Pakistani Floods Could Further Hurt Unstable Nation As Military Focuses On Aid

The floods have submerged an area roughly the size of Italy, displaced 12 percent of the population and destroyed billions of dollars worth of infrastructure and crops. But with the government admittedly overwhelmed and foreign aid only trickling in, the worst may be still to come, as Pakistan struggles to deal with food shortages, disease outbreaks and a mass migration of homeless families. All those factors have the potential to further destabilize a nation undermined by weak governance and a vicious insurgency even before the crisis. "There are already signs that people are restive," said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman. "If not addressed, it could balloon and will create a security situation in the areas where the government has not taken care of people's needs." The army has had to reorient in recent weeks, shifting its focus from counterinsurgency and toward relief and recovery missions. A potential offensive in the militant haven of North Waziristan has been placed on indefinite hold, as has the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from last fall's battle in South Waziristan. Meanwhile, efforts to rebuild the Swat Valley, the scene of intense fighting last year, are back to square one after flooding from monsoon rains knocked out every bridge and many schools, health clinics and communications towers. "The so-called war on terror has to be on hold," said Ayaz Amir, a security analyst and a member of Pakistan's parliament. "As long as the nation, the government and the army are dealing with this flood situation, the war takes a back seat."