Sunday, August 8, 2010

Global wheat crisis recalls Moscow's 'great grain robbery'

British supermarket shoppers and the governments of poor countries are set to feel the impact of a commodities panic that in the past week has seen wheat record its highest monthly increase for 37 years.

Global prices for the world's most-consumed cereal have risen nearly 50 per cent since June as a result of Russia experiencing its worst drought for generations.

On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin (pictured) announced a Russian export freeze on grain, prompting economists to predict that panic buying by some governments could cause a further spike.

Neil Saunders of London-based retail analysts Verdict said the last wheat crisis, in 1973, contributed to an 87 per cent increase in the price of an 800 gramme loaf of bread in British supermarkets, from 10.1 pence to 18.9p the following year. "There is not nearly as much inflation in the system now as there was in the 1970s,'' he said, "but it is realistic to expect the average price of a value loaf to rise from 74p to 77p by the end of the year, and possibly to 83p by the end of 2011. Other items, such as pasta, animal feed – and therefore chicken and meat – are likely to be affected to a lesser extent.''

At the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, economist Abdolreza Abbassian said governments will be to blame if consumers feel the pain of the wheat crisis. "With increased production, the world has become hooked on Black Sea origin wheat which is less dependable than that grown in more stable climates such as Canada or the United States. We have been telling governments to put in place measures to mitigate the impact of events like droughts or heavy rains.''

The 1973 wheat crisis followed a 1972 drought that destroyed 20% of the Soviet Union's food crops.

It prompted Moscow to buy up all US wheat reserves. The move became known in the City as "the great grain robbery''.

Smog increases as wildfires spread

A thick blanket of smog covered Russia's capital on Sunday, disrupting air traffic at the two international airports as wildfires continued to spread across the country. "In the last twenty-four hours, 269 new wildfires have flared up in Russia. As many as 276 wildfires have been extinguished.
Currently, 554 wildfires are raging on an area of over 190,000 hectares," Gen Vladimir Stepanov, the Chief of the Crisis Management Centre of the Emergency Situations Ministry on Sunday said.

In an interview to state-run Rossiya 24 channel Stepanov, however, said that in Sarov, the former Soviet nuclear weapons factory-turned into Federal Nuclear Centre, the wildfires have been completely extinguished.

Wildfires continued to rage across much of the central part of European Russia as the country experienced an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures of up to and above 40 degrees Celsius, RIA Novosti reported.

The death toll in the blazes rose to 52 on Friday.

On Saturday, Moscow saw its worst air pollution in 2010, with carbon monoxide levels being 6.5 times more than the maximum allowable concentration. The concentration of other toxic substances in the city air was nine times above the norm.

This morning, the situation has slightly improved but concentration of toxic substances still remains three times more than the permissible level, Moscow Ecological Monitoring Service said.

However, for the third day the dense smog has disrupted the air traffic at Moscow's Vnukovo and Domodedovo international airports in the south-west and south of the Russian capital, the only Sheremetyevo international airport in the north is functioning normally due to better visibility.

Up to 2,000 passengers were stranded at Moscow's Domodedovo international airport when major delays hit their flights.

A senior official of the civil aviation department Sergei Neradko said that about 50 flights have been cancelled and over two thousand passengers willing to fly out of Moscow are stranded.

"The pilots take their independent decision to make an instrumental landing in the poor visibility.

However, there is a certain minimum level of visibility beyond, which the ground control bans even the instrumental landing," Neradko explained.

Meanwhile, under scathing criticism Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is cutting short his vacation abroad and is returning home, ITAR-TASS reported.

The Russian health ministry said a total of 472 people across Russia sought medical aid in connection with the wildfires and 43 of them remain in hospitals.

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Kagan Is Sworn in as the Fourth Woman, and 112th Justice, on the Supreme Court

Elena Kagan was sworn in on Saturday as the 112th person, and fourth woman, to serve on the Supreme Court, continuing a generational and demographic transformation of the nation’s highest bench. In keeping with tradition, Ms. Kagan first took the constitutional oath given to a wide array of officials and then the judicial oath administered to those wearing the robe. Joined by family and friends in the Supreme Court building, she swore to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”

The low-key formal ceremony came two days after she was confirmed by the Senate and a day after President Obama marked her ascension with a jubilant televised celebration in the East Room of the White House. She was Mr. Obama’s second successful nominee to the court, and her approval by the Senate was taken as a jolt of validation for a White House battered by political and economic troubles.

Succeeding Justice John Paul Stevens, the court’s retiring liberal leader, Justice Kagan, 50, presumably will not drastically change the philosophical balance on the divided court. But if she were to serve until she was 90, as Justice Stevens has, she would have four decades to shape the nation’s legal architecture, long after the man who appointed her left the White House. Even a shorter tenure would give her time to leave her mark. Arguably, Justice Kagan made a mark from the moment she took the oaths on Saturday. She is the third woman on the current court, joining Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. She is also the fifth justice born after World War II, making that group a majority, and she brings down the average age on the court to 64, from nearly 69. And she is the first person since William H. Rehnquist, 38 years ago, to join the court without experience as a judge.

If her installation added diversity in some ways, though, it reinforced the court’s lack of it in other areas. Her addition means the court now includes neither Protestants nor anyone without an Ivy League background. Justice Kagan joins two other Jewish justices and six Catholics. She is the sixth justice to have studied at Harvard Law School (although Justice Ginsburg later transferred to and graduated from Columbia Law School); the other three graduated from Yale Law School. And she is the fourth justice to have grown up in New York City.

Mr. Obama did not attend Saturday’s ceremony, but at Friday’s event he said a third woman on the court would make it “a little more inclusive, a little more representative.” He added, “It is yet another example of how our union has become more, not less, perfect over time — more open, more fair, more free.”

Afterward, Justice Kagan made no mention of that but vowed to uphold the rule of law, saying she would “work my hardest and try my best to fulfill these commitments and serve this country I love as well as I am able.”

Justice Kagan seemed to have had her sights trained on the Supreme Court for years. She served as a lawyer and domestic policy aide in the Clinton White House, was dean of Harvard Law School and, last year, was appointed by Mr. Obama as solicitor general, the government’s lawyer before the Supreme Court.

She was confirmed Thursday on a 63-to-37 Senate vote, with most Republicans opposing her, citing her lack of judicial experience and liberal views on issues like abortion, guns and gay rights.

Republicans criticized her for barring military recruiters from using a Harvard facility because of the rule banning gays and lesbians from serving openly. They also said she “would ally herself not with the constitutional liberties of all Americans, but with the big government agenda of the president who nominated her,” as Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, put it.

Saturday’s ceremony consisted of two parts. First, in the justices’ conference room with just a handful of Ms. Kagan’s relatives present, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the constitutional oath for federal employees swearing to “support and defend the Constitution.” Then they moved into the larger West Conference Room, where the chief justice administered the judicial oath.

Obama's foreign policy scorecard

With the midterm elections preparing to move into high gear, domestic policy will be in the spotlight, eclipsing foreign policy. But as the United States tries to wind down two wars, pushes peace negotiations elsewhere, seeks to stop the spread of nuclear of weapons in at least two hot spots and works to restore an even economic keel, foreign policy is never out of the turmoil. Here is a scorecard of the major issues facing the Obama administration’s foreign policy.


The United States and its allies have been fighting in Afghanistan for nine years, having displaced the Taliban government, which offered the terrorist group Al Qaeda a base from which to operate. The goal, President Obama said at a news conference on June 27, is to ensure “Afghanistan is stable, can stand on its own two feet when it comes to security issues, and is not a base for terrorist activities launched against the United States of America.”

In the short term, Obama has proposed adding 30,000 troops to the 68,000 already there and to begin a draw-down by the summer of 2011, depending on the situation. The role of the troops, the president said, is to provide the “Afghan government the space and the time to build up its security forces, for us to be able to help blunt the momentum of the Taliban, to clear some of the areas in which the Taliban had gotten a very fierce foothold, to start moving Afghan security forces in -- even as we are improving governance and we’re improving the legitimacy and credibility of the civilian government.”

To achieve that goal, the U.S. and its allies are prepared to be involved in Afghanistan for a long time, even beyond the scheduled departure of troops. Afghanistan officials have begun talks with some elements of the Taliban, but it is unclear whether the negotiations are going anywhere. “We’re going to have to have a political solution, not simply a military solution,” Obama recently said.

The United States and allies invaded Iraq in 2003, toppled Saddam Hussein from power and have been fighting there ever since. Currently, various Iraqi groups are battling over who will form what type of government that will be responsible for security and rebuilding the nation.

U.S. policy is based on the withdrawal of American combat troops on Aug. 31, but about 50,000 troops will remain. They will be responsible for some fighting in conjunction with local soldiers, but the nature of the U.S. role will change from “a military lead to a civilian lead,” according to the Obama administration. The U.S. also expects to continue to be engaged in Iraq for the long term.

The problem area for the U.S. is with whom it will partner in Iraq. Negotiations are continuing among various Iraqi parties and the U.S. position is that it favors no specific candidate or outcome to the talks.

There are however, three broad goals, according to the Obama administration as explained by officials over the July 4th weekend in Baghdad. There should be no outside interference in the talks, a reference to Iran, which backs some Shiites. The U.S. would like as broad a government as possible so that it is stable given the ethnic divisions in Iraq and wants the ministries to be run by competent individuals who get the government working and delivering services.

The United States is committed to a two-state solution, Israel and a Palestinian state, composed of the West Bank and Gaza. While that is the long term goal, in the immediate future, the Obama administration would be happy to get Israel and the moderate Palestinian elements talking in any forum, either directly or through proximity talks and backs so-called confidence-building steps to bring the parties together. The issues have been the same for decades: borders, security, refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

At his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama insisted again that the bond between their countries is unbreakable. Both pledged to work toward peace.

But problems persist, including Israeli construction in parts of east Jerusalem claimed by both sides. Hamas, deemed by Israel and the West to be a terrorist group, does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Hamas controls Gaza, which is under blockade by Israel, which is attacked by rockets from across the border.


There are two broad areas, first stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, principally to North Korea and Iran. The other is continuing efforts by the United States and Russia to defuse their nuclear arsenals.

The latter is the easy one. The United States and Russia have negotiated a new arms reduction treaty with the Russia that is pending in the Senate. Obama has urged quick ratification.

More difficult is the policy to prevent the spread of weapons, particularly to Iran. The U.S. policy is to toughen sanctions against the Islamic Republic in the hope that Iran will give up processing nuclear material and seek to develop a delivery system for a weapon.

Obama recently signed the law establishing the latest round of sanctions, described as the toughest to date. The U.S. has also pushed for tougher sanctions in the United Nations.

“With these sanctions -— along with others —- we are striking at the heart of the Iranian government’s ability to fund and develop its nuclear program. We’re showing the Iranian government that its actions have consequences. And if it persists, the pressure will continue to mount, and its isolation will continue to deepen. There should be no doubt —- the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” Obama said.

Still, Iran has managed to continue its programs, according to officials around the world. Nor have sanctions and ostracisms pushed North Korea into ending its nuclear program.


It may not seem like a foreign policy issue, but the economic recovery is a key element of the Obama administration policy. In foreign affairs, like in business, the bottom line is the bottom line.

The United States is hoping to foster the beginnings of economic growth at the end of this recession. The first priority, President Obama told the G-20 economic summit, was job creation through the use of government stimulation of the economy.

The U.S. is pledged to double its exports in the next five years, an increase that could create millions of jobs in the United States. It wants the World Trade organization to admit Russia and wants China to continue allowing its currency to appreciate when compared to the dollar.
Coupled with more government spending on job creation is a promise to cut government budget deficits in half by 2013, a hard goal for many countries even in Europe. Politically, it will be hard for many countries, including the United States to both cut deficits and to use government funds to stimulate the economy.

The second economic area is a renewed push on global financial reform to increase transparency so that the financial system cannot go through the same turmoil it has in recent years through overweaning greed.

Crises test leadership of US-allied Pakistan

Not for the first time, Pakistan appears to be teetering on the edge with a government unable to cope.

Floods are ravaging a country at war with al-Qaida and the Taliban. Riots, slayings and arson are gripping the largest city. Suggestions are flying that the intelligence agency is aiding Afghan insurgents.

The crises raise questions about a nation crucial to U.S. hopes of success in Afghanistan and to the global campaign against Islamist militancy.

Despite the recent headlines, few here see Pakistan in danger of collapse or being overrun by militants _ a fear that had been expressed before the army fought back against insurgents advancing from their base in the Swat Valley early last year.

From its birth in 1947, Pakistan has been dogged by military coups, corrupt and inefficient leaders, natural disasters, assassinations and civil unrest. Through it all, Pakistan has not prospered _ but it survives.

"There is plenty to be worried about, but also indications that when push comes to shove the state is able to respond," said Mosharraf Zaidi, an analyst and writer who has advised foreign governments on aid missions to Pakistan.

"The military has many weaknesses, but it has done a reasonable job in relief efforts. There have been gaps in the response. But this is a developing a country, right?"

The recent flooding came at a sensitive time for Pakistan, with Western doubts over its loyalty heightened by the leaking of U.S. military documents that strengthened suspicions the security establishment was supporting Afghan insurgents while receiving billions in Western aid.

With few easy choices, the United States has made it clear it intends to stick with Pakistan. Indeed, it has used the floods to demonstrate its commitment to the country, rushing emergency assistance and dispatching helicopters to ferry the goods.

The Pakistani government's response to the floods has been sharply criticized at home, especially since President Asif Ali Zardari departed for a European tour. With so many Pakistanis suffering, the trip has left the already weak and unpopular leader even more vulnerable politically.

The flooding was triggered by what meteorologists said were "once-in-a-century" rains. The worst affected area is the northwest, a stronghold for Islamist militants. Parts of the northwest have seen army offensives over the last two years.

Unless the people are helped quickly and the region is rebuilt, anger at the government could translate into support for the militants. At least one charity with suspected links to a militant outfit has established relief camps there.

The extremism threat was highlighted by a suicide bombing in the main northwestern town of Peshawar on Wednesday. The bomber killed the head of the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force in the northwest at the forefront of the terror fight.

With authorities concentrating on flood relief, some officials have expressed concern that militants could regroup.

The city of Karachi has seen militant violence and is rumored to be a hiding place for top Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. It has also been plagued by regular bouts of political and ethnic bloodletting since the 1980s, though it has been calmer in recent years.

The latest violence erupted after the assassination of a leading member of the city's ruling party. More than 70 people have been killed in revenge attacks since then, paralyzing parts of the city of 16 million people.

While serious, the unrest does not yet pose an immediate threat to the stability of the country. Although the U.S. is unpopular, there is little public support for the hardline Islamist rule espoused by the Taliban and their allies. Their small movement has been unable to control any Pakistani territory beyond the northwest, home to only about 20 million of the country's 175 million people.

Zardari's political party has a solid majority in parliament, but the storm of criticism over the handling of the floods can only add to calls for early elections. That the army _ which has ruled the country for close to half of its 63 years _ is playing such a leading role is also not going unnoticed.

Zardari's aides say the prime minister and the Cabinet are in charge and that he has important state business in France and Britain. But that has done nothing to stop political opponents, newspaper columnists and ordinary Pakistanis from piling on scorn.

His decision to visit a family-owned 16th-century chateau in Normandy, France, when so many Pakistanis are homeless has triggered particular anger.

"Zardari visits French chateau as floods rage," read a headline in the anti-government daily The News, next to a picture of his helicopter touching down in the gardens of the chateau, set among hills and trees.

"Just when the president was thought by many in Pakistan to have secured his position, and to have matured a bit, he goes and blows it," wrote Ayaz Amir, a respected parliamentarian in a newspaper column Friday. "Any fool could have told the president not to visit his chateau because it was bound to draw fire. But he just couldn't resist it."

The revelations by online whistle-blower site WikiLeak have renewed focus on Pakistan's powerful military establishment and its long-suspected links with Afghan insurgents. Despite the civilian government, foreign and defense policy still remain the almost exclusive domain of generals.

Analysts say Pakistan is maintaining links with powerful Afghan insurgent factions like the Haqqani network because it is hedging against a U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan and wants to ensure that the next regime is friendly to it _ and hostile to India.

Washington is limited in what it can do to get Pakistan to crack down on the militants because it cannot afford to destabilize the country any more than it is already. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, is home to al-Qaida's leadership and allows U.S. and NATO to truck most of its non-lethal supplies to forces in Afghanistan through its territory.

Some observers say Washington now believes that Pakistan will not attack the Haqqani network and others sheltering in the northwest and is instead hoping its contacts with them may actually be useful in negotiating an end to the war _ even the Haqqanis if they agree to break with al-Qaida.

"The Pakistan army has won this round tactically because they are now being looked at as the key brokers here that can deliver these groups into the mainstream," said Moeed Yusuf of the Washington-based United States Institute of Peace. "The United States is working with limited options and it realizes this."

Sectarian Clashes Surge in a City in Pakistan’s Heartland

FAISALABAD, Pakistan — This industrial city, famous for its textile exports, has lately become renowned as the center of a new wave of sectarian violence that has gripped Pakistan as militancy and extremism have taken firm root here in central Punjab Province.

Last month, violent clashes broke out between Muslims and Christians after two Christian brothers — Rashid and Sajid Emanuel — were shot dead outside the district courthouse after showing up to face charges of blasphemy.

Immediately, there were fears of rioters’ setting fire to the Christian neighborhood where the brothers had lived, Warispura, a poor suburb with about 100,000 people — as they had done in a similar episode last year in a district nearby.

Blasphemy is a capital crime in Pakistan, and rights activists say the allegations are usually spurious and used to settle personal vendettas or to score political points.

In this case, for instance, the troubles started on July 1 when a handwritten letter defaming the Prophet Muhammad was distributed in a marketplace; it contained the address and telephone numbers of both brothers.

“A thief does not leave behind an ID card,” said Aslam Pervez, 60, a Christian teacher and a neighbor of the brothers. “A grave injustice has been done. The charges were not even proven, and they were killed. Is it justice? Where is the law?”

Analysts say the communal and sectarian clashes often have a local spark — an economic grievance, for instance — that is easily ignited in an atmosphere in which militant groups have been allowed to thrive for years by politicians who use them as a base of support, or have little to gain by standing up to them.

Looking to expand their influence, the groups, too, read the political winds as astutely as they do the local political terrain.

Such groups have thrived for decades in Pakistan, though sectarian violence has ebbed and flowed. Some groups, like Sipah-e-Sahaba, a Sunni militant organization, have largely domestic agendas, while others, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, focus on jihad in India and Afghanistan.

But it can be hard to draw a firm line, and sometimes the domestic groups channel militants to the others.

Under the nearly 10 years of military government that ended in 2008, sectarian violence was relatively subdued, in part because the military did not need to manipulate domestic schisms to maintain control. But civilian politics and sectarian tensions work hand in hand in Pakistan, and recently the violence has flared again. The last bad spasm was also under civilian rule in the 1990s.

Christians are not the only targets of the violence. In February, one person was killed during armed clashes between two Muslim sects. One of the sects then burned down the homes of several leaders of the other sect. Then in April, four members of the minority Ahmadi sect, declared non-Muslim by the country’s Constitution, were gunned down in Faisalabad by masked gunmen thought to be from Sipah-e-Sahaba.

Amir Rana, a terrorism expert, said the level of radicalization had grown and spread across Punjab Province, the country’s heartland. Residents say banned Islamic militant groups have managed to increase their presence and clout in Faisalabad, a city of nearly three million, and its surroundings.

Both Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that India and the United States have blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, maintain offices in neighboring districts, which also serve as recruiting grounds.

As riots broke out on July 19, groups of agitated men, many of whom were said to be armed, tried to make their way to Warispura, the Christian neighborhood, from a neighboring village, Malkhan Wala, which is a known stronghold of Lashkar-e-Taiba, residents of the Christian neighborhood said.

Mr. Rana speculated that local economic competition might have been a motivator. Christians in Faisalabad are settled on land close to roads and railway tracks. “This is precious land,” he said. “Industrialists and builders have their eyes on such properties.”

Mr. Rana said Sipah-e-Sahaba had a strong base among the working class of the city; most Christians are in the working class, too.

Khalid Rashid, vicar general of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Faisalabad, said the acts of violence against minorities, especially Christians, were on the rise, as the militant groups wanted “their presence to be felt.”

Religious minorities are feeling vulnerable and insecure. Christians make up only 5 percent of the population.

Neighbors and family members said the two Christian brothers who were killed had enmity with nobody. Rashid, 31, was a pastor who ran a local prayer group. Sajid, 28, was pursuing an M.B.A. degree.

They were taken into custody after a case was registered against them at the urging of local traders. On July 19, after a court appearance, an unidentified gunman entered the court premises and opened fire in the hallway. Both brothers were shot in the back and died at a hospital. A police officer was wounded. The attacker escaped easily.

The government has ordered a judicial inquiry into the killings. The Punjab police suspended two police officers for security lapses. But the family of the brothers is in hiding. The father, a retired government employee, and his three other sons and a daughter fear being singled out and are afraid to pursue the case.

Joseph Coutts, the bishop of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, attributed such attacks to the growing intolerance and militancy in Pakistani society.

“These groups have become so strong that they have become a law unto themselves,” he said. He added: “There is a lot of anger amongst Muslims, and there is a revival of militant Islam. Local Christians are seen as linked to the West, the United States, and therefore the fallout.”

Indeed, a city resident, Khurram Shahzad, who lodged the initial complaint with the police against the brothers, claims not to know them personally. Muslims in the Warispura neighborhood said that Christians had been provided financing from abroad to spread Christianity and convert Muslims.

“They had been given money to spread their religion,” said Muhammad Nadeem, 25, an electrician. A crowd of onlookers nodded in agreement.

Source:New York Times

Floods send foods prices soaring in Pakistan

Pakistanis grappled with skyrocketing fruit and vegetable prices Sunday caused by floods that have destroyed more than 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) of crops and left at least 4 million people in need of food assistance in the coming months.

The rising prices threaten to amplify misery in a country where many residents were already struggling with poverty and food insecurity before the worst flooding in Pakistan's history struck about two weeks ago, killing 1,500 people and leaving millions more begging for help.

The prices of basic items such as tomatoes, onions, potatoes and squash have in some cases quadrupled in recent days, putting them out of reach for many Pakistanis who struggled to get by even before the floods hit.

"It is like a fire erupted in the market," said Mohammad Siddiq as he purchased vegetables in the city of Lahore. "Floods and rains have made these things unaffordable."

Pakistan has worked with international partners to rescue more than 100,000 people and provide food and shelter to thousands more. But the government has struggled to cope with the scale of a disaster that it estimates has affected 13 million people, and could get worse as heavy rains lashed Pakistan again on Sunday.

Many flood victims have complained they have not received aid quickly enough or at all, and this anger could increase as rising food prices across the country affect many more people in this nation of 180 million.

"The floods have destroyed the agricultural fields and washed away vegetable crops ready for harvest," said Zahid Gardezi, a farmer in the central Pakistani city of Multan. "Whatever farmers stored they cannot transport because roads have washed away and communication links are down."

At least 1.4 million acres (570,000 hectares) of crops were destroyed in the central province of Punjab, the breadbasket for the rest of Pakistan, said the U.N. Many more crops were devastated in the northwest, where destruction from the floods has been most severe and many residents were still trying to recover from intense battles between the Taliban and the army last year.

"The flooding has caused massive damage to crops and also to the reserve that people had at their houses," said Amjad Jamal, spokesman for the World Food Program, which has provided food to more than 265,000 people in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

"Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was a food insecure province even before the floods, and a lot of areas are such that people can't afford even one meal a day," said Jamal.

At least 4 million people will need food assistance across Pakistan for the next three months at a cost of nearly $100 million, said Jamal.

The number of people needing assistance could increase as heavy rains continued to hit many areas of Pakistan on Sunday, swelling rivers and hampering relief work.

The Indus river overflowed its banks near the city of Sukkur in southern Sindh province on Sunday, submerging the nearby village of Mor Khan Jatoi with chest-high water and destroying many of its 1,500 mud homes.

"We were strengthening the embankment ourselves to save the village but failed and it was breached this morning and water inundated the village," said one of the affected villagers, Dadal Morai, who complained they have not received any government help.

Many foreign countries have stepped in to help the government, including the U.S., which has pledged millions of dollars and provided six military helicopters to help evacuate victims from the northwest and deliver much needed food and water. About 85 U.S. soldiers are involved, though ongoing rain has limited their flights.

But the government has also had competition from hard-line Islamist charities that have provided victims with food and shelter, including one organization allegedly linked to the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for deadly attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 160 people.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani asked for more help from the international community Sunday, saying the government couldn't cope with the disaster on its own.

"We will exhaust our resources to rescue, provide food, medicine and shelter, but it is beyond our capacity, so we will appeal to the world," said Gilani during a visit to Sukkur.

Bilawal Bhutto denies playing politics over floods

Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera face fresh threat

The latest spell of Saturday rains adds to the worries of already suffering masses of flood-hit areas wherein with suspension of relief activities people in Charsadda, Peshawar and Nowshera were asked to evacuate the villages banking river Kabul as the swelling waters pose eminent threat for the suburban population of these districts.
The district administration of Charsadda, Peshawar and Nowshera while declaring emergency in the areas have asked the population living nearby the Kabul River to vacate the villages without any further delay.
With the prediction of further downpours in the region by Peshawar Met office, the Flood Warning Cell recorded the river Kabul in high floods wherein the outflow of water remained at 1,23,400 cusecs.
The river Panjgora in District Dir was recorded with outflow of 22,593 cusecs with high level of flood while the Indus at Khairabad also remained in high flood with outflow of 5,35,100 cusecs. The Swat at Amandara was flowing with low level of flood.
The Saturday rains seeing the continuation from Friday evening also raised the level of Warsak water dam which frings Peshawar suburban areas. According to the officials, the outflow of water reached 78,000 cusecs from the water dam as the upper areas including the region adjacent to Afghanistan was constantly receiving heavy shower. Six of the spillways of the Warsak dam had to be opened to allow for increasing level of water while three of the spell ways of the dam are under construction. The officials informed that Warsak dam had the capacity of allowing outflow of about 504,000 cusecs.
According to the officials in meteorological department-Peshawar with the prediction of more rains in the region, 8 millimeter rain was recorded in Peshawar during the last 24 hours while in District Dir 36 mm, Saidu Sharif 48 mm, Balakot 23 mm, Chirat 28 mm, Abbottabad 25 mm, Timergara and DI Khan 14 mm each, Bannu 35 mm and Parachinar received a down pour of 12 mm during the last twenty-four hours.
The spell of fresh rains in the Southern part of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa brought further disaster to the region, particularly to the farther Frontier Region of district Lakki Marwat wherein about 25 more houses caved in on Saturday. People of the area were also short of edibles.
District Kohat received heavy downpour and resultant gushing of rainy drains caused 11 more casualties including caving in of a roof of a house in Jaji locality that rendered 3 person dead and one other injured. The torrential rains also swept away three of the linking bridges in the area as well and the administration declared emergency in the district.

Zardari Says Opponents Shouldn't Politicize Pakistan's Flooding Disaster

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari called on his opponents to avoid playing politics over the “calamity of floods” that have struck the country, submerging villages and leaving more than four million people stranded.

The international community and political parties at home should come together to help victims of the disaster, Zardari told a meeting late yesterday in Birmingham, U.K., the official Associated Press of Pakistan reported on its website.

Zardari has been criticized by opponents for undertaking his visit to the U.K. and France last week while Pakistan is coping with the worst floods in 80 years that have killed more than 1,500 people and left 1.8 million people needing food supplies, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.

Heavy rains in the past days in the northwest have renewed the threat of floods in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region where villages and farms were inundated, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial information minister, told APP yesterday. A flood alert is in force and troops have been deployed in the southern province of Sindh where 1.5 million people in 2,000 villages may be affected, according to the provincial government.

The floods first struck the western province of Baluchistan on July 22 and also affected Punjab province.

Zardari, addressing a meeting that included supporters of his ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, called on Pakistan to stand united as it did during the 2005 earthquake that killed more than 80,000 people, APP reported.


A group of protesters gathered outside the International Convention Center in Birmingham denouncing the president’s visit, AAP said. The protesters were from opposition parties and were exercising their political rights, APP cited Qamar Zaman Kaira, Pakistan’s minister for information and broadcasting, as saying yesterday.

Communication networks in Pakistan have been disrupted and ground access is limited in the northwest because highways and roads have been destroyed by the flooding, according to the UN.

Cotton planted on 1.4 million acres was damaged in the Punjab and may lead to higher imports, according to the Pakistan Kissan Board, a farmers’ group. As much as 5 percent of the rice crop may be damaged, threatening the nation’s export target of 4.2 million metric tons, Malik Jahangir, president of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, said by telephone last week.

While in the U.K., Zardari eased a dispute prompted by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said during a recent visit to India that Pakistan mustn’t be allowed to “look both ways” in the fight against terrorism or to “promote the export of terror whether to India, whether to Afghanistan or to anywhere else in the world.”

‘Unbreakable Ties’

The leaders declared the countries had “unbreakable” ties after they met Aug. 6 at Chequers, the countryside retreat of British prime ministers. Cameron said he recognized the “sacrifices” made by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and the two leaders pledged to deepen security cooperation.

“Storms will come and storms will go and Pakistan and Britain will stand together,” Cameron said, standing alongside Zardari.

“It’s a friendship that will never break no matter what happens,” Zardari said.

The dispute raised concerns Pakistan may curtail intelligence sharing, seen as vital in preventing acts of terrorism in the U.K. The previous Labour government said that three quarters of terrorism plots investigated by British authorities had links to Pakistan.