First the Taliban, Now the Flood

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 2, 2010 | Go to article overview

First the Taliban, Now the Flood


Byline: Sherin Zada and Riaz Khan Associated Press

IMAM DHERI, Pakistan -- This village in Pakistan's troubled Swat Valley suffered through years of Taliban rule and months of battles between Islamist militants and the army. But for a man who has seen it all, that's nothing compared to the last three days of flooding.

Pakistan's impoverished northwest has been wracked by the worst floods in the country's history -- a disaster that has claimed 1,100 lives, wiped out whole villages and left families clinging to the tops of collapsed houses in the hope of being rescued.

The catastrophe also opened up a new front in the U.S. war against Islamist militants, with both groups competing to deliver emergency aid to a region under constant threat of the Taliban.

But for flood victims like Fazal Maula, a 30-year-old resident of Imam Dheri, it doesn't matter who delivers the assistance -- he just wants to know how he and his family are going to find their next meal and rebuild their lives.

"We saw destruction during the three years of the Taliban and then during their fight with the army. But the destruction we have seen in the last three days is much more," Maula told an Associated Press reporter who managed to reach the village on a makeshift boat Sunday.

The floods destroyed almost everything in Imam Dheri and the surrounding villages, including houses, shops, vehicles and crops. Residents have received no assistance from the government, and those who haven't been able to flee by boat are running out of food, said Maula.

The army launched a major offensive against Taliban militants in the Swat Valley last spring, sparking a fight that caused widespread destruction and drove some 2 million people from their homes.

The government has said that rehabilitating the area is key to keeping out the militants, a goal that was already hampered by a shortage of funds and now will be much harder to accomplish because of the devastating floods, which have destroyed more than 14,000 houses and 22 schools in Swat.

The U.S. stepped in to help the government Sunday, promising $10 million in emergency aid. …

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