RICHARD Holbrooke, US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, does not mince his words: “The Pakistan people will see that when the crisis hits it is not the Chinese, it's not the Indians. It's not other countries. It's not the EU. It's the US that always leads.” Whether the Pakistan “people” in their agony are able to distinguish between emergency supplies from this or that country -- or from the Taliban -- must be open to doubt but it can be assumed that their politicians keep track of who is proving to be their friends in this hour of need.

Although there have been complaints from emergency aid agencies that money is short, the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmoud Qureshi, said yesterday that 815 million dollars had been donated and thanked the “the West and Europe and America for showing during a recession their solidarity with Pakistan.” The Chief Executive of Britain's Disasters Emergency Committee, Brendan Gormley, the umbrella organisation of UK aid agencies, has said that the “British people have shamed politicians across the world with their generosity -- 30 million pounds contributed in the past week -- we've never seen anything like it.” Whether it is wise to play this boasting game may be questioned but perhaps Mr Gormley was led to do so by Richard Holbrooke's claim. Anyway, for the record, the five top donors to Pakistan thus far are, in order: USA, Saudi Arabia, Britain, EU, Australia.