Millions of Pakistani flood victims celebrate Eid in tents and makeshift shelters

MUZAFFARGARH, Pakistan (AP) — Millions of Pakistani flood victims celebrated Islam's most joyous festival in donated tents and makeshift shelters as the country's leaders — criticized for an inadequate response to the disaster — pledged more aid.

The water has receded in many places but remains head-high in others, forcing victims to stay outside their villages in camps or alone on roadsides.

Girls gathered at one camp near a power plant in the city of Muzaffargarh, sitting on a rug unfurled on the ground near the road as aid workers decorated their hands with intricate henna designs.

Their mothers, hovering behind, said even this small pleasure would soon be gone.

"We don't have the happiness of Eid. What is the happiness?" said Amana Bibi, 25. "We don't have homes."

Charities sent bags of gifts such as shiny plastic wrist bangles and candies to children displaced by the floods, which have affected some 18 million people.

The three-day Eid al-Fitr festival is celebrated at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The festival begins when the first visible crescent of the new moon is seen in the skies. Eid started Friday in Pakistan's northwest and Saturday in most other parts of the country.

During Ramadan, the faithful are supposed to abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex in a dawn-to-dusk period meant to test the faith and discipline of Muslims.

Eid includes morning prayers at mosques before visits, gift-giving and meals at relatives' and friends' homes.

The Pakistani government has been criticized by victims for its inability to deliver adequate aid.

"We will provide you financial help for rebuilding homes," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told survivors at a camp in southwestern Baluchistan province, one of the hardest-hit regions. He also distributed gifts.

President Asif Ali Zardari, criticized for traveling to Britain and France as the crisis developed, was also planning to visit victims.


Ahmed reported from Islamabad.

(This version removes incorrect reference to Saturday in 3rd paragraph.)