Institutional dimensions of post-flood recovery in war-affected Swat, Pakistan

Muhammad Rafay Muzamil, Petra Tschakert, Bryan Boruff, Babar Shahbaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Post-disaster recovery in war-torn societies is a complex and challenging task. Institutions play an important role in such recovery; yet, unequal power relations, within these institutions and within affected communities, often inhibit institutional capacities to minimize damage and harm. In this study, we used interviews, focus groups, and a survey to examine the role of formal and informal institutions during the recovery from the devastating 2010 flood in Swat, in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. We focus explicitly on the operations of power and politics in the institutional setting as shaped by the Taliban insurgency. This novel lens allows us to assess the nuanced experiences of three case study communities, across different socio-economic group discussions and diverse geographical settings. Our findings demonstrate a strong institutional reliance on classic humanitarianism, defined by short-term, response-based strategies that, however, often remain blind to the contextual factors and power dynamics that can magnify vulnerability and reinforce disparities among marginalised populations in communities. Our findings reveal that a simplistic understanding of vulnerability, based predominantly on the quantification of material losses, serves to entrench the authority of well-off community members. Further, a political framing allows us to examine less understood social and political processes such as encroachment, land disputes, and exclusion of local actors. These processes are entangled with power and politics that have further complicated post-disaster recovery. Finally, our findings draw on the concept of disaster diplomacy, noting the proactive roles of the Jirga (assembly of elders) and the army, associated with regaining lost influence. We advocate for an approach of humanitarianism that also considers the role of resilience building, to foreground preventive rather than response-based strategies. Such an approach is well suited to align post-disaster and post-conflict recovery processes with policy and practice in order to foster good governance in a post-conflict environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102526
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


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