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Man walking amidst the Pakistan flooding

Fida Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan’s deadly floods are tied to climate change—and politics

Pakistan can't catch a break.

Its economy is in free fall, a product of years of chronic mismanagement, corruption, and—most immediately—global headwinds like the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which created massive supply chain challenges, tightened financial conditions, and raised food and energy prices for countries all over the world. Were it not for the approval of a $1.2 billion bailout package by the IMF on Monday, Pakistan would soon be following Sri Lanka into debt default and full-blown economic meltdown.

Its politics have been in upheaval since the ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan, whose populist rule mortgaged Pakistan’s economic future and deeply polarized an already divided country. Should Khan be imprisoned for violating anti-terrorism laws, large-scale violent demonstrations against the new government would ensue—again.

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Men carry children on their shoulders and wade along a flooded road, following rains and floods during the monsoon season in Nowshera, Pakistan.

Fayaz Aziz via Reuters

Pakistan underwater

Pakistan is in full-blown crisis mode. More than 30 million people have been affected by unprecedented rainfall and flooding — and one-third of the country is now underwater.

This deadly natural disaster came as Pakistan was already grappling with a series of out-of-hand economic and political crises. What’s the backstory and where might this all be heading?

Background. During the pandemic, many countries took on new debt to insulate their economies from the economic pain caused by rolling lockdowns, closed borders, and business closures. But even before COVID, Pakistan’s economy was struggling to stay afloat as a result of years of economic mismanagement, in large part due to corruption and excessive government expenditure.

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Pakistan underwater: Blame climate change
Pakistan Underwater: Blame Climate Change | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Pakistan underwater: Blame climate change

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody, Ian Bremmer here, and we're closing down the summer, so this will be your last Quick Take before I head back to New York City. And I thought I would talk a little bit about these disastrous, calamitous floods that are happening in Pakistan right now.

Pakistan can't catch a break, their economy is in free fall, given huge mismanagement internally, a lot of corruption, and getting hit by, of course, the inflation and the supply chain challenges that countries all over the world are facing. On top of that, massive political instability, given the ouster of the former prime minister. Big demonstrations across the country, especially now that he is facing potential incarceration from the court, that has claimed that he has made statements that amount to a promotion of terrorism, and so a massively divided country. And now you have over 1000 dead and over 10 million Pakistanis displaced from unprecedented levels of flooding.

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A family with their belongings wade through rain waters following floods in Jamshoro, Pakistan.

REUTERS/Yasir Rajput

What We’re Watching: Pakistan floods, Arctic diplomacy, Iran’s nuclear deal response

Pakistan’s floods get political

After an ongoing economic crisis, political tumult, and increased terror attacks, Pakistan is now facing its worst floods in a decade. Thirty million people —about 15% of the population — have been displaced, most of them in Pakistan’s poorest provinces. As of Sunday, the death toll had crossed 1,000. As inflation continues to soar, hitting 45% on essential items last week, and the government appeals for international support, ousted PM Imran Khan pinned the blame for mismanaging the calamity on Shehbaz Shafir, the current prime minister. Khan keeps pushing for immediate snap elections, but it’s unclear if Pakistan’s worst natural disaster in years will keep the government or displace it. So far, the country is on economic life support, with a $1.2 billion loan expected to be approved Monday by the IMF. But will it be enough to keep Sharif in play?

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