Civil–military relations in natural disasters: a case study of the 2010 Pakistan floods

In 2010, Pakistan was struck by devastating floods, the latest in a series of disasters to strike the country in recent years. As it had during the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the Pakistan military played a significant operational and co-ordination role in the humanitarian response that followed. Its role raised important questions about civil–military relations between humanitarian actors and national (as opposed to international) militaries. This article looks at the interaction between the humanitarian community and the Pakistan military in responding to the 2010 floods in order to identify key successes and challenges. It also highlights a number of issues that emerged in the context of Pakistan but that may also be relevant to civil–military relations – particularly between the humanitarian community and the national military of an affected state – in other natural disaster and complex emergency settings.

About the authors

Ajay Madiwale

Ajay Madiwale is Humanitarian Policy Advisor at the British Red Cross, with experience of working in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Prior to joining the British Red Cross, he worked for think tanks and human rights organizations in the UK and in South Asia.

Kudrat Virk

Kudrat Virk has recently completed her DPhil in International Relations from the University of Oxford. She is currently an independent researcher with a particular interest in international humanitarian law, the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P), and the politics of emerging powers.