The stage seemed set for a lynching: a man sat down in the road to block a car carrying a pair of government officials through a camp housing 3,000 people who had lost their homes in floods. Within seconds a mob had surrounded the vehicle. Youre enjoying yourselves while were suffering, a man yelled. Another climbed on to the bumper. The crowd was angry at official attempts to regulate a chaotic relief effort by local charities, fearing the authorities would steal supplies. If you hand over any aid to the government then nothing will reach the ordinary people, said Hasan Zia, a doctor. After a heated discussion the crowd dispersed and the officials escaped unscathed, but the incident in the north-western town of Nowshera this week reflects the growing sense of alienation between millions of Pakistanis and their state. The disaster does not immediately threaten the two-year-old administration of Asif Ali Zardari, president, who has begun visiting flood victims after being criticised for a visit to the UK and France. But Pakistans 170m people want their leaders to do more than muddle through. So does the west. The disaster has struck as the Obama administration is increasing aid in a drive to shore up a civilian leadership emerging from decades of army rule, undercut an insurgency and win greater co-operation over Afghanistan. The army is playing the lead role in rescue efforts but has pledged not to divert forces from the battle against militants. The insurgents, meanwhile, have said they are halting operations during the floods. The jihadists have also been affected in terms of their operations floods do not discriminate, said Kamran Bokhari, an analyst with Stratfor, the global intelligence company. However, he cautioned: What they will benefit from is the difficulties that the state is going to face. Islamic charities, some with ties to militant groups, have set up relief efforts in some areas, raising concerns that the groups will gain sympathy for their extremist ideology. Criticism of the governments flood response may fuel concerns about its ability to harness effectively a projected influx of $7.5bn (5.8bn, 4.8bn) in US aid to combat poverty over the next five years. People say they have simply lost confidence in our leaders, said Sardar Naeem, a volunteer with the privately run Edhi ambulance service, helping victims around Nowshera, one of the hardest-hit areas. Officials say any country would have struggled to cope with the floods that have either swamped or otherwise affected about a third of the country. Six million people are in urgent need of emergency relief, and aid agencies are warning of the risk of disease among an estimated 14m affected by the deluge. The bitterness among those awaiting help, however, stems from a broader failure that is reflected in a litany of woes, from a power crisis to economic stagnation, that has provided fertile ground for militancy. Mr Zardari says his government has made significant progress in dismantling the vestiges of military dictatorship. But the militarys main role in the relief effort is a reminder it remains the countrys most powerful institution. The civilian leadership will bear responsibility for tackling underlying problems that have been exacerbated by the catastrophe, in particular in the agriculture sector. Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, said the floods were likely to have destroyed crops worth about $1bn. Pakistan has said it will miss this years 4.5 per cent gross domestic product growth target. Until the floods, much of Pakistan had been preoccupied by water shortages. Population growth in the eastern Punjab province led to the diversion of water for farming, reducing the once-mighty Indus river to a puddle in parts of the southern Sindh province, says a 2009 study by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a US think-tank. Climate change is worsening the situation, the study says, as does Pakistans failure to adopt effective policies. Michael Kugelman, an associate at the centre, says a political class rooted in land-owning dynasties has little incentive for reform. These vested interests are the single biggest obstacle to moving forward in a sustainable and long-term way. Its not just on the water problems, but also food insecurity, agricultural problems and also the energy crisis. On the central reservation of a highway linking Peshawar and Lahore, a tented village has mushroomed. The rain came from heaven and our fate lies in heaven, said Ata Gul Jan, a farmer, fighting back tears. No one can save us but God. (The Financial Times)