Monday, August 23, 2010

Washington Orders Shahbaz Airbase Saved, not Pakistan's Flood Victims

Washington Orders Shahbaz Airbase Saved, not Pakistan's Flood Victims - by Stephen Lendman

With 20 million or more people affected, about 12% of the population, the equivalent of 37 million Americans, Pakistan's devastating floods are truly of biblical proportions, described by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as worse than anything he'd ever seen, saying:

"Thousands of towns and villages have simply been washed away. Roads, buildings, bridges, crops - millions of livelihoods have been lost. People are marooned on tiny islands with the floodwaters all around them (without food, sanitation, medical help, or shelter). They are drinking dirty water. They are living in the mud and ruins of their lives. Many have lost family and friends. Many more are afraid their children and loved ones will not survive in these condition."

One fifth or more of Pakistan is under water, the US equivalent of Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, and Oregon combined, what's unimaginable in America and would never be tolerated without massive emergency aid.

Yet the Pakistani-based News reports that:

"Hundreds of thousands of people including children, women and aged men have been trapped on the rooftops of their houses as floodwaters with 5-feet depth has blanketed entire districts."

They won't survive without help. Deadly disease outbreaks are feared. Already, reports of cholera are surfacing, suggesting perhaps a much wider scale problem than verified.

Unknown numbers have perished, perhaps thousands, likely tens or hundreds of thousands before it's over. Yet aid so far donated has been pathetic, America providing token relief only, hardly enough to matter, Washington's usual response to great need, even emergencies, the way Haitian earthquake victims were treated, still on their own and out of luck eight months after their disaster.

Pakistan's government and world leaders have been disturbingly indifferent to the problem, doing far too little when massive amounts of emergency aid are urgently needed quickly.

Addressing the UN on August 19, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington would increase its donation to $150 million, $92 million to the UN, more for security than humanitarian efforts, Senator John Kerry (Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman) underscoring America's purpose on a visit to Shahbaz Airbase, saying:

"The objective is humanitarian, but obviously there is a national security interest. We do not want additional jihadis, extremists, coming out of a crisis."

Pakistan's Foreign Minister added:

"If we cannot deal with (the flood emergency) there are chances of food riots leading to violence being exploited by people who are known," a thinly veiled reference to "Islamist extremists."

On August 18, US Marine Commandant, General James T. Conway, met Pakistan's army Chief of Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in Rawalpindi to discuss security, not relief, Pakistan press reports saying "during the course of the meeting....they discussed issues pertaining to national security, war and terrorism, defense needs, etc. at length."

The plight of 20 million Pakistanis wasn't addressed, showing America's contempt for the needy, even under dire emergency circumstances, victims getting little or no aid, one man speaking for many, saying:

"We left our homes with nothing and now we're here with no clothes, no food and our children are living beside the road." So are millions of others, perhaps more than reported.

A Disturbing Asian Human Rights Commission Report

Issued on August 20, it's headlined, "PAKISTAN: Minister tasked with saving US airbase at the cost of the displacement of thousands," saying:

Reports say that "the US Air Force has denied the relief agencies use of the Shahbaz Airbase (it controls) for the distribution of aid and assistance. Soldiers of the Pakistan army, a federal minister and the administration of Sindh province are blamed for the incident involving Shahbaz Airbase at Jacobabad district" where flood waters were diverted to save the base.

As a result, 800,000 people were affected, displaced by floods, their homes lost, their condition desperate and worsening like for millions in affected areas.

Mr. Ejaz Jakhrani, Minister of Sports explained that "if the water was not diverted, the Shahbaz Airbase would have been inundated." He was assigned to protect it, former Prime Minister Mir Zafar Ullah Khan Jamali saying that doing it meant demolishing the Jamali bypass and letting the town of Dera Allahyar drown. He added that "if the airbase was so important, then what priority might be given to the citizens." He blamed "minister Jakhrani, DPO and DCO Jacobabad for deliberately diverting the course of the floodwaters toward Balochistan."

Other discussions confirmed that health relief operations aren't possible because America controls the base, and "there are no airstrips close to" affected areas, including Jacobabad.

Media reports said in 2001, the Musharraf government gave America control of Shahbaz to wage war on terrorism, the presence of army soldiers during the Jamali bypass breach a clear sign "that the Pakistan army (was) ordered to save the airbase." It meant flooding out hundreds of thousands of people, now stranded on their own without help.

"There can be no doubt that the presence of the Pakistan army personnel at (the Jamali bypass) indicates (that) this was an intentional breach," ordered by Americans in charge. "This must be investigated to ascertain who gave the orders. Those giving (them) must be prosecuted," condemning perhaps thousands of victims to death.

"It is a gross contradiction that the United States of America (donates aid, yet) refus(es) permission to use the Shahbaz airbase" to deliver it, the only facility able to do it for a large area affected.

Compare today's Pakistan to Haiti post-quake. America militarized the country, stressed security, took over the Port-au-Prince airport, obstructed relief supplies, sent in the Marines, and left millions of Haitians on their own, most getting little or no aid, nor are they now eight months later.

The same scenario affects Pakistani victims, America taking over, stressing security, and blocking aid, innocent people left stranded, perhaps to perish while imperial wars get limitless resources, powerful interests profiting at the expense of unwanted, deserted millions on their own and out of luck, the real face of US "democracy," in name only, not real.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.