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Lack of Relief Aid in Pakistan Could be Helping Extremists

  • Ira Mellman

As millions still await some aid following the floods, extremist groups could be filling the void.

A month after floodwaters inundated vast areas of Pakistan, millions of people are still awaiting some sort of help from their government. This is creating an opening for at least one Islamic group with possible extremist ties.

The problem is vast. The United Nations says more than 3 million people have yet to receive desperately needed food. The Pakistani government says nearly a million have received no help of any kind.

Not far from the city of Multan, south of the capital Islamabad, Abdul Rehman and his family now live under a tree on a floodwater created island where his house once stood. He says the government is not supporting them. He says some people are getting food from some social organizations, but the government is providing nothing. Others in the area say the government is providing some aid, but only to those who support the administration.

Malik Ahmed Hunajara, the local representative to the provincial assembly, says that is not the case. "There is a huge population that is affected and the government cannot give to everybody," said Hunajara.

In other areas of the country, although local and international aid organizations try to meet the needs of the people, Islamist groups, some said to have ties with extremists are stepping in to fill the void.

Hijrat Khan is a relief official for Falah-e Insaniat, which is believed to be a front for Laskar- e-Taiba, an organization that has been banned by the Pakistani government says "We have to provide food for people in far areas where no one is going."

Khan says his group has provided cooked meals to one and a half million flood victims, treated more than 300 thousand patients and has given rations to 85,000 families.

Another Falah-e-Insaniat member, Mohammed Ziad, says people are losing trust in the government, which he says doesn't know anything about people at a grassroots level and has no road map to know how to approach the people.

The United Nations says part of the problem is simply the scale of the crisis. A spokesperson says the floods left some 8 million people dependent on aid, and that number keeps growing as more areas are affected.

She adds, "This seems to be a never ending disaster."