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Guardian: Pakistan's floods are not just a natural disaster

August 5, 2010

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The Guardian's Kamila Shamsie argues that the Pakistani state has failed its citizens, and now the country is unprepared to deal with the floods.

First came the Taliban. Then the army. And now the floods. The people of the Swat valley – synonymous with beauty and peace just a few years ago – have cause to wonder if they are the most benighted people in the world. The oppressive and murderous rule of the Taliban, who had almost total control of the north Pakistan valley by the end of 2008, followed by the army's retaliatory operation last year, which seemed to consider civilians entirely incidental to the matter of military strategy, forced 64% of the inhabitants of the Upper Swat region to join the numbers of internally displaced persons. By March this year, nearly 90% of those had returned to Upper Swat, badly in need of assistance to restart their lives, but at least with some hope that the worst was behind them. And then the rains came.

At the last count, 54 villages have been swept away entirely. It is almost beyond emotional comprehension – the idea that the homes you were forced out of by violence and terror a year or more earlier, and to which you have only recently returned, are now gone completely, no trace remaining. And the floods are continuing – the death toll is already nearly 1,500, and more rains are expected. There is no province of Pakistan that is expected to remain unaffected – a grim irony given how rare it is for any event to draw together all of Pakistan's feuding parties.

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