Pakistan Deals With Flooding, Terrorism Accusations

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Severe flooding in Pakistan's Sindh Province has affected eight million people, and covered millions of acres of cropland. This disaster follows last year's epic floods, which were also in southern Pakistan. The country is also dealing with the fallout of an accusation by a top American military official that Pakistan's intelligence agency supported insurgent attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And let's go next to Pakistan, the scene of both a natural disaster and political turmoil. And we'll talk about the disaster first. NPR's Julie McCarthy is on the line from a flood zone in southern Pakistan. Julie, hi. Where are you?

JULIE MCCARTHY: Hi. I'm in a place called Sanghar, Steve. And you can only really appreciate the scale of this disaster from the sky. We flew in from Karachi and passed a number of villages. Water has submerged entire towns. You know, you only see small patchwork of green crops that haven't been swamped. Otherwise, this murky, green carpet of water is covering the earth, here, and the houses are filled with it. The roads are washed out. A million homes have been damaged in this thing. And you wonder, really, how people did get out, because no roads really seem passable.

The World Food Program says it's reached about 100,000 people, but the need is much more massive than that. Something in the order of three million people are in need of nutrition, and, of course, concerns are rising about the compromised health of the most vulnerable here, the children and the elderly.

INSKEEP: Of course, this is the result of heavy rains that come every year in Pakistan, but have been especially devastating the last couple of years. In fact, Julie, some people might wonder if we're playing a repeat of a report of yours from a year ago. This seems so familiar, now.

MCCARTHY: Well, it looks very familiar. But, you know, the nature of this is different, Steve. This was just simply monsoon rain with nowhere to go. We don't have dams busting like last year. You don't have canals overflowing. But you do have entire places submerged. And in this disaster, for a second year running, the cotton crop will really take a hit. Seventy-three percent of the crops have been destroyed here in Sindh, which is hugely significant. The all-important economies like the textile industry will be decimated by something like this. So it will weaken an already-battered economy that badly needs to export its goods and won't be able to.

INSKEEP: We're talking with NPR's Julie McCarthy in Pakistan, where the government has more than one thing to deal with at a time, here - not just the floods, but also the debate over terrorism. And I want to ask you about that next, Julie. As you know very well, the top-ranking American military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, yesterday in congressional testimony specifically said that Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, supported a militant group, the Haqqani Network, that is blamed for attacking the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, a serious allegation from a serious person.

MCCARTHY: Very serious, and exceptionally so, because it does come from Admiral Mullen, who has really made a huge effort here to deepen this relationship, to have strong ties with the army chief here, General Ashfaq Kayani. So for him to have said this so publically and joined a chorus of voices of U.S. officials who have said that there is skullduggery here between the ISI and the Haqqani Network, basically that the Haqqani Network acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's ISI, it cannot be underestimated. And it is very worrying to the Pakistanis, and they are hitting back. They are sounding wounded, like wounded friends, but they're also sticking to this persistent denial that the ISI aids or abets any militants next door, in spite of these U.S. allegations.

INSKEEP: It's interesting to follow the debate in Pakistan, because although officials deny it and the public seems to be angry about the allegations, you also get a sense that, in the public, people, on some level, believe it. They don't have any trouble believing the ISI would be involved with militants.

MCCARTHY: No, they don't. And interestingly, this is a paradox you have, here. While that may be going on, an editorial today in one of the leading papers talked about how, increasingly, the sense here is for an inevitable confrontation with the United States rather than this begging-bowl syndrome that many people feel they've fallen into. So this is fueling anti-Americanism, which has already been at very, very high levels since the covert raid on Osama bin Laden.

And what you're hearing here is a very staunch interior minister saying Pakistan will not tolerate any incursion into Pakistan, if that's what the United States has planned - all of which is speculation. But it is this bitter reminder for Pakistanis about that covert U.S. raid to get Osama bin Laden, which they saw as a direct incursion and a violation of their territory.

INSKEEP: NPR's Julie McCarthy, thanks very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.

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