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  PM TRACKER

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
Nov 14 - 20, 2005

SHAUKAT SPENDS MOST OF TIME IN REVIEWING RELIEF EFFORTS

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz spent most of his time in addressing problems stemmed from earthquake affected areas, hospitals and relief operations, and rescue and rehabilitation activities, besides launching a psychological plan exclusively for the earthquake victims.

On Eid day, accompanied by his wife, the PM visited a number of hospitals and relief camps for the consolation of the depressed and grieved people and to give away Eid gifts among the children.

He also attended the National Assembly session, to preside the special cabinet meeting which approved the revised (matched) bid for the Privatisation of Karachi Electric Supply Company and set up a tribunal to resolve the 15 years old tussle between NWFP government and WAPDA over the computation of net hydle profit besides meeting some foreign dignitaries and giving an interview to BBC.

While addressing MNA's, Senators, MPAs and elected Local Government representatives from district Mansehra and later talking to the newsmen in Islamabad, the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said new cities would be built in the light of seismic studies, which is being conducted. "A seismic survey for this purpose is being conducted to obviate the damage in future while a damage assessment is also underway and would be completed on 15th of next month. Its outcome would be shared at the donors conference scheduled to be held on November 19," he added.

PML Secretary General Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed and Minister of Sate for Overseas Pakistanis and Information Secretary of PML Senator Tariq Azeem were also present. Some earthquake affectees, specially invited by the prime minister, were also present on the occasion. The prime minister had personal interaction with them and shared their problems and grief at an Iftar dinner.

To a question about the apprehensions of opposition with regard to allowing NATO forces to take apart in relief operations in the earthquake affected areas of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, the prime minister said troops from some friendly countries were here to extend a helping hand in rescue and relief activities. "We are thankful to them for their valuable contribution and their presence poses no threat to the sovereignty of Pakistan", he added. He said due to successful foreign policy of the government, the international community came out with financial and technical assistance to help Pakistan in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. "All international relief and medical teams immediately reached Pakistan to extend help to the victims and our sovereignty is not so weak that could be endangered with the arrival of relief teams," he said, adding that Kaghan Road and Neelum-Jhelum valley roads have been badly damaged and these would have to be rebuilt. He said the entire infrastructure including schools, colleges, hospitals, basic heath units and police stations have either been destroyed or damaged and billions of dollars would be required to rebuild them. He expressed his confidence that every affected person would get tents and blankets before the onset of winter. He said 300,000 tents would be made available within a month. Turkey would provide one million special blankets while quilts are also being procured locally, he added.

Talking to newsmen after visiting the earthquake affected areas in Muzaffarabad along with Saudi Prince Al-Walid Bin Talal, Prime Minister said that Pakistan has set up five relief camps along the Line of Control to provide help and assistance to the earthquake affected people of occupied Kashmir crossing and five LoC points will be allowed to provide a chance for two way movents of Kashmiris of divided families to console each other. These centers have been established at Nauseri, Chakoti, Hajipir, Rawalkot and Tattapani. Food, medicines and other relief goods would be available at these five camps for the help of October 8 victims who are living in the occupied Kashmir.

Pakistan and India agreed that because of non-availability of roads due to damage to infrastructure on these points, crossing across the line would be permitted on foot. To a query the prime minister eulogized the assistance of the Saudi government and people for the quake victims. He also appreciated the help being provided by the world for relief and rehabilitation work. He also appreciated the help and contribution of 500 million riyals from the Saudi government besides individual assistance from many Saudi philanthropists and businessmen like Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.

The federal cabinet which met in Islamabad on Tuesday under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister approved the matched bid of Rs.1.65 per share for 73 percent shares of Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) offered by the reconstituted Hasan Associates Consortium (HAC), which is willing to pay $100 million as extension of the earnest money with t he issuance of letter of acceptance (LoA). The closing date for the transaction would be November 14.

The cabinet was told by the Privatisation Commission (PC) that it had held threadbare negotiations with HAC, including Aljomoaih Holding Company of UAE, and CCOP had recommended to the government that the offer of reconstituted consortium may be accepted. The cabinet was informed that a three member committee of PC had held meetings with Hasan Associates and other members of the consortium, besides the new member Aljomoaih, who agreed to meet the highest bid of Rs.1.65 per share. Two companies of original consortium, AKD Securities and Safe Deposit Company declined to rejoin the consortium but gave no objection to the reconstituted consortium. However, Premier Mercantile Services agreed to join the new consortium with 0.5 percent equity participation. While approving the offer, the government decided that in case full payment for finalizing the deal for acquisition of shares of KESC was not made within the stipulated time of 14 days of the issuance of LoA, the extended earnest money of $100 million would stand fortified.

The Federal Cabinet appreciated the opening of relief camps at five points along line of control where relief and medical assistance will be available to the affected people. The opening of the specific points on the LoC will also facilitate the meeting of the divided families, the cabinet noted. Foreign Secretary briefed the cabinet regarding the procedure, agreed upon by the two governments to facilitate the cross LoC movement of the earthquake victims, especially the members of the divided families.

In order to express solidarity with the earthquake affectees, the cabinet reiterated to observe Eid-ul-Fitr with sobriety and solemnity and decided that there will no functions at the official level. It was decided that the cabinet members will spend Eid with the victims in the earthquake stricken areas and share the grief with the people who had suffered devastation of unprecedented scale. They will also visit hospitals, schools, and orphan homes, crisis centers and tent villages on the day.

The cabinet also reviewed the relief operations and expressed its satisfaction over the pace of distribution of tents, blankets and other material required to face the severity of the winter. The cabinet was informed that about 265,000 tents and 3.3 million blankets have already been distributed and the government will ensure the availability of the blankets and tents to every one during this month as the government has firmed up the arrangements for assured supply, both from domestic and foreign sources. It was informed that so far the international community has pledged two billion dollars for the relief and reconstruction and more than six billion rupees have been deposited in the President's Relief Fund 2005 from the domestic mobilization.

An arbitral tribunal has been set up to decide the dispute between the government of NWFP and WAPDA over the computation of net hydel profit. The agreement to this effect was signed between the government of NWFP and WAPDA at the Prime Minister House in the presence of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Tariq Rehman, Chairman WAPDA and Zia-ul-Rehman, Sectetary, Finance Department, Government of NWFP, signed the agreement. Ishfaque Mahmood, Secretary Ministry of Water and Power signed on behalf of the Federal Government.

The tribunal will be headed by Mr. Justice (Retd) Ajmal Mian, former Chief Justice of Pakistan. The members include Senator Professor Khurshid Ahmed, Mr. Abdullah, Chairman NWFP Public Service Commission, Mr. Javaid Akhtar, ex-Member (Power) WAPDA and Mr. Manzoor A Shaikh ex-member (Finance) WAPDA. The arbitrary tribunal shall decide the dispute arising from the claim of the Government of NWFP against WAPDA for computation of net hydel profits in accordance with the decisions of the Council of Common Interests dated 12th January, 1991, 12th September, 1993, 29th May, 1997 and 22nd December 1998 and determine the amounts due and payable to the NWFP government from financial year 1991-92 to financial year 2004-05.

After the signing of agreement Prime Minister said signing of agreement between WAPDA and NWFP government to set up arbitral tribunal would resolve 15 years old dispute of net profit from hydroelectricity projects. Under this agreement an arbitral tribunal has been set up to decide the dispute between the government of NWFP and WAPDA over the computation of net hydel profit.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz looked confident and determined to declare in the National Assembly that the Pakistani nation had emerged stronger after the unprecedented and devastating earthquake that struck Azad Kashmir and parts of NWFP on October 8. He as winding up the prolonged general discussion on the national disaster due to earthquake and relief operations that began on October 10, 2005. The house had opted to debate the issue contrary to the Senate, which decided otherwise to adjourn the session on the day of the tragedy to allow the members to take part in the relief and rescue work.

The prime minister appreciated the sense of unprecedented caring and sharing displayed at home and abroad. He was sure that through "Unity, Faith and Discipline" we shall emerge stronger after the tragic incident. He said the disaster had been of great magnitude, larger than tsunami, which according to current estimates had killed over 80,000 persons with thousands others injured. He invited the opposition to join hands with the government to redress the grievances of the quake affectees. The offer came despite the boycott of the ARD component of the opposition from the House just at the beginning of the PM's speech. He added "we want to take the opposition along in the task of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction of earthquake hit areas. He was ready to remove reservations of the opposition if any". "We can achieve the goal of relief and rehabilitation of the quake victims only through collective efforts".

Shaukat Aziz categorically stated that the government will not make any compromise on the security of the country. He dispelled the apprehension that a small number of NATO troops are posing any threat to the integrity of the country. The prime minister said the troops comprising doctors and engineers are only engaged in relief and rehabilitation activities in the quake affected areas. He said relief and rehabilitation operations are in full swing in the quake hit areas. Doctors, engineers and volunteers from 65 countries are taking part in these operations. He lauded the services of Pakistan Army, NGOs, and political parties including opposition parties, doctors, engineers and volunteers for participating in the relief and rehabilitation efforts. He said the financial assistance is continuing to pour in and over five billion rupees have been received in the President's Earthquake Relief Fund from within the country. Over two billion dollars have been pledged by the foreign donors as relief assistance.

Prime Minister also launched psychological and trauma counseling services for the quake victims. A special cell will be established at the Ministry of Health to coordinate activities of the National Task Force and the Programme. Riaz Fityana, MNA and a consultant psychologist will head the task force. The decisions were taken by the Prime Minister after a meeting with senior psychologists led by Fityana. The meeting was convened to discuss the steps required to be taken for the rehabilitation of traumatized persons in the quake affected areas.

Addressing the meeting, the prime minister said that first phase of relief and rescue operation was on an advanced stage. Food, medicines and shelters had been provided to a large number of people and serious patients had been brought to the hospitals. He said the government was aware that in the earthquake affected areas psychological problems, severe mental disorders and other related diseases are spreading among the affected people, which can have long lasting impacts on their lives in the coming years.

"We need professional psychological treatment for the rehabilitation of traumatized persons, which is a neglected areas in Pakistan," said prime minister. The delegation submitted an initial programme consisting of long term and short-term measures. There will be three hubs of the activities of National Task Force at Islamabad, Mansehra and Muzaffarabad. It has been decided that the Task Force will organize two-day workshops of master trainers in Islamabad, Mansehra and Muzaffarad immediately after Eid. These master trainers will be the youth's paramedical staff, NGOs workers particularly teachers in primary schools. They will go to the earthquake-affected areas for trauma counseling.

Talking to a delegation of Telenor headed by its Chairman for Pakistan at the PM House, Prime Minister said the government is providing a very conducive climate of investment in the country, as we believe in providing a level playing field to investors, local as well as foreign. "Privatisation and deregulation are the major planks of our economic policies", the Prime Minister said, adding, "transparency and efficiency are the hall marks of our policy of privatisation.

Shaukat Aziz termed telecom sector's opening to the private sector as a major success story, adding the number of cell phone subscribers are growing rapidly with expanding middle class. He also appreciated Telenor, which undertook relief works in association with Norwegian Red Cross Society in Pakistan to help the October 8 quake victims, besides donating Rs. 15 million to the President's Relief Fund and 2000 relief packages to the government.

 
 

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