barrages on the River Indus and to increase the spillway capacity of reservoirs".

A few months on, these warnings have a prophetic air. On the 8th of August, 2010, the gauge at the GUDDU dam site peaked at 1.16 million cfs, or approximately a 1 in 20 year flood event. Other gauges on the Indus tell a similar story - this does not appear to be an exceptionally large flood event for the Indus River. In fact, based on historical evidence, we should expect similar peak discharge at least once every 20 years. Despite this, the results of the latest flooding have been catastrophic. Why?

A Country of Extremes

Pakistan is a country of geographical extremes, from the extensive deserts and plains of the Indus valley delta in the south, to the lofty heights of the Karakoram Himalaya in the north. With an area of approximately 800 thousand square kilometres, Pakistan encompasses an area nearly three times the size of New Zealand. The River Indus and its' tributaries are the lifeblood of Pakistan and 170 million people depend upon the river for clean water, agriculture and hydroelectricity. The River Indus provides the water to irrigate vast tracks of agricultural land that would otherwise be parched for 9-10 months of the year.

All this irrigated land requires a massive system of dams, reservoirs, levees and canals. Now one of the world's premiere agricultural producers, Pakistan has the largest contiguous irrigation system in the world. All these structures have been engineered to capture, store and divert the precious waters of the Indus and its tributaries. The resulting conversion of flood channels, grasslands, wetlands and even desert into arable land has fundamentally changed the natural flow regime of the Indus.

Quite simply, the river system no longer has the capacity to convey significant flood events out to sea. As has been tragically illustrated over the past few weeks, even a one in 20 year flow events can result in catastrophic flooding. Unfortunately, this means that the increasing millions of people who occupy and farm the floodplains of the lower Indus river valley will continue to be vulnerable to future flood events.

Jesse Dykstra is a PhD student in the Natural Hazards Research Centre at Canterbury University. View his work and that of 30 other scientists and science writers at Sciblogs, New Zealand's largest science blogging network.

Pakistan: After the deluge | The Economist

After the deluge: The waters are receding, but the damage done to Pakistan will take years—and better government—to undo
Pakistan: After the deluge | The Economist

Floods have damaged over 2000 schools in Sindh

The Frontier Post

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Punjab Education Reform Increases Access

"Net enrollment in primary schools in Punjab has increased from 45 to 62 percent between 2001 and 2007. Female primary net enrollment during the same period increased from 43 to 59 percent and for rural females from 38 to 55 percent."
News & Broadcast - Pakistan: Punjab Education Reform Increases Access

Monday, September 13, 2010

BBC News - Afghans suffer as food prices spiral upwards

Sky-rocketing food prices are threatening to cause misery in Afghanistan as the country returns to its normal routine after Eid-al-Fitr, the biggest religious festival in this Muslim-majority nation.

BBC News - Afghans suffer as food prices spiral upwards

Floods live on in nightmares of Pakistan children

"They leave their friends and everything they know behind and they don't fit in anywhere in these busy camps."

It is easy to see how a child could feel lost in a place like this. Small, humid classrooms line dusty corridors. Each room is home to three or four families, jostling for space. There is nowhere to escape, and the noise is constant.

BBC News - Floods live on in nightmares of Pakistan children

The news-life of a natural disaster

"The media are most attracted to volcano eruptions and earthquakes and pay the least attention to food shortages and droughts ... for every person killed in an earthquake, almost 337 have to die in floods to receive the same expected news coverage.

Also instrumental in relief response is the distance decay factor, which implies that disasters unfolding closer to the United States would receive more coverage than those unfolding farther away... a disaster in Asia would require 43 times as many dead as in a disaster in Europe to have the chance of news coverage. Thus, for the American news media, 43 Asian lives equal one dead in Europe."

The Dawn Blog » Blog Archive » The news-life of a natural disaster

Pakistan floods: An anatomy of the Indus

"This monsoon season the upland areas of Pakistan received fantastic amounts of rainfall, with four months worth of rain falling in just a couple of days. Some areas in Northern Pakistan received more than three times their annual rainfall in a mere 36 hours. Under such extraordinary circumstances, floods were inevitable. What was somewhat preventable was the extent of human misery caused by the floods - particularly for the poor. And whilst the rains were the result of an extreme and unusual natural event, the planning of water resources could have been more thoughtful. "
ABC The Drum Unleashed - Pakistan floods: An anatomy of the Indus

"Pakistan floods: An anatomy of the Indus


Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt
Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

This monsoon season the upland areas of Pakistan received fantastic amounts of rainfall, with four months worth of rain falling in just a couple of days. Some areas in Northern Pakistan received more than three times their annual rainfall in a mere 36 hours. Under such extraordinary circumstances, floods were inevitable. What was somewhat preventable was the extent of human misery caused by the floods - particularly for the poor. And whilst the rains were the result of an extreme and unusual natural event, the planning of water resources could have been more thoughtful.

A pinch of geography would be useful. The Indian monsoon winds can be viewed as a giant sea-breeze with ocean moisture sucked in by rising hot air over the South Asian plains. It is also influenced by large scale weather patterns such as the jet stream. Located approximately on the Tibetan plateau it consists of warm equatorial air which, after rising and flowing pole-ward for about 10 to 15 kilometres, descends on the subtropical areas to flow back towards the equator. This jet stream wobbles north and south as it flows around the Northern Hemisphere, and as it shifts, it drags the weather systems along.

This year, meteorologists noticed a change in the normal behavior of the jet stream. In mid-July, the jet stream came to a halt as a consequence of the 'blocking' effect of Rossby Waves which were, for some reason, stronger than the jet stream. The blocking event coincided with the summer monsoon, which brought unusually heavy amounts of rain on the mountains that girdle the north of Pakistan. Gushing quickly down the tributaries into the Indus River the rain waters gave rise to floods of catastrophic proportions.

Thus, it was weather, certainly not climate change that was responsible for the Indus floods. Whether or not this blocking event, however, was a consequence of climate change, is something we just do not know yet. Scientific knowledge about the monsoons is still full of holes. In particular our knowledge about how the jet stream, the moisture-bearing clouds, and the highly erodible mountains all interact remains incomplete.

It was not just the rains that bear the full responsibility for the enormity of the floods in Indus valley. Rivers are essentially channels to drain out water. Being one of the largest rivers of the world, Indus should have been able to carry out the excess waters into the sea. Why couldn't the river flush out the excess waters? This is where human intervention - in terms of poor water resource planning and infrastructure development - played an important role in exacerbating the floods. To increase the area under irrigation, in recent decades more and more waters of the Indus River have been diverted into nearby farms. Many of these farms are owned by the richer farmers who have, with state support and over the years, built levees or embankments along the river to protect their farms from the occasional floods. These water infrastructures hold the key to understanding the mechanics of the Indus floods.

We tend to forget that the Himalayas is one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world and since it has undergone huge tectonic upheavals, it is extremely fragile, containing soft rocks that are highly susceptible to erosion during heavy rains. Rivers like the Indus that originate in the Himalayas bring down enormous quantities of sediments with the water. Engineers and water planners, experts who build these infrastructures, however, plan for only water. There is poor consideration for the sediment load that gets carried within the banks of the river channel. Each human interference into a natural river system has its consequence: when excessive amounts of water are drawn out of its channel, a river channel becomes less efficient and loses its ability to quickly move the water. When levees are built along the banks, the sediments get deposited on the river bed, which gradually rises above the surrounding plains. Not only does this enhance the flood risk, but with the levees standing as walls, it makes it difficult for the floodwater to return back into the channel once it has spilled over.

In the last few decades, however, the water and irrigation infrastructures over the Indus have increased in size and numbers, in an effort to contain the rain waters from where they rush down the hill slopes to 'protect' the habitations and farming lands located on the Indus plains. Indeed over two thirds of the Indus flow is diverted for irrigation. A number of tributaries, for example, join the Indus from the west. These are fast-flowing hill torrents that bring down huge quantities of silt during the monsoons. With funding from external development agencies, a series of barrages have been built along the hill slopes to prevent their waters reaching the Indus. Many of these barrages added waters to the already inflated Indus and contributed to further worsening of the flood situation.

What we see is that technology-based interventions do not affect the rich and the poor in the same way. The barrages certainly benefit the richer farmers who own the farming lands and who now harvest more than one crop. But when they fail, as they did in this year, these very barrages can plunge innumerable people's lives into utter distress. The political ecology of the water infrastructure is such that those who benefit from them are usually not those who suffer from the floods.

A popular view circulating in the media is that the loss of lives and livelihoods was due to the encroachment of the river bed by the poor. Indeed, just like the diaras and the charlands of Gangetic plains, a large number of indigenous communities lived in and around the Indus river bed - in the Kachha (or the fragile or wet land), the Baet (the doab or the mound between two permanent river branches) and the Pakka lands (or the firmer ground). Some of these communities are unrecognised containing no proof of identity as legal citizens of Pakistan. Over years of living with the river, these communities developed finely-tuned understanding of how the river behaves, how the floodwaters rise and fall, and which wrinkles on the land they flow through. With their lives at stake, over many generations of living and coping with the changing moods of the river, they had developed a close knowledge of the river's rise and fall and are always at high level of alertness. But, the extraordinary downpours, the sudden rise of the waters, the lack of warning and the unpredictable movements of rushing floodwaters through the breaches in the embankments have made all that irrelevant this year. In deep frustration, Imdad Khan, an old farmer of Baet Morjhangi, commented that: "The Sindhu broke its old agreements with us" (as quoted by Ahsan Wagha). The catastrophic inundations, however, were not only partially caused by human folly, which was not committed by the biraderi (clan/community) to which Imdad belongs, but of people who had never lived in the Indus valley.

Although in numbers of dead the disaster that has hit the nation is smaller than the Asian Tsunami, the scale of human suffering, particularly during the post-flood times, and the magnitude of the nearly impossible task of rebuilding innumerable livelihoods is far greater than it. If something good can at all come out of the enormous human tragedy that Pakistan has been confronted with, it should be a rethinking of river development and planning not only in that country, but all of South Asia.

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt is a Fellow in Resource Management in Asia Pacific Program, Crawford Scool of Economics and Government at the College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why does Canada's Globe and Mail not acknowledge the grim reality in Afghanistan?

Map of Afghanistan showing the security situat...Image via WikipediaAfghanistan is drowning in corruption, despair, and violence. The UN acknowledges it and so does the New York Times along with most others who are knowledgeable of the ground realities in Afghanistan. The Gobe and Mail in Canada continues to have a pro-war bias when it comes to Afghanistan.
The lead story out of Afghanistan is that of abysmal failure. Globe, on the other hand, publishes spot reports of the plans to clean the birth-place of the Taliban of Taliban. The op-ed pieces and the editorials have been notoriously pro-war in the past few years. Leading the charge have been the so called defense analysts, often based in western Canada, though some political science professors at McGill University with former stints at the Pentagon are exceptions, have been beating the war drums in a frenzy.
With months left before Canada leaves Afghanistan to Afghans, nothing short of a miracle will allow the Canadian government to claim victory. In fact, victory is no longer the word White House uses for Afghanistan. I, however, believe that there will be plenty of journalists and academics who would write the favorable op-ed pieces, based on their extensive and thorough few-weeks visits to Afghanistan, telling the Harper government what a great triumph has it been for Canada in Afghanistan.
As or Afghans, they may not want to look forward to decades of abject poverty, disease and violence, but as long as the foreigners (including Pakistan) keep muddling in Afghanistan, the situation in Afganistan is unlikely to improve.
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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

BBC News - How to fix flood-hit Pakistan

Ahmed Rashid in BBC:

If such funding is truly to arrive than it is time that Pakistan's kleptomaniac rulers restore some public trust.

The politicians need to agree to set up a Trust Fund, much like that which operates in Afghanistan to fund the government, army and police.

A tented relief camp for the flood victims in Pakistan, 5 September 2010 The floods have washed away 5,000 miles of road and rail and 1,000 bridges

Pakistan's Reconstruction Trust Fund could be run by a board that included the World Bank, other international lending agencies and independent and prominent Pakistani economists and social welfare figures with no ties to the government.

Pakistanis would still take all the major decisions, but those who did so would not be the cronies of the president, the PM or the opposition leaders.

Pakistan's finance bureaucracy and army would have seats at the table, but certainly no veto powers over how the money is spent.

Their job would be impartial implementation of recovery overseen by the Trust Fund.

Such a fund would not just monitor the cash, but help the government put together a non-political, neutral reconstruction effort.

It would also help plan long-term economic reforms, such as widening the tax base and insisting that landlords pay income tax.

The government has not tapped the large numbers of extremely competent Pakistani technocrats, NGO workers and economists.

Pakistan Floods Threaten `Massive' Job Losses, Inflation Jump, Gilani Says - Bloomberg

Pakistan’s unprecedented floods threaten to hobble the economy with a surge in unemployment, a spike in inflation and billions of dollars in crippled infrastructure, the country’s prime minister said.

“There will be massive job losses, serious social implications and a snowball effect on manufacturing and services,” Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a speech from the capital, Islamabad, yesterday. Inflation may almost double to 20 percent after damage of as much as $6 billion to transportation and agriculture, the government APP news service reported, with Gilani citing some estimates spiraling as high as $43 billion.

Rising prices may put pressure on Pakistan’s central bank to boost its benchmark interest rate, already one of the highest in the world, and hammer household spending power in a country where a quarter of the population lives on less than $1 a day. As Pakistan appeals for aid, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the nation must demonstrate the ability to ensure funds will be channeled to those most in need.

“Renewed commitment to governance and fiscal reforms will be important to mobilize domestic revenues and ensure that funds reach the poor people it is intended for,” Zoellick said in a statement after meeting with Pakistan’s Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh in Washington yesterday. “The response of donors to the floods will also depend on the government’s ability to deliver in this area.”

Credit-Default Swaps

The cost of insuring Pakistan government debt jumped to a three-month high. Credit-default swaps on Pakistan government debt had increased by 331 basis points to 832 basis points between July 31 and yesterday, according to data provider CMA. The last time they traded at a higher level was on May 26, when the contracts closed at 841 basis points.

Gilani estimated gross domestic product growth at 2.5 percent in the current financial year, 2 percentage points less than the government’s target. By comparison, Pakistan’s neighbor India may expand as much as 8.75 percent in the year through March, its finance minister said this week.

Higher borrowing costs in Pakistan may be unavoidable given prospects for higher consumer prices. Inflation in July stood at 12.34 percent, and the State Bank of Pakistan on July 30 increased its discount rate to 13 percent from 12.5, boosting the benchmark for the first time in four meetings.

Monetary Tightening

“The central bank may not have much of a choice, and will tighten the policy,” said Sayem Ali, an economist at Standard Chartered Pakistan Ltd. in Karachi. “The pace of inflation is definitely moving north, and the central bank is expected to react accordingly.”

The inflation rate may climb as the government estimates the floods to have damaged $1 billion of crops, causing shortages. Pakistan will harvest 4.4 million metric tons of rice in the marketing year that starts Nov. 1, down 35 percent from the previous year, according to a report by a unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has called for funds to replace half a million tons of wheat seed stocks destroyed by the floods, with planting of the staple due to take place over the next three months.

The World Bank yesterday increased its flood-related support to the nation to $1 billion from $900 million, the Washington-based development lender said in a statement on its website.

Gilani yesterday said the natural disaster has destroyed 4,000 kilometers of roads and 1,000 bridges, pushing up the cost of delivering goods and services. He estimated the inflation rate to climb to between 15 percent and 20 percent.

Flows in the Indus River basin reached 10 times their normal monsoon season levels, racing south through Punjab and Sindh provinces and wreaking destruction. At their peak they the floods covered an area the size of England.

To contact the reporter on this story: Farhan Sharif in Karachi at fsharif2@bloomberg.net

Pakistan Floods Threaten `Massive' Job Losses, Inflation Jump, Gilani Says - Bloomberg

Monday, September 6, 2010

Iran led by a mad man

Ahmadinejad says WTC bombing ‘big lie’

DOHA: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned the accepted narrative of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, saying it was still not clear who was behind them. “Something happened in New York and still, nobody knows who the main perpetrators of that act were,” Ahmadinejad told diplomats and newspaper editors, late on Sunday, while on a brief visit to Qatar. “No independent people were allowed to try and identify the perpetrators,” he charged. “They say terrorists were hidden in Afghanistan and NATO mobilised all its resources and attacked Afghanistan,” he said. “They say that in the Twin Towers, 2,000 people were killed. In Afghanistan, so far, more 110,000 had been killed.” afp

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Ahmadinejad says WTC bombing ‘big lie’

Friday, September 3, 2010

Shias are also our target, Taliban

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least 50 Shia Muslims in Quetta on Friday.

The attack sharply drove up the toll of sectarian assaults in a country battered by massive flooding.

Taliban commander Qari Hussain Mehsud tells The Associated Press that though they are fighting the US and the Pakistani government, ''Shias are also our target.''—AP

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Taliban say their bomber attacked Quetta rally

These are not Pakistan’s worst floods

Flood water passing through Bani Gala area of Islamabad. PHOTO: QAZI USMAN

KARACHI: The devastation from Pakistan’s “worst floods in living memory” could have been contained had flood-prevention projects been put in place, experts say.

The government claims that nothing could have prevented the floods that have killed more than 1,600 people and made over a million people homeless.

“These are not the country’s worst floods,” stresses irrigation expert Idrees Rajput, also a former member of the Sindh government. “Water levels in Sindh rose to similar high floods in 1992 and 1976 but the impact was not as huge. This time, flooding has been exacerbated only due to decades of government corruption and neglect.”

Pakistan has earlier braved floods in 1973 and 1976, following which the Federal Flood Commission (FFC) was established in 1977. The commission operates under the water and power ministry and was set up to integrate flood management on a country-wide basis, especially relating to the Indus River System. Before the FFC, provincial governments would plan and execute their own flood-protection projects.

Irrigation experts, however, believe that the Federal Flood Commission (FFC), in tandem with provincial irrigation departments, misused funds and poorly managed flood-prevention projects.

“All these years, the FFC has approved and executed water control projects only on paper,” says irrigation expert Arshad H Abbasi. “They were never there to monitor the work on the ground or to hold provinces accountable for work done.” According to official documents available with The Express Tribune, the FFC has “successfully prepared and executed” three National Flood Protection Plans (NFPP) worth Rs87.8 billion since 1978. A fourth plan is still under implementation. Among other flood-prevention projects, these plans included emergent flood schemes, such as building embankments and spurs and improving the flood forecast and meteorological system. The projects were mostly funded through foreign loans from the Asian Development Bank, the International Development Association-World Bank and German financial organisation KFW. Japan had made an additional grant of Rs348 million.

According to the FFC, the projects were executed in all the provinces, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. A list of projects “completed” in 2007-08 shows that 17 projects were executed in Balochistan, 11 in Punjab, nine in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, nine in Fata, six in Sindh, and five in Gilgit-Baltistan.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s worst-hit districts, Nowshera and Charsadda, the FFC claims that it executed projects worth Rs27.3 million in 2007-08 and Rs52 million in 2008-09, which were 92 per cent complete [before the floods]. While documentation is officially complete, the projects are yet to be identified by locals on the ground. The Punjab chief minister had recently inspected bogus projects in South Punjab but the government did not still chose to stay silent over the FFC’s criminal negligence.

FFC Chairperson Zarar Aslam told The Express Tribune that the commission is not an executing body. “The FFC is constantly alleged of corruption but we are not an executing body. Our role is to facilitate the provinces, approve their schemes and provide funds to the respective irrigation department officials in each province.”

Aslam said that the commission had received Rs25 billion for flood mitigation, excluding the Rs740 million that were allocated to the FFC in the present year’s budget. This lack of funds, he said, makes accountability difficult as the commission had no budget for monitoring the implementation phase. “One needs to ask the provinces where all the money went. They are responsible for executing approved schemes and maintaining their embankments and bunds,” he said.

In a recent report by corruption watchdog Transparency International Pakistan, the chairperson was accused of misusing about 60 to 70 per cent of the budget. The amount was meant to be allocated to provinces. Zarar rubbishes the allegations. “If this were the case, then in 34 years, the FFC could not have managed to build embankments along 6,796 kilometres of the river and 1,410 spurs across the country.”

But building them is not enough, say experts. The structures have to be looked after on a regular basis, especially during the monsoon season when floods can be expected. Some structures, add experts, have not been upgraded since 1929.

“These were natural floods, but later turned into a man-made catastrophe due to the slackness of public officials and lack of trained staff in the irrigation department to tackle such a disaster,” says Rajput. “If dykes along the river had been strengthened, devastation could have been prevented to a great extent.” Abbasi says that the FFC needs to be taken to task as it overlooks implementation of projects.

Not enough dams

Others believe that failure to construct dams aggravated matters but experts warn that faulty rhetoric would only flame controversy.

“Dams do not prevent floods in the monsoon season,” Rajput says. “They have reached maximum capacity by the time we have heavy monsoon and they cannot hold more water. Even if Kalabagh Dam had existed, it could not have absorbed enough water to prevent these floods.” He said that the Tarbela and Mangla dams were both unable to absorb more than 25,000 to 30,000 cusecs of the flood, which did not really help as the maximum level of floodwaters was recorded at 1,148,000 cusecs this time.

Rajput said that flood-absorption dams need to be especially built for storing water during the flood season. “But there is no utility of such dams in Pakistan because these high floods are a rarity and cannot be used as a justification to disturb the natural flow of water.” Instead, he suggests, the government should invest in hiring trained personnel and engineers who can make timely decisions.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2010.

Pakistan banks at risk from flood impact

By James Lamont in New Delhi and Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad

Published: September 3 2010 11:58 | Last updated: September 3 2010 11:58

Fears are mounting that Pakistan’s flood crisis – so far confined largely to rural areas – will begin to take its toll on the country’s formal economy, undermining the country’s previously strong banking sector.

Moody’s Investor Service, the credit rating agency, has warned that the country’s main banks face the threat of a wave of non-performing loans as the natural disaster undermines Pakistan’s financial fundamentals.

FT.com / Asia-Pacific / Pakistan - Pakistan banks at risk from flood impact

DIVA-GIS | DIVA-GIS: free, simple & effective

The following is an excellent source of free GIS data that could be readily used in the flood relief efforts:

DIVA-GIS | DIVA-GIS: free, simple & effective

The killing fields of Pakistan

It appears that killing Shiites is permissible in Ramzan and floods!
QUETTA: Forty-three people were killed and more than 100 were injured in a bomb attack targeting a Shia Muslim rally in Quetta on Friday.
The bomb appeared to target a rally being held for Al-Quds day, an international annual event held by the Shia community opposing Israel's control of Jerusalem and showing solidarity with Palestinian Muslims.
"The death toll has now reached 43 while the number of people injured are over 100," hospital sources told DawnNews.
Television pictures showed smoke billowing into the air on a chaotic street with people fleeing and others lying prone next to motorcycles, taking cover from gunfire.
DawnNews cameraman Fateh Shakir was among those wounded in the explosion. —Agencies/DawnNews
DAWN.COM | Metropolitan | Blast targeting Quetta rally kills 43, injures over 100
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IMF briefing on floods in Pakistan


Washington, D.C.
Thursday, September 2, 2010

MR. STRAUSS-KAHN: The management and the staff had this morning the opportunity to meet with the finance minister and to see together what the IMF can do to help Pakistan face this very challenging situation created by the floods. We have two main directions for work: one is short-term help and the second thing is to deal with the economic consequences in the medium term of what has happened.
As far as the first one is concerned, I’m happy to announce that we will be able to provide 450 million in the coming days. And probably the IMF -- I won’t say as always, but as often -- will be the first agency likely to disburse very rapidly this money which is absolutely needed.
But that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is to keep the Pakistani economy back on track. We had a successful program working before the floods and we need to go back to this program. And I’m very happy to hear from the minister that Pakistani authorities clearly have in mind to do so and to go on as much as possible, taking into account the new situation, of course, but to go back to the program we established together. And I think that’s very good news. It’s needed for the Pakistani economy and it’s also a very good signal for the international community to mobilize and be able to provide the needed resources.
So I think this meeting this morning was useful. And, of course, we’re going to go on working in the coming weeks on the new developments.
MR. SHAIKH: Thank you. Let me start by thanking the managing director for the support that IMF has provided, both in the framework for a standby arrangement as well as the emergency assistance.
I want to reaffirm the commitment of the government of Pakistan towards the economic reform program, which includes fiscal austerity; domestic resource mobilization; reform of governance structures, including public sector corporations; and an enabling environment for the private sector. We are committed to that program because that is the way to keep the recovery strong and to get back on the growth trajectory.
The IMF has been a partner and has provided critical support in allowing us to get back into a stabilization mode, and the emergency assistance that the managing director has offered will come in very handy at this time of great need. And because of its quick disbursing nature, I think it is particularly relevant for our situation. I want to thank the managing director personally and his team, including Mr. Portugal, Mr. Masood Ahmed, and Mr. Adnan Mazarei, who have been working with our team to try and develop a shared understanding of the macroeconomic framework as well as what the floods would mean in terms of the macroeconomic projections and going forward.
The floods, as you know, is perhaps the greatest calamity to have struck any country in recent times. Our country, its leadership, the president, the prime minister, and all of us are united in our resolve to respond to the situation by relying on our own resources and by seeking support from our international friends, and ensuring that that support is efficiently utilized for the prosperity of our people. And even in this time, while we undertake economic reforms which can bring hardships, we will continue with targeted programs for protecting the poor. We want to get back in a situation where we go beyond relief and rescue and to the reconstruction of lives, livelihood, and infrastructure.
The challenges are great, but I think today’s meeting is a sign of hope for us and we want to continue the work by getting back home as soon as we can.
SPEAKER: My question is to the minister. The IMF managing director has announced emergency assistance for Pakistan. How soon can it be sent to Pakistan given the urgent needs of flood victims?
MR. SHAIKH: Yes. Well, this is a very good question on how soon the emergency assistance will be disbursed. And I’m happy to note that unlike a lot of pledges which are made in these kind of situations and take a long time to materialize, the IMF emergency assistance will be committed formally and can be disbursed within a couple weeks or so.
SPEAKER: What’s the status of the aid?
MR. SHAIKH: Well, at the moment there are a variety of methods through which the pledges or commitments are being made. You have a UN appeal for $460 million for the early recovery period. That is likely to be fulfilled and there is a possibility of another appeal for the next phase. Many countries are donating bilaterally. The global institutions, like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank combined, they have committed to $3 billion in terms of reorientation of the programs or making their assistance accelerated, you know, in terms of disbursement timing.
So it’s difficult to put a single number because there are a variety of channels, there are a variety of instruments. But we can share with you the details of all that through the Economic Affairs Division in our country.
SPEAKER: (inaudible) being made or is the IMF disbursement likely to be the first actually received?
MR. SHAIKH: Well, I think the IMF disbursement is qualitatively different in that it is a clear additionality as well. It is not simply a recycling of existing money. It’s a clear additionality, number one. And number two, it will be disbursed within weeks rather than within an unspecified period of time.
SPEAKER: Mr. Strauss-Kahn, has there been any relaxation of conditions in terms or timing of the $11 billion program?
MR. STRAUSS-KAHN: we’re discussing now how to reorganize the program owing to the new circumstances. What is important is what was decided by the government to improve the economic situation, especially in the tax sector, but in other fields, as well. I am happy that we’ve heard from the Pakistan Authorities that they really want to continue with this program.
Now we will see exactly how it looks during the review, how it looks for the money which already has been disbursed, and the other part of the program and what kind of timing we can have. That will be seen at the time of the review.
What is important today are two things: going on with the program rebuilding the Pakistani economy; and second, creating immediately a possibility for new resources. I’m very happy that the minister stressed the fact that that’s really new resources and not recycling of an existing loan. The new resources are going to be disbursed probably in the coming weeks, probably before the end of September. And I hope it will be helpful even if, of course, it’s not enough, especially when it will be targeted to actions which have to do with the most vulnerable part of the population in Pakistan.
SPEAKER: Thank you.
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Lahore mourns triple bombing as death toll rises

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Lahore mourns triple bombing as death toll rises
LAHORE: The death toll from suicide attacks that targeted a busy procession in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore rose to 31 on Thursday as six people succumbed to their injuries, officials said.

Three suicide bombers targeted a Shia mourning procession made up of thousands of people on Wednesday at the moment of the breaking of the fast in the holy month of Ramazan, wounding hundreds.

It was the first major attack in Pakistan since devastating floods engulfed a fifth of the volatile country over the past month in its worst disaster yet.

“Thirty-one people have died and a total of 281 were injured,” Fahim Jehanzeb, a spokesman for Lahore's rescue agency told AFP, adding that he feared more would die from their injuries.

Sajjad Bhutta, a senior local administration official, also confirmed the new death toll.

A mass funeral was hastily arranged for later in the day with police and paramilitary providing tight security, while local authorities announced a day of mourning with all public and private institutions closed.

An AFP reporter said that all markets were closed and the roads were quiet on Thursday, after the attacks provoked an outpouring of fury in the city a night earlier, with mourners trying to torch a nearby police station.

Police fired tear gas to force back the surging crowd as furious mourners beat the bodies of the suicide bombers with sticks and shoes, while others beat their own heads and chests at the site of the attacks in frustration.

The emotional crowd chanted slogans against the police and the provincial government over their failure to protect the Shia procession, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.

Lahore, a city of eight million, has been increasingly subject to Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked attacks in a nationwide bombing campaign that has killed more than 3,600 people in three years.

The procession hit by the blasts was being held to mark the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hazarat Ali, who is revered by Shia Muslims and is the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed.

Shias account for around 20 per cent of Pakistan's mostly Sunni Muslim population of 160 million.

Religious violence in Pakistan, mostly between Sunni and Shiite groups, has killed more than 4,000 people in the past decade, and it is not the first time Lahore has seen bombers target religious gatherings. – AFP

Donations to Pakistan only a fraction of those to Haiti

Donations to Pakistan only a fraction of those to Haiti

Donations to Pakistan only a fraction of those to Haiti

Canadians are not flocking to help Pakistanis survive floods that have left millions homeless, a poll shows, despite Ottawa's decision to match private donations.

The contrast with the public outpouring of help for Haiti after a devastating earthquake in January is "staggering," said an Angus Reid Public Opinion report.

While 38 of every 100 Canadians say they helped Haiti, only four per cent have made donations for aid in Pakistan, said Reid's online poll of 1,000 randomly selected adults conducted Aug. 24 and 25. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent.

"The differences in the reaction to both tragedies are staggering," said Reid. "Lack of information, and the absence of a televised telethon, might be some of the reasons for the dissimilar reaction from Canadians.

"However, there is also a marked increase in the perception that the money will not be put to good use. The proportion of Canadians who think all or most of the Haiti donations will be used to help the people stands at 38 per cent -- 10 points higher than for the Pakistan contributions."

That ratio, of nearly 10-1 helping Haiti versus Pakistan, is echoed in terms of money raised for Pakistan by the Humanitarian Coalition, a network of four leading aid organizations, including CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Quebec and Save the Children Canada.

Coalition coordinator Nicolas Moyer says donations spiked after the government announced Aug. 22 that it would match funds Canadians give to registered charities helping Pakistan. However, the $1.25 million the coalition members have raised so far is only a tenth of what they raised for Haiti in the same amount of time.

"The people affected are not terrorists, they're not politicians, they're farmers, normal people, millions of them, and the aid that is provided to us as nongovernmental organizations really does go straight to them," Moyer said in an interview. "It doesn't go through government channels at all."

The federal government announced Tuesday that an "interdepartmental strategic support team" is in Pakistan to help outline options for federal funding. The government has pledged $33 million in humanitarian aid beyond the matching funds. Donations will be matched until Sept. 12.

The Canadian wing of the International Red Cross saw a 50 per cent increase in donations after the matching program was announced and has raised $10.4 million, said spokeswoman Heather Badenoch. That pales against $160 million it raised for Pakistan after a major earthquake in 2005.

World Vision official Caroline Riseboro said floods are a "slow-burn emergency" that does not galvanize public attention as strongly as other disasters. World Vision has received $1.5 million donations for Pakistan, most after matching funds were announced.

"The reality is there are 3.5 million children who are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, who are on the brink of survival, who need clean water, who need food -- and they don't have links to the Taliban, and this is what we need to focus on," Riseboro said.