Pakistan: Political Impact of the Earthquake
Pakistan: Political Impact of the Earthquake
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Pakistan’s Mass Deportation of Afghans Poses Risks to Regional Stability
Pakistan’s Mass Deportation of Afghans Poses Risks to Regional Stability
Briefing / Asia 2 minutes

Pakistan: Political Impact of the Earthquake

The Pakistan government’s ill-planned and poorly executed emergency response to the October 2005 earthquake highlighted the inadequacies of authoritarian rule.

I. Overview

The Pakistan government’s ill-planned and poorly executed emergency response to the October 2005 earthquake highlighted the inadequacies of authoritarian rule. As the government now embarks on three to four years of reconstruction and rehabilitation, the absence of civilian oversight and inadequate accountability and transparency could seriously undermine the process. Should jihadi groups that have been active in relief work remain as involved in reconstruction, threats to domestic and regional security will increase.

Although civil society volunteers and international organisations rushed into action just hours after the earthquake on 8 October, countless lives were lost because of the military’s ineffective response. The army’s incapacity reflected its institutional shortcomings and neglect of the civilian infrastructure needed to manage responses to natural disasters. While civilian authorities and institutions usually undertake humanitarian relief, the military has, even after the initial emergency phase, excluded elected bodies, civil society organisations and communities and sidelined civil administration from the effort, as well as its reconstruction and rehabilitation plans.

By accepting a major role for banned jihadi groups in humanitarian relief efforts, the government’s policies are helping Islamist radicals to bolster their presence in the earthquake-affected areas of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The willingness of donors to accept military directives and priorities, willingly or reluctantly, has also inadvertently empowered extremists and, if extended to the reconstruction phase, could further undermine the prospects of democratisation in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Natural disasters sometimes create the political conditions for peacemaking. While the October earthquake led to some minor confidence-building measures, it did not dissipate India and Pakistan’s mutual mistrust. This was to be expected since banned jihadi groups such as the Laskhar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and Jaishe Mohammed are operating under new names or through front organisations in relief efforts, thus providing ample evidence that their infrastructure remains intact. To rebuild trust, the Pakistan government must disband the networks of these and all other banned organisations.

While an effective relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation process requires broader involvement of the civil administration and community-based and national-level Pakistani non-governmental organisations (NGOs), it appears that the military intends to retain its central role. The international community would be wise to use its massive reconstruction pledges also to counter jihadi influence, support Pakistan’s democratic transition and promote regional peace. To ensure transparency, accountability and effective utilisation of assistance, international humanitarian organisations should shift their approach from an embedded relationship with the military to an effective partnership with elected officials and credible and moderate civil society organisations.

In preparing rehabilitation and reconstruction plans, international actors and the Pakistan government should:

  • work with secular humanitarian partners in Pakistan’s NGO sector that have a proven track record;
  • develop mechanisms to provide local communities with a role in decision-making on relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation;
  • empower elected officials and institutions by ensuring their participation in the process and build civilian disaster response capacities;
  • major donors and UN agencies should create and work through an independent mechanism to ensure aid accountability and transparency;
  • UN missions in Pakistan and international NGOs (INGOs) ought independently to assess the government’s reconstruction priorities, identify appropriate strategies and targets and exercise oversight over crucial areas such as shelter and reconstruction of the educational sector; and
  • the Pakistan government should exclude jihadi groups banned under the Anti-Terrorism Law, including those operating under changed names, from participating in earthquake work and dismantle their infrastructure.


Islamabad/Brussels, 15 March 2006

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