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The world community should realize their moral responsibility to rebuild the country

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI
Islamabad

Jan-28 - Feb-03, 2002

The two-day International Conference on Afghan reconstruction concluded in Tokyo last week with a total pledging of 4 billion US dollars against an estimated requirement of over $15 billion for the reconstruction of that war ravaged unfortunate country over the next 10 years.

An amount of about $4 billion was committed for the next 5 years by over a dozen countries including the European Union, Japan, United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, China, Iran, World Bank, ADB and Pakistan which committed to contribute $100 million despite its meagre resources.

Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai issued an emotional appeal for help to the delegates from 60 countries and donor agencies. He also sought cancellation of the debts run up by Afghanistan's previous regimes.

The commitment of funds made by the nations and donor agencies for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan at the Tokyo conference represents a deep sense of humanitarian responsibility on their part towards the Afghan people, who have long endured death and destruction as a result of over two decades of foreign occupation, fratricidal war and Taliban's misrule. Afghanistan is in ruins in the physical and infrastructure terms.

Earlier the acting Chief of the World Bank Mr. Abid Hussan had told the newsmen that the multilateral lenders have estimated that US$15 billion would be needed for the reconstruction of war-hit Afghanistan over the next ten years. He said that "We expect that there will be need of about US$60 million to 80 million for primary education, $40 to 50 million for power sector, $90 to 100 million for health services, $100 to 140 million for building of hospitals, $50 to 100 million for water supply projects and $25 to 50 million for irrigation system on immediate basis to reconstruct Afghanistan." While addressing a one-day conference on the prospects for Pakistan's trade and commerce in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, organised by the Ministry of Commerce, he said that the world community provided 30 dollars per capita to Cambodia, 40 dollars to Lebanon, $70 to Mozambique and $60 to Rawanda in reconstruction efforts and this experience will help a lot to reconstruct Afghanistan.

"Afghans will need around US$ 1 billion to 2 billion in a year which translates into $10 to 15 billion in next 10 years for provisions of putting in place basic infrastructure." He also mentioned suggestions of recently-held Afghanistan Reconstruction Conference of Islamabad and said that agriculture, education and health would remain main areas of the all reconstruction endeavours.

The pledges of financial assistance made at the Tokyo conference will help make a beginning of gigantic task of rebuilding a country from a scratch. The amounts pledged is too small to rebuild Afghanistan which is virtually in ruins. The expectations are high in keeping with size of the task that will need to be undertaken to restore the basic infrastructure, but given the reluctance of the coalition partners to keep their promises, it is unlikely to be anywhere near the huge amounts bantered about. The 20-year was almost totally demolished all that was constructed over the centuries, including some of the country's historic structures. All that was history is not likely to be restored but much needs to be done to rebuild the civil works that are essential. Besides there is a monumental problem of resettlement of at least a third of the population which has been displaced, including the millions that continue to live in squalid conditions in neighbouring countries. They would have to return home some day.

The world community specially the coalition partner should realise their moral responsibility to help generously to rebuild Afghanistan into a economically viable country. That alone can guarantee that Afghanistan does not once again become the sanctuary of terrorist and safe haven for maphia engaged in illegal activities.

All the more important is that what has been pledged should be delivered immediately without any further loss of time. Kabul has repeatedly complained of the failure of the coalition partners to provide even a little of the sumptuous assistance they have promised. With the government servants without pay for months and no funds to meet emergency expenses the interim set-up is facing a grave crisis.