An increasing number of victims, aid workers, and journalists in Pakistan are accusing local government officials of working to destroy some flood dikes. The alleged incidents appear to be isolated, but all follow a similar narrative: local members of government pressure flood engineers to breach a dike so that flood waters are routed away from their own hometown or that of politically connected elite, instead destroying poorer and more densely populated areas. These charges paint the government, already deeply unpopular in much of Pakistan, as not only corrupt but complicit in the flood damage that has killed thousands and left millions homeless. Though the accusations are likely exaggerated, the mere fact that they are believed at all risks weakening the government's increasingly frail hold on parts of the country where insurgents operate openly.
As flooding continues to submerge one-third of Pakistan, with aid resources still far less than what is needed, engineers often face difficult choices about where to direct flood waters. Breaching dikes is a common practice for controlling flood-water levels, which engineers carefully direct to minimize the number of people effected. However, some reports indicate that engineers, typically in the presence of local officials, have directed flood waters into densely populated areas and away from smaller, wealthier communities. Though Pakistan is a democracy, many rural areas practice something closer to a feudal system, with local elites enjoying sweeping authority. "Accusers have a very, very strong case for sure," said Moeed Yusuf, the South Asia adviser for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). "My sense is there must have been some foul play, but it is difficult to prove."