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.
On Monday, August 9th, Asif Ali Zardari received a rude awakening from one of the hundreds of protesters who were gathered outside a political rally in Birmingham, organized by the UK branch of Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party. Amongst the protesters was Sardar Mohammed Shamim Khan, a 57 year old man who managed to sneak into the invite-only event. Khan was sitting 20 meters away from the president when he threw his shoes as he shouted “Only Allah has the right to give and take away life.”
Khan’s sentiments echoed the resentment of many who have been angered by the government’s less-than-adequate efforts in delivering aid and assistance to the millions still suffering as a result of last week’s floods.
Here’s a GEO News interview with Sardar Mohammed Shamim Khan. The interview is in Urdu, but I have translated the relevant portions below.