The damage done to Pakistan will take years to undo

From The Economist:

ScreenHunter_01 Sep. 18 09.13 Of all Pakistan’s main actors, only the armed forces have emerged from the disaster strongly in credit. Bringing boats and helicopters that the civil powers lacked, they have rescued tens of thousands of stranded people and dispensed much of the government’s aid. Over 70,000 troops have been dedicated to this work. “It was the army’s duty to come in aid of the civil power,” says the army’s spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas. “It just set to work.” Thanks goodness for that. Then again, considering that by one estimate the armed forces lay claim to a third of Pakistan’s budget, quite right too.

In any event, the army has done itself no harm: burnishing an image sullied during the turbulent end to the regime of Pakistan’s last military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, who stepped aside in 2008. Army relief trucks, emblazoned with the slogan the “Pakistani army and the people are together” draw respectful glances as they surge through thronging Karachi and Lahore, capitals of Sindh and Punjab. Rumour has it they surge around in circles, twice or thrice, for maximum effect.

In a country ruled by generals for much of its history, any upset invites rumours of a coup, and these are now abroad. Indeed, one of the PPP’s coalition partners, Altaf Hussain, leader of the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), seemed to call for one. From London, where he lives in exile accused of many crimes in Pakistan, Mr Hussain challenged “any patriotic general” to take “martial-law-like action” against corruption.

According to Punjab’s chief minister, many army officers are itching to intervene to intervene; their chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, demurs. Mr Sharif also expressed two other flood-related fears: that disaffected victims could turn to Islamist militancy, which is entrenched in southern Punjab, or that they might otherwise rise up.

More here.