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FT: Pakistan: A precarious position

Authors: James Lamont, and Farhan Bokhari
September 1, 2010


Under a mango tree in the midst of flooded fields, not far from the Pakistani city of Muzaffargarh, Haji Nek Sain is counting his losses. Little more than a month ago, he was a farmer with a seven-acre cotton plantation, a decent living and big plans for his daughters' weddings after the harvest.

“I truly believed we were going to have a bumper crop. I could see myself buying some jewellery [for my daughters],” he reflects. “And then came the floods.”

Like legions of bedraggled farmers and shopkeepers across Pakistan, Mr Sain has seen his livelihood and his home washed away by the worst floods in the region since the late 1920s, two decades before his country even came into existence. A fifth of Pakistan is submerged.

As the waters start to recede, aid agencies are tallying up the potential cost of the crisis, now estimated to be several billion dollars. International donors have so far responded with aid pledges of $800m.

Receding, too, are expectations of what Pakistan can achieve as a linchpin state in south Asia. The country is the object of US-led international diplomatic engagement, focused on increasing its role in the push to counter Islamist terror – a role that will only increase in importance as the Americans and their Nato allies work on plans to pull out of neighbouring Afghanistan in the coming months. The latest in a string of natural, political and economic crises in the past five years puts this goal further out of reach.

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