Militants could exploit flood: Zardari

Islamist terrorists may exploit the chaos and misery caused by the floods in Pakistan to gain new recruits.

Written by Associated Press | Islamabad | Published: August 20, 2010 1:07:53 am

Islamist terrorists may exploit the chaos and misery caused by the floods in Pakistan to gain new recruits,President Asif Ali Zardari warned on Thursday — remarks echoed by US senator John Kerry who said America would stand by its vital wartime ally during the crisis.

The floods have affected 20 million people,straining Pakistan’s civilian government as it struggles against al-Qaeda and Taliban violence. Aid groups and the UN have said that foreign donors have not been quick enough given the scale of the disaster.

“All these catastrophes give strength to forces who do not want a state structure,” Zardari said during a press conference with Kerry,chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,after the two visited some of the country’s hardest-hit areas and a relief camp.

“There is a possibility that the negative forces would exploit the situation,” Zardari said. “Like they would take the babies who have been made orphans and take them to their camps and train them as the terrorists of tomorrow.”

There also are concerns the scale of the suffering could stoke unrest and political instability that may distract nuclear-armed Pakistan from the fight against the Taliban.

“None of us want to see this crisis to provide an opportunity or an excuse for people who want to exploit the misery of others for political or ideological purpose,and so it is important for all of us to work overtime,” Kerry said.

More than three weeks after the floods first began,the US,Germany and Saudi Arabia all announced new pledges of aid,while Japan said it would send helicopters to help distribute food,water and medicine. The Asian Development Bank said it would redirect $2 billion of existing and planned loans for reconstruction.

“If we don’t do it quick,if we don’t do it well,what will the Pakistani people think?” asked Juan Miranda,the development bank’s director general for Central and West Asia.

The US has dispatched 19 army helicopters to hard-hit areas and given other aid worth $90 million. Kerry said the monetary assistance would increase to $150 million,a figure expected to be formally announced at a UN General Assembly meeting on Thursday.

The US’s primary concern is humanitarian,Kerry said,adding,“Obviously there is a national security interest.”

Richard Holbrooke,US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan,told the Asia Society that the US was the first and largest contributor,and he challenged other countries,especially China,to “step up to the plate”.

Saudi Arabia said it would donate $80 million to Pakistan,the official Saudi Press Agency reported,making it one of the largest donors.

Before the floods,Washington had already committed to spending $7.5 billion over the next five years on humanitarian projects. That money already included plans to deal with infrastructure,water and power problems in Pakistan,and Kerry said at least $200 million would be refocused toward tackling challenges in those and other areas directly posed by flooding.

At a relief camp in Jampur,hundreds of flood victims mobbed Zardari and Kerry,pleading for help.

“I’ve seen,unfortunately,a lot of bad things,but this ranks very high in terms of basic human devastation,” Kerry said. “It’s going to take an enormous international effort.”

Officials said the ancient ruined city and world heritage site Mohenjo Daro in the Larkana district was now at risk. “Our experts are also present at Mohenjo Daro to monitor the flood situation,” said archaeologist Qasim Ali.

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