27 Aug 2010
At least 20 million people have lost their homes as a result of the floods in Pakistan and more than 1,600 have died. The United Nations (UN) has asked the international community for US$460 million in emergency aid.
Pledges of international aid have been coming in slowly. As of Friday last week, the UN only received US$230 million. These funds fall far short of what is needed for the country to rebuild homes and livelihoods.
To put the figure into perspective, in 2009, BP made more in two weeks than the UN is trying to raise in emergency aid for Pakistan. Also compared to Haiti, a staggering 9.9 billion dollars were pledged in international aid after its earthquake earlier this year.
The media cites donor fatigue as the reason for the poor response to Pakistan's plight, but Snehal Shingave, Assistant Professor at the University of Texas in Austin, contends that the more salient reason that money has not been forthcoming for Pakistan's flood disaster is geopolitical interests in the region linked to the ways that America has conducted its wars.
In the last 5-6 years, the reason that America has attributed its failures in Afghanistan to the Pakistani intelligence, the ISI, which colludes extensively with the Taliban. This means that all negotiations about money that goes into Pakistan are thoroughly politicized in the American Congress and in the American news media.
The other part has to do with a general sense of Islamophobia that exists in the West, which is more or less the idea that Pakistan is a breeding ground for terror. And that giving any money to that country will inevitably end up in the hands of organizations that the US finds unfavourable.
For both these reasons, major governments have been squeamish about giving money to Pakistan.
Watch part two of this interview here.