Dr Shireen M Mazari Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi can certainly be put in the ranks of politicians and leaders with a penchant for making absurd remarks a group that includes Bush Jr and our very own President Zardari and his predecessor Musharraf, to cite just the tip of the iceberg. Given how the whole international community has failed to deliver on flood aid because of the lack of credibility of the government, it was incredible to hear Qureshi state his horror over the fact that the issue of transparent use of aid had become such a major domestic issue. In fact, we are horrified to discover that it has taken so long to make transparency in the use of aid the major issue that it should rightfully be. After all, had this been made a central issue at the time of the Kashmir earthquake, perhaps tales of earthquake funds being diverted elsewhere would not now be coming to light because there would already have been accountability of these funds. Nor is this all. Is it not shameful for the government to find that the army had established its own relief fund thereby adding to the question marks over the governments credibility especially since there already was a Prime Ministers relief fund? Unfortunately given public scepticism, that fund is hardly drawing major funds despite the fact that Pakistanis are giving in large amounts but primarily to private charities and NGOs. Clearly the army felt more people would be willing to donate directly to its fund, given how its presence has been most visible in the flood-stricken areas. But the worst of it is the announcement by the Prime Minister, after talks with PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, to establish a clean flood commission comprising people of impeccable character. This, more than any other instance, reflects an admission of a lack of credibility by the rulers. So Qureshi should not be shocked to find Pakistanis seeking transparency when the government does not trust itself. Actually transparency should be made an even bigger issue by the people of Pakistan, regardless of what the international community feels. After all, this is money that belongs to the flood affectees and should go only to them, not be pilfered along the way by a corrupt government machinery. The needs of the stricken people are extreme and so far there is little visibility of the government functionaries actually undertaking effective flood relief work in the more remote parts of the country. The only effective presence of the state is the militarys otherwise people are having to fend for themselves or starve to death if disease does not overtake them first. It is also sad to note the politics of the United Nations itself. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon may only have realised the gravity of the situation when he finally decided to visit Pakistan but the UN has been slow to respond to this crisis even as it is criticising other donors on this count. For the spokesperson of the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, Elizabeth Byrs, to declare rather arrogantly, that it was Pakistans image deficit that was hurting aid flows is simply unacceptable. Has she forgotten how Ban went to Myanmar a country with a massive image deficit in the West after Cyclone Nargis and meekly watched General Than Shwe take (some would say steal) at least 25 percent of the aid money through forced currency exchange foibles all of which were swept under the carpet by the UN. In fact, Bans publicists saw his Myanmar trip as a major success for him, declaring that the visit had saved 500,000 lives So at least during Bans tenure it is a little ridiculous for the UN to talk of Pakistans image deficit as a reason for aid not coming in While other players may have an issue with corruption within the Pakistan government, and Pakistanis are certainly concerned about it, at least for Ban Ki-moon this is not a problem judging by his Myanmar example. The Ban leadership at the UN has consistently shown a hostility towards Pakistan. Only recently we had the flip flop over the remarks on Kashmir and it is now believed that the Secretary Generals Indian Chief of Staff Nambiar (who also accompanied Ban), a former Indian diplomat and intelligence operative played a key role in this incident. Now we have seen the belated Ban visit and the confusion in the UN with the SGs spokespersons remarks, over who exactly the humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan was. Nor did the coordinator do much before the Ban visit and no one really knew where he was as the flood situation worsened. In fact. UN headquarters did little till the Ban visit which itself was deliberately painted as low key so as not to upset India Once again the role of the Secretary Generals Indian Chief of Staff seems to dominate his actions. And let us recall how the story of Indian security forces wearing UN blue berets in Occupied Kashmir to fool people barely received a mild reprimand from the UN before it was all hushed up. As usual Pakistan said nothing to our shame. Where was the Foreign Ministers voice on this important issue that deserved strong criticism? The extent to which this SG is under the US-Indian influence is also reflected on the statements coming out from the UN about the dangers of the relief work being done very ably by Islamic religious outfits like Jamaat-ul-Dawa. If one links such political statements with the Kashmir flip flop, it leaves little room for doubt as to the highly politicised approach Ban is displaying towards the Pakistan flood disaster. It also shows the cynicism pervading the international community at a time when the Pakistani people are literally drowning not only in the floodwater itself, but also in the blowback of hunger and disease with children the worst affected. Amid all this anti-Muslim sentiment prevailing in the West and that is the unstated reason for a delay in aid flows no matter what spin is given out one should, I suppose, be grateful for the support the US has given to Pakistans call for a UN conference on the floods. However, given the reluctance of the international community to come forward to provide humanitarian assistance to Pakistan in its hour of need, the UN conference may be a case of too little too late. Another drama like the FoDP drama. However, it would be good for Pakistan to remind the UN that this country is not only a member of the UN, but also one of the leading troop providers for UN missions. Equally, Pakistan needs to tell the lead stakeh-olders in the US-led war on terror that unless they deliver on aid and assistance, Pakistan will back off from the support it is giving at all levels. In any case, we are already being overstretched in this US agenda especially since the Coalition Support Fund payments are also not updated and now is as good a time as any to create that distance between ourselves and the US and its NATO allies. After all, we have bigger domestic issues of survival to deal with and this requires diversion of military manpower and resources. We can help ourselves if we are honest in how we use our resources and relief aid which is why Mr Qureshi needs to realise there will continue to be a strong voice raised for transparency and accountability. But equally, let others fight their own misdirected wars also especially since the costs so far have been greatest for Pakistan.