Pakistan Security Brief
Pakistan Security Brief – August 24, 2010
President Zardari says flood reconstruction could take at least three years; more international events due to be held to discuss flood relief aid for Pakistan; drone strike hits Taliban compound in North Waziristan; U.S. continues to face challenges of public support in Pakistan despite providing billions of dollars in aid.
President Asif Ali Zardari has warned that relief and reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of Pakistan’s flood devastation could take up to three years but denied that the floods have impaired the military’s ability to combat Taliban and al-Qaeda linked militants in the country’s northwest. Zardari defended his handling of the floods and responded to the criticism over his visit to Europe during the early days of the disaster by saying that “I have my own reasons for being where I was and at what time” and that the outrage over his overseas trip only proved how much he was “wanted” at home. The president also called on the U.S. to lower trade barriers between the two countries and to increase its efforts to win hearts and minds in Pakistan.
During a meeting of the country’s top health officials, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed that the government is “seriously concerned” about the spread of epidemic diseases such as cholera and dysentery, “especially in children who are already weak and invulnerable.” Senior health officials in Sindh have reported that more than 200 people have died while residing in relief camps set up throughout the province.
The director of the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East and Central Asia, Masood Ahmed, said that the flood disaster in Pakistan will have a “major and lasting impact” on the country’s economy, which was already experiencing a two year financial crisis before the floods. Ahmed also said that Pakistan has the option to either adjust its current IMF program to account for the financial pressures caused by the floods or can make a request for emergency funding from the IMF’s fund for countries hit by natural disasters. Pakistani Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has previously said that he wants the IMF to ease its restrictions on the $11 billion loan initially provided to Pakistan in 2008 and is set to join the talks currently underway in Washington on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in an interview over the weekend that he has discussed with UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clintion the possibility of another international event in New York on September 19 to discuss the flood relief and reconstruction efforts. Qureshi also said that a separate forum with the European Union in Brussels has already been planned.
The southern areas of Pakistan near the mouth of the Indus River are at critical risk of flooding in the next three days as high water levels threaten to burst the embankments and spill into Sindh’s fertile plains. Sindh Irrigation Minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo said that thousands of irrigation department personnel have been dispatched to reinforce barriers at high-risk areas surrounding the city of Hyderabad and will continue to monitor the situation in the towns at the mouth of the river. On Monday, Food Minister Nazar Muhammad Gondal said that the flooding has destroyed or severely damaged 4.25 million acres worth of crops.
Two missiles fired from a U.S. drone struck a suspected militant hideout in North Waziristan on Monday, killing at least 20 people including seven civilians. The strikes, which targeted a militant compound just outside of Miramshah and also hit an adjacent building, are believed to have killed members belonging to the Haqqani network.
Dozens of militants attacked several security checkpoints in Bajaur Agency on Monday, killing one soldier. Heavily armed Taliban fighters fired rockets and mortars at checkposts in the Siddiqabad and Bilalabad areas just outside of the agency headquarters of Khar. This series of assaults marks the first major attack by militants on security forces in that area in the past two years.
- An article in the Washington Post examines the challenges of building popular U.S. support amongst the Pakistani population. Although the U.S. government has provided around $18 billion in military and civilian aid since September 11, 2001, a Pew Research Center poll last month revealed that half of Pakistanis believe the U.S. provides little to no assistance. Analysts say the reason for this public perception stems from poor coordination within the Pakistani government, internal corruption, and a reluctance to build iconic projects which could become targets for terrorists. Tariq Fatemi, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S., highlighted one of the major issues with America’s inability to build trust in Pakistan, saying that “American assistance is of a nature that is not seen or felt” by the average Pakistani.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled for an upcoming trip to Pakistan in order to personally visit the country’s flood affected areas and “better decide how to better help the flood victims.” The exact locations President Ahmadinejad will visit have not yet been specified.