EU effort in Pakistan needs years of commitment

By Sajjad Karim, MEP

, by Sajjad Haider Karim

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

EU effort in Pakistan needs years of commitment

The devastating floods have caused unspeakable suffering for the people of Pakistan and it is now also expected to affect dramatically the country’s prospects for economic growth and security.

In this context, one really must try and see things from the perspective of the ordinary people of Pakistan.

An ongoing war, terrorist attacks in the streets, on schools, hospitals and even security services bases. Rising levels of poverty, corruption, rising prices and the shortages of energy and even clean water now making life more unbearable by the day. And then the floods hit. As they lost their homes, land and livelihoods their President was enjoying the best and finest that Europe has to offer. In the eyes of the world today President Zardari really is a case of the ’Emperor fiddles whilst Rome burns’. His actions at the time undoubtedly hampered the will of the international community to come forward.

In contrast, the EU and European governments’ responses to the crisis showed how the EU was willing to stand ’shoulder to shoulder’ with Pakistanis in their hour of need. Our response led by you has been commendable both at an EU level and indeed from the Member states acting on bilateral basis aswell. Certainly the UK did all that it could.

The flooding left more than 4 million people homeless and some 8 million in urgent need of humanitarian aid. These effects are still ongoing and still unfolding.

The EU now needs to adopt a two-prong approach of continuing disaster relief and helping to put in place a development programme to build infrastructure that will mitigate further flooding and provide better disaster preparedness. Agriculture needs particular attention as food shortages will soon hit. Global food prices are at a 20 year high in any event, but in Pakistan the effects will be much magnified.

These effects must be minimalised immediately. The international community have to visibly deliver reconstruction efforts so that ordinary Pakistanis are not pushed so far that their understandable reactions are ones which lead to instability in an already fragile federation under constant attack.

At urgent meetings in the European Parliament, MEP’s consistently argued for a comprehensive approach including debt relief and trade access.

While the EU-Pakistan summit earlier this year failed to enhance economic relations as a springboard to stronger political relations and greater security for both parties, failure at this juncture is not an option.

With floods wiping out agricultural lands, the destruction of non food crops such as cotton will hurt exports and employment.

Development measures to improve the health, education, power and transport infrastructure in the country, would lay the ground for a serious commitment towards rehabilitation and recovery. Better trade access - a move which is supported by the European Parliament - should also be a feature of our response.

The emergency is still underway and we must start to plan our response for the medium to long term. The unprecedented scale of the floods deserves an unprecedented international response.

The EU must formulate a comprehensive response as many years of support are now required. A sustained, monitored and transparent “Marshall” plan is the need of the hour in Pakistan.

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