To highlight the screamingly obvious, two headlines from Thursday, August 5, and a few related headlines since.
Over 500,000 to Evacuate from Sindh (DAWN) – “Pakistani authorities began evacuating half a million people living along the swollen Indus River in the country’s south on Thursday, as floods caused by the worst monsoon rains in decades threatened new destruction. The floods have already killed an estimated 1,500 people over the past week, most of them in the northwest. An estimated 4.2 million Pakistanis have been affected, including many in eastern Punjab province, which has seen numerous villages swallowed by rising water in recent days.” (Saturday morning the BBC reports that over 12 million are now affected.)
Al-Qaeda in Pakistan Top Threat (BBC) – “Al-Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan and its affiliates in Africa remain the biggest threats to US and its interests abroad, a US government report says. The annual terrorism report states that al-Qaeda encountered setbacks in 2009 but has proved to be ‘resilient and adaptable’.”
Quite often the difference between disaster and catastrophe is a cascade of coincidence. Cause and effect cannot be predicted because the interaction of events cannot be forseen. Only in retrospect do we recognize the straw that broke the back was neither one nor the other (nor the other), but a combination.
I am not predicting anything. Two dots connecting — even colliding — do not necessarily cause an explosion. But without disciplined attention we sometimes seem to miss the obvious.
Left, below: BBC Map of Pakistan food zone as of August 5. (More detailed maps will appear in a new window by clicking on the images below)
Right, above: BBC map of Taliban influence in Northwest Pakistan (2009). Since this map was generated the government has reasserted substantial control in Swat and neighboring districts in the North. The situation in FATA remains volatile. South Waziristan is occupied by significant elements of the Pakistani military. North Waziristan continues to be under the control of the Taliban-in-Pakistan and is thought to provide sanctuary to al-Qaeda.
For further consideration:
Hard-Line Islam Fills Void in Flooded Pakistan (New York Times) (Thanks Eric for the link, embarrassed to have missed it.)
More rains hit flooded Pakistan, Islamists step up (Associated Press)
Pakistan pleads for help as disaster worsens (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
U.S. assesses own plans after Pakistan floods (Reuters India)
Pakistan floods could swamp Sindh (BBC) (Note: the flooding is now wiping out much of this year’s harvest in the Indus river valley. Over the next 24 to 36 hours the flooding will peak in the urban centers of Karachi and Hyderabad
Landslides cut off Swat Valley (Aljazeera)
No respite in sight as more rains forecast (DAWN) “With water flows continuing to increase at Guddu and Sukkur, weather pundits have forecast an extended rainy spell, at times heavy, raising fears of aggravation of the ‘super flood’ in the Indus.”