Pakistan government leaves villages wallowing in neglect

Thu Oct 28, 2010 6:48am EDT
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By Michael Georgy and Augustine Anthony

NOOR PUR SHAHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - Less than a kilometer from the sprawling residential complex of Pakistan's prime minister, villagers have to scrabble for firewood in the dirt if they want a cooked meal.

Noor Pur Shahan is typical of many villages in the country, where supplies of cooking gas, clean water, electricity, classrooms, and also hope for the future, are hard to come by.

Improving government services for millions of increasingly frustrated Pakistanis is critical for bringing economic and political stability to a country the United States sees as an indispensable ally in its global war on militancy.

Many say the current system of governance only benefits Pakistan's political elite and the wealthy. And it's one that drives disaffected young men to join Muslim militant groups violently opposed to the government, analysts say.

The administration of President Asif Ali Zardari, like many before it, is accused of being too corrupt and inept to ease widespread hardship. It denies the allegations.

But in Noor Pur Shahan, where goats roam on winding roads beneath lush mountains about 8 km northeast of the capital, these denials ring hollow.

"The government only looks after the rich people," said Mohammad Aleem, an elderly man with a long white beard, as he clutched his cane.

Conditions are unlikely to improve anytime soon. The cash-strapped government slashed development spending after summer floods caused nearly $10 billion in damages.   Continued...