PAKISTAN has warned the international community that failure to help it through its worst natural disaster could be exploited by extremist.

Pakistan is raising the spectre of children orphaned by the floods becoming the “terrorists of tomorrow”.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a special session of the UN General Assembly yesterday: “If we fail, it could undermine the hard-won gains made by the government in our difficult and painful war against terrorism.  “We cannot allow this catastrophe to become an opportunity for terrorists.”

His comments echoed President Asif Ali Zardari’s fears that “negative forces would exploit the situation . . . take the babies who have been made orphans and train them as the terrorists of tomorrow”.

While the scale of the disaster — and the initially slow response of the Pakistani government — has sparked concerns of increased instability in the nuclear-armed nation, the world has been slow to donate relief funds to a country wracked by corruption.

Until yesterday, that is, when Pakistan’s dramatic warning appeared to hit the mark.

The US announced an almost doubling of its disaster aid to $US150 million ($168m) and appealed to other nations to lift their contributions, singling out China, which has pledged $US7.4m in humanitarian aid and relief supplies.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the UN Special Assembly that Pakistan was facing a “humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions”.  “Here at the United Nations we often speak of a desire to forge a more humane fellowship with humankind. And today we must match that aspiration with action,” she said.

Mrs Clinton also told Pakistanis: “The United States will be with you through this crisis. We will be with you as you replant your fields and repair your roads. And we will be with you as you meet the long-term challenge to build a stronger nation and a better future for your families.”

Washington has been by far the most generous single aid donor since the floods hit late last month, pledging millions in aid and supplies and redeploying from Afghanistan more than 1000 marines, 19 helicopters and dozens of boats in the rescue and relief effort.

By the end of yesterday’s General Assembly, the UN appeared to have met its target of raising $US460m in aid.  On Thursday, the Asian Development Bank announced a $2 billion soft loan to Pakistan.  The UN money will go on immediate aid — delivering clean water, food and shelter to about six million Pakistanis now entirely dependent on government and aid organisations to survive.

But the Pakistani government estimates rebuilding the country, including dozens of bridges, thousands of kilometres of roads, one million homes and millions of hectares of cropping land, will cost at least $US15 billion.  The floods, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described yesterday as a “slow moving tsunami”, have affected 20 million Pakistanis.