Since devastating flash floods hit Pakistan this summer, there has been a debate about the impact on the political situation. NGOs and activists recently met in Berlin to assess the situation as winter sets in.
One-fifth of Pakistani territory was under water at the worst point the summer's floods
Muhammad Idrees Kamal has fought poverty for many years and is currently the executive director of an NGO based in Peshawar called Citizens Rights and Sustainable Development.
His home village was hit at the end of July and he has been working relentlessly to help those affected by the floods ever since. He thinks a different approach to administering aid is necessary.
"Some countries are providing food and other relief goods but this is not enough to solve the problem," he said in Berlin.
Houses need to be reconstructed and people's livelihoods need to be restored, "otherwise the crisis after the crisis will emerge," he pointed out.
Threat of Islamism
The Pakistani military is the only institution which so far has really been able to work on a large scale and in a systematic manner.
There are still millions of people living in camps for displaced persons
Some observers say that generals have been cooperating with Islamist militants, who were the first to provide unofficial help when the floods began. There was some concern in the West that the Islamists could make political gains as a result.
Ayesha Siddiqa, a journalist based in Pakistan's capital Islamabad, shares the concern to some extent. "Because of the combination of poverty and the militants’ better media management there is a potential threat of people falling victim to them."
Reassessing people's needs
Siddiqa added that people’s needs had to be reassessed. "There are threats, which Pakistan's civil society must address, but there are other things, which it can only solve with the help of the international community," she explained.
Another reason for the international community's dilemma concerning how to help Pakistan’s flood victims has been the general fear that aid money could end up in the pockets of corrupt politicians.
Siddiqa argued that the West should have a more pragmatic approach. "Corruption and inefficiency do not make us happy but they are problems which will be reduced once democratic governments realize they have to take responsibility for their actions."
"It is important to understand that these democratic forces are our only hope. We have to create monitoring and evaluation methods to keep an eye on them," she added.
One of the most pressing problems is reconstruction
Strengthening civil society
Thomas Gebauer, the executive director of the German relief organization, medico international, supported this line of thought and said that civil society in Pakistan had to be strengthened.
"These people are not only important because they can implement aid programs and administer emergency aid but because they have a monitoring function when it comes to larger projects," he said.
As winter sets in and life gets even tougher for many of the flood victims, NGOs and experts have called for a coordinated approach to administering aid.
Author: Cem Sey
Editor: Anne Thomas