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  PM TRACKER

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
Oct 31 - Nov 13, 2005

EARLY REHABILITATION OF QUAKE SURVIVORS PLEDGED

Despite his extremely busy schedule of initiating, coordinating and supervising various types of rescue and relief operations for the of victims and survivors of Oct 8 earthquake in Azad Kashmir and some parts of NWFP, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz managed to spare sometime to preside over a meeting of the Board of Investment to review the inflow of foreign investment during the current year and accorded his approval to the restructuring of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) directing them to ensure a more professional and efficient management of the religious sites and development of the assets held by the board.

Prime Minister had meetings to review the ongoing relief and rescue operation for the earthquake victims, presided over a cabinet meeting which took important decisions in this regard, visited various affected sites, hospitals and survivors camp. He held meetings with the chief of Islamic Development Bank and Nato representative who announced help and assistance for the rehabilitation efforts undertaken by the government. He received Mr. Yasin Malik, Leader of Kashmir Liberation Front, who came from Srinagar to offer condolences on behalf of the people of occupied Kashmir.

After chairing the meeting of the cabinet committee on Earthquake, Relief and Rehabilitation, Prime Minister announced that the earthquake victims will be compensated before Eid. The AJK and NWFP governments have been asked to collect the data of the dead and injured persons in their respective areas and assure disbursement of compensation (Rs 100,000 for each dead and Rs. 50,000 for every disabled and Rs. 25,000 for every injured person) to the affectees before Eid. Three billion rupees have already been provided for this purpose. The government has also decided to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr this year with austerity in view of heavy losses of life & property resulting from the worst-ever earthquake.

Announcing the details of the decisions taken at the cabinet meeting, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sheikh Rashid Ahmad told newsmen that the committee reviewed the on-going relief operation and expressed satisfaction over it. He told that two tent villages would be set up at Fateh Jang and Chakwal to provide immediate shelter to the affectees of Azad Kashmir and a tent village at Haripur for the affected people of Hazara. He said it was also decided in the meeting that a transit tent camp will be set up by the Ministry of Interior in H-11 sector of Islamabad for onward shifting of affectees to the tent villages. The Minister told that the Textile Minister has been directed to make arrangements for the provision of 300,000 tents through tent industry and ensure provision of 7000 tents daily.

The committee expressed satisfaction over the provision of food items and other ration to the affectees and appealed the people to provide maximum tents and blankets, besides storable items. It also appealed the international community to take immediate steps for the provision of winterized tents. It directed the authorities to make arrangements for quick disbursement of blankets and tents to the affectees to save them from severe weather. The committee directed its members to spend at least one day in a week in affected areas and supervise relief activities.

The Federal Relief Commissioner, Major General Farooq Ahmad, briefed the committee about the relief activities and told that the situation is improving. Chairman Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority Lt. Gen Muhammad Zubair briefed the Cabinet Committee about the short and long term strategy to reconstruct the earthquake-hit areas. It was decided in the meeting that the cabinet committee would meet regularly to monitor the pace of rehabilitation and take immediate measures if required to accelerate the pace of relief and rehabilitation works. The cabinet committee was informed that, so far, 65,000 tents have been distributed and still more than 200,000 tents were required for affectees whose total number is around three million.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has constituted 14-member earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Cabinet Committee to review and monitor reconstruction and rehabilitation work. The cabinet committee headed by Prime Minister himself, shall oversee and monitor the reconstruction and rehabilitation of earthquake affected areas and shall give such directions, as it considers necessary, for the early completion of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of these areas. Cabinet Division will be the secretariat of the cabinet committee.

The members of the committee will be the ministers for Education, Foreign Affairs, Health, Housing and Works, Industries, Production and Special Initiatives, Information and Broadcasting, Information Technology, Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas, Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis, Religious Affairs, Zakat and Ushr, Social Welfare and Special Education and Water & Power. The committee may invite persons in its meetings, as it considers necessary for the conduct of its business.

Prime Minister on Sunday announced that schools in earthquake-affected areas would start functioning from next week and necessary arrangements are being made in this regard. Talking to newsmen after visiting Cantt General Hospital Rawalpindi, the Prime Minister said he had talked to Prime Minister Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Sikandar Hayat and Chief Minister NWFP Durrani to take appropriate measures to revive schools in the quake-hit areas. He said 250 big tents for fifty children each capacity are being dispatched by the federal government to open schools in the affected areas so that there could be no disturbance in the study of the children. He said that tents would reach the affected areas of Muzaffarabad, Balakot and other areas for opening the schools.

Appreciating the efforts of Pakistan Army and other NGOs for helping the victims of earthquake especially in providing medical treatment at the Cantt. General Hospital, the Prime Minster announced Rs. 50 million grant immediately for providing medical facilities to the injured. He appreciated the dedication and commitment of the civil and military as well as foreign doctors including from South Africa and Cuba who had been working round the clock.

Chairing a special meeting of Azad Jammu & Kashmir Council, the Prime Minister announced his 12-point strategy for rehabilitation, offering his deepest condolences to the bereaved families who lost their loved ones in the devastating earthquake, said the government would ensure early rehabilitation of the affectees. He said the government was committed for early rehabilitation of the affected people and had issued special directives to all the concerned departments and agencies involved in relief, recovery and reconstruction phases to focus on the early rehabilitation of the people.

Explaining his 12-point strategy plan for reconstruction and rehabilitation, the Prime Minister said there is a need to shift survivors from rubble to tents and decent transitional shelters as quickly as possible. Ultimately they would move towards construction of model cities for permanent settlement of homeless people. He said there is need to identify overlaps and gaps in relief works in affected areas, regulate private, foreign and public sectors relief goods and services and fill the gaps. The Prime Minster directed to gear up medical and trauma treatment for the injured and arrange for transitional schools, hospitals and other public offices to restore the government structure.

Shaukat Aziz further explaining the 12-point strategy directed the concerned authorities and departments to prepare reconstruction plan for the affected areas, including full restoration of infrastructure, setting priorities, coordinating support at ground level and implementation of the plan in more accountable and transparent manner. He said the elected representatives should be involved in the preparation of reconstruction plan for the affected people. He said the concerned departments have been directed to prepare effective plans entailing damage assessment, permanent shelter and housing programmes, credit and other livelihood programmes, and funding for cash for work programmers to help speed the move from tents to more permanent communities. There is need to plan for restoring the livelihood of the survivors with financing new economic activities to raise family incomes above their pre-earthquake level and increase the capacity of local government, non-governmental organizations and the businessmen to undertake the reconstruction efforts, he added.

President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz held a meeting on Thursday and reviewed relief operations in quake-hit areas. They expressed their resolve that reconstruction in these areas would be carried out on modern lines. The President and the Prime Minister, who both visited the quake-stricken areas and met the people, discussed at length the steps being taken for further enhancing relief and medical assistance in the hard hit areas. On world response to the calamity, the two leaders expressed Pakistan's gratitude to the international community for immediate assistance in the critical hour for the nation and underscored the importance of sustained assistance, which is required in the colossal phase of reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The two leaders discussed the scope of the newly established Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, which has been tasked to undertake an immediate assessment regarding all aspects of the damage for efficient planning and effective execution of the reconstruction stage. They observed that rehabilitation of the quake affected people would also require a comprehensive approach as millions of people have to be rehabilitated and provided means of livelihood and a better quality of life. The President and the Prime Minster were later joined by Lt. Gen Muhammad Zubair, the head of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority and Maj General Farooq Ahmed Khan, Federal Relief Commissioner, who updated them on the various actions being carried out by their respective organizations.

Talking to newsmen after meeting with visiting Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik at Prime Minister House, Shaukat Aziz said: "if Kashmiri people wanted to help each other there will be no more opportunity than now". He said Pakistan stands with the Kashmiris on both sides and wants an amicable solution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. The Prime Minister said thirty experts of the World Bank have arrived for the purpose. He said at the donors conference in Geneva Pakistan would brief the international community about the severity of the tragedy and the need for assistance. He expressed the confidence that as a result of the conference, financial aid to Pakistan for quake relief and rehabilitation would increase.

Shaukat Aziz said that the governments of Pakistan and India have started working out modalities to soften the Line of Control (LoC) to allow the Kashmiris join relief efforts for the victims of October 8 deadly earthquake on both sides of the divide. "Our principle stance is that the solution of the Kashmir issue should be acceptable to all three key stakeholders, the Kashmiris, India and Pakistan," Shaukat Aziz said. He said Yasin Malik was visiting Pakistan as a social worker to help the calamity hit people and express solidarity with them.

Yasin Malik, Chairman of Jammu and Kashimir Liberation Front has asked the Indian government to allow international relief organizations to come in Indian held Kashmir to help the deadly earthquake victims. "I demand from Manmohan Singh to permit the international relief agencies come in Indian held Kashmir to help the victims."

The two governments also cannot executive the gigantic task," Yasin Malik said while talking to newsmen. He said he was visiting Pakistan as a social worker and was impressed by the missionary spirit of the people of Pakistan in helping the quake hit people in Azad Kashmir and northern parts of Pakistan. "I have visited 5 hospitals and have seen an unprecedented passion among the common Pakistanis helping Kashmiri kids, brothers and sisters, I salute this passion".

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, while thanking the international community for helping earthquake victims, has urged for more assistance for their rehabilitation. Talking to CNN on Sunday, he said, "We need tents, tents and tents and plus we need more helicopters. And as the weather gets very severe in this part of the world, and snowing starts, we would need more of these in the next two weeks or so".

To a question, Shaukat Aziz said, "All indications are that we will have enough to take care of most of the affectees and those who won't get individual tents will be moved to large tents which will serve as shelters, which will be heated as well, where they will be able to survive.

The Prime Minister said, "We have started planning for the rehabilitation and reconstruction in parallel and that process is just getting off the ground." To a question, he said, "We have created two separate agencies, one for rescue and relief which is the Federal Relief Commission and another Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority. So that we could focus on each of these functions separately," he added.

After a meeting with the Prime Minister, NATO's Deputy Assistant Secretary General told newsmen that NATO has decided to enhance its assistance to Pakistan to alleviate sufferings of the affected people of earthquake. He said NATO has set up a major strategic airlift operation of relief supplies to Pakistan which is unprecedented in NATO's history. He said forty helicopters from NATO Nations are already operating in the relief operations and six more would be included shortly. He told that nine NATO flights loaded with relief goods have arrived in Islamabad and four more are expected. He said that momentum is now there and hoped that four flights on average will be landing in Islamabad daily carrying relief goods and machinery.

The NATO representative said its planes will also deliver ten thousand tents from Turkey within a day or two. He said a Battalion of Engineers from NATO countries consisting of five to six hundred engineers will be landing in Islamabad next week with light equipment to clear hilly roads in the affected areas. He said NATO is also ready for a sea lift operation to deliver heavy equipment and other relief goods to Pakistan if requested by its government.

The Organization of Islamic Conference and Islamic Development Bank also assured full support to Pakistan in its efforts for rehabilitation and reconstruction of earthquake affected areas. The assurance was given by the OIC Secretary General Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoghu and IDB President Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali while addressing a joint news conference with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz after their meeting at the Prime Minister House.

The OIC Secretary General said from the day one when the earthquake hit Pakistan, the Organization had issued an urgent appeal to member countries to support the Pakistani brothers. He expressed satisfaction that seventy percent of assistance to Pakistan has come from the OIC member countries. He said Pakistan is an active member of the Organization and the OIC will continue to extend assistance to Pakistan to rehabilitate the quake affected people. Creation of disaster fund would be the top on the agenda of the forthcoming OIC Summit. He said the IDB has announced a package of relief and rehabilitation of about 251 million dollars. It will comprise a small grant, soft loans and development loans and trade finance facility.

The Prime Minster said the IDB President has agreed to acquire tents from Saudi Arabia and send to Pakistan. He said we continue to look forward to working with OIC and IDB and looking forward to their support and assistance in the rebuilding of quake affected areas.

IDB President Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ali said they would be happy to participate in relief efforts by providing tents and blankets. He said IDB would work closely with Pakistan to implement the package announced by the bank in a speedy way so that assistance could reach to the affected people.

Earlier, IDB announced to provide over 251 million dollars emergency assistance to Pakistan to supplement its earthquake relief efforts to alleviate the suffering of victims. An arrangement to this effect was signed in Islamabad. For IDB its President Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali and for Pakistan Minister of State for Economic Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar signed the document. Secretary General OIC Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoghu and Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Dr. Salman were also present on the occasion.

The details of US$ 251.6 million are: US$ 1.6 million will be a non-refundable grant, US $50 million as loan for 25 years with 7 years grace period with concessional service fee of about 1.25% pa. Normal service fee is 2.5% pa.

US$ 100 million Lease Finance for 20 years including 5 years grace period with concessional markup of 3.825% pa. Normal markup is 5.1 % pa. US$ 100 million for Trade Finance to be used for import of petroleum products with concessional rate of 1 year LIBOR with 18 months repayment. Normal markup is 1 year LIBOR +70 basis points for 12 months repayment.

Through this Framework Agreement, Government of Pakistan and IDB agreed on the ways and means of utilization of the grant, which shall be used to finance projects of relief to affected communities, reconstruction of essential and social infrastructures/utilities damaged and/or destroyed by the disaster and to provide victims with medicines, food supplies and blankets with special focus on mothers, pregnant women and children.

Prime Minister appreciated the support received from the private sector for earthquake victims, as it has so far contributed an amount of Rs. 6.5 billion in the President's Relief Fund. The Prime Minister was addressing a meeting of the Board of Investment (BOI) which was attended by the Chief Ministers of Sindh, Balochistan, NWFP, Minister for Law, Punjab, federal ministers and prominent bankers and industrialists.

It was decided to appeal to the business community to continue its support and to participate in the second phase of reconstruction and rehabilitation. The private sector's offer to sponsor one village, hospital and school was acknowledged and appreciated.

In the meeting overall economic and investment situation arising out of the earthquake was also reviewed and it was decided to adopt a proactive approach aimed at converting the challenge into an opportunity for the development of the AJK and NWFP.

The meeting also reviewed the overall investment climate and expressed its satisfaction that the foreign investment has increased five fold in the last five years from $ 322 million to $ 1.56 billion. It was noted that Pakistan is considered as one of the most liberal investment regime and is rated one of the top ten reformers and therefore considered most favorable for investment than the other major countries of the region.

The Prime Minster directed the Board to remove all impediments in the way of investors, domestic and foreign, especially in the areas of land acquisition, provision of utilities and facilitation at the provincial and local levels. The provincial governments were asked to be more active and energise their provincial committees on investment which are headed by the respective chief ministers.

 
 

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