AZIZ REMAINS BUSY IN RELIEF
AFFAIRS, OPENS SARRC SUMMIT
Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz
remained busy in supervising relief, rescue and rehabilitation
operations for the earthquake victims including visits to affected areas
in Azad Kashmir and NWFP.
The 13th SAARC Conference held
in Dacca was the event of the week which the PM inaugurated as the
current Chairman of the organization. While flying to Dacca he told the
accompanying newsmen that the two-day summit was highly important for
Pakistan as the country attaches utmost importance to the regional
prosperity and economic growth. Unfortunately, the SAARC region despite
having enormous economic potential is known for its poverty and growing
population, he said and hoped that "the association would deliver
and come up to the expectations of the people of the region".
Earlier the federal government
decided to earmark Rs. 20 billion as compensation to mitigate the
sufferings of earthquake victims in NWFP and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The
decision was taken at a top level meeting chaired by President General
Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and senior officials
assigned the relief task in the quake-hit zone attended the meeting. The
amount will be distributed as Rs 25,000 for each affected house, Rs
100,000 for families, which lost their member/members and Rs 25,000 to
Rs 50,000 for each injured. A portion of the amount has already been
released to the NWFP and Azad Kashmir governments.
The President and the Prime
Minister took the decision in the light of their visits to the
quake-ravaged areas and their interaction with the survivors and
briefings by concerned authorities assisting in relief work. Prime
Minister Aziz directed the governments of NWFP and Azad Kashmir to
expedite the disbursement of money among the survivors and ensure
transparency in the entire process.
The Prime Minister chaired a
meeting of Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority (ERRA)
Council to review relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction work and
approved reconstruction plan prepared by the Authority headed by Lt.
Gen. Muhammad Zubair. AJK Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat, NWFP
Chief Minister Akram Durrani, federal ministers, Chairman National
Relief Commission Lt. Gen Farooq and ERRA Chairman Lt. Gen Muhammad
Zubair, also attended the meeting.
Prime Minister said substantive
part of payments to the legal heirs of those who lost their lives in
October 8 earthquake would be made by November 30. Talking to newsmen at
the Prime Minster House after presiding over different meetings to
review relief and rehabilitation work in the quake-hit areas, the PM
said all those who were affected and those who lost their relatives
would be given cash compensation by the end of this year. In reply to a
question he said that in the first round at least one heir of deceased
persons would get cash compensation and added that in the next round all
families would get compensation for their relatives who lost their lives
in the earthquake.
Shaukat Aziz said a meeting of
parliamentary leaders of all political parties in the National Assembly
would be held next week to review and discuss relief and reconstruction
work being carried out by the government. He said he offered to
constitute "parliamentary committee" while addressing the
National Assembly recently and now it had been decided he would convene
the first meeting of the committee next week to take parliamentarians
into confidence on relief and rehabilitation work being done in quake
The Prime Minister said the
government, United Nations, World Bank and other international
organizations were doing the assessment, and the preliminary assessments
were discussed at a meeting at the Prime Minister House. Final
assessments would be provided to all participants of international
donors conference scheduled for November 19. President General Pervez
Musharraf, Secretary General United Nations and heads of international
donors' agencies and delegates of participating countries would address
the conference while he would present the welcome address, the PM added.
During the National Assembly
session Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz held an informal meeting with
opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and President Muttahida
Majlis-e-Amal Qazi Hussain Ahmad. Soon after adjournment of the session
Shaukat Aziz met parliamentary leader of Pakistan People's Party
Makhdoom Amin Fahim. During the meetings the opposition leaders were
invited to a formal meeting to discuss rehabilitation process of quake
devastated areas of the country. No formal date was decided for the
proposed meeting. However, Prime Minister told the opposition leaders it
was likely after his return from SAARC summit in Bangladesh.
At a meeting with the minister
and high officials of Ministry of Housing and Works and the CDA, the
Prime Minister directed the Housing and Works Ministry to submit revised
building codes draft within one month to ensure quake-proof buildings.
An experts committee headed by Nespak has been assigned the job. The
Prime Minister said the government had no plan to ban the construction
of multistoried buildings, however, he asked the CDA to improve
enforcement of laws and improve its inspection and supervision mechanism
to clamp a check on faulty and substandard constructions.
He directed the CDA to improve
its system of checking of construction material, building designs, etc.
The Prime Minister also directed the organization to hire professionally
sound lawyers to ensure enforcement of laws. Aziz asked the CDA chairman
to follow more interactive policy and continuously disseminate
information to public about buildings and housing societies that do not
fulfill the CDA requirements, enabling public to make correct decisions.
The CDA Chairman submitted a proposal for the rehabilitation of slum
dwellers in Zone IV of the capital. After intensive discussion, it was
decided that the plan would be submitted and discussed in the cabinet
meeting. The development of a modern slum near Kurri village was
proposed by an NGO namely ACD.
In an interview to BBC, the
Prime Minister said there was no shortage of food in the quake affected
areas as the government and the people of Pakistan would never let
anyone die due to hunger. Replying to question in BBC Programme,
"Talking Point" broadcast live, the Prime minister said the
government had also made extensive arrangements so that every affected
person is provided winterized tent to protect them from harsh winters.
The Prime Minister said despite
scattered population and other problems, there will be no shortage of
food. He said supply of tents has been increased and out of 30,000 tents
from Saudi Arabia 10,000 have reached Pakistan. He said coordination for
relief goods distribution has been improved. He said entire world
extended help to Pakistan in its relief and rehabilitation efforts but
there was still a long way to cover the whole lot of earthquake
Talking to newsmen while
leaving for Dacca on Friday to inaugurate the 13th Saarc Summit, the
Prime Minister said it was our responsibility to transform pledges of
funds for earthquake relief by donor countries into actual cash. His
statement clarifies a debate in the country, which focuses on why
pledges worth more than $2 billion have only led to a cash flow of not
more than $ 500 million. The United Nations has been harshly critical of
the amount of cash coming in for the rescue, relief and rehabilitation
of earthquake victims. The top Pakistani leadership has also expressed
dissatisfaction over the assistance pledged and received so far. The
prime minister said it was important to understand how countries
budgeted their disaster relief operations. He said the financial amount
of relief pledged by a country did not necessarily have to be in cash,
it could be in the shape of goods or services.
The prime minister also said
that the seismic survey by Turkish experts was underway in
quake-affected areas. He said the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan had told him during his telephonic conversation that he had
ordered more equipment and machinery to be sent to Pakistan to expedite
the seismic survey. He said the government would take some decisions
about reconstruction on the basis of the final results of this survey.
Aziz also disclosed that the reconstruction may take 3-5 years depending
on enough money being mobilized through internal and external sources.
Addressing the 13th SAARC
Summit in Dhaka on Saturday, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the
association has to be enabled to deliver on the promise of its charter.
He called for making the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation a goal-oriented, dynamic and pragmatic organization,
focusing on the implementation of its decisions and translating into
tangible terms the worth and value for the regional enterprise.
In this perspective, he
suggested that SAARC may set for itself the following broad priorities:
* Expansion and intensification
of economic and commercial cooperation.
* Promoting cooperation in the
field of energy.
* Cooperation for environmental
protection and sustainable development with particular focus on
conservation and management of water and natural resources.
* Cooperation for joint
projects to alleviate poverty and promote health, education and
In this context our proposal of
a SAARC Poverty Alleviation Fund of $300 million has been welcomed.
* Improvement of
infrastructure, especially, region-wide transportation and communication
* Greater Cooperation and
Coordination in the monetary and fiscal policies of SAARC member states.
Pakistan is ready to host the next meeting of finance ministers before
the end of the year.
* Strengthening of the SAARC
Referring to the SAARC's Social
Charter, approved in the 12th summit held in Islamabad, the Prime
Minister said it would provide a clear vision for the socio-cultural
development of South Asia. He said implementation of its objectives in
priority areas, including health, education, human development, poverty
alleviation, empowerment of women and protection of children, would have
far reaching impact on the lives of the peoples.
Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan took
the lead in setting up of a National Coordination Committee to prepare a
National Strategy and Action Plan to implement the Charter and launched
its National Plan of Action last September.
On the sidelines of SAARC
Summit the Prime Minister availed the opportunity to meet all the heads
of the state or government of member states participating in the summit
besides calling on the Prime Minister of the host country, Bangladesh,
and supported the idea of expanding the SAARC by including Afghanistan
and China as members. However, China was included as an observer while
Afghanistan was inducted as a full member.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had
a long meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed
the ongoing peace process between the two countries and the recent
opening of crossing points on the Line of Control (LoC) to facilitate
the Kashmiri people living on either side share their grief and help
each other in the relief and reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of
October 8 earthquake.
Indian Prime Minister told
Shaukat Aziz that his country supported the opening of crossing points
on the Loc. He also assured that India wanted the Iran-Pakistan-India
gas pipeline project to proceed and progress. The Prime Minister also
thanked him for the Indian assistance for the quake stricken people. The
two leaders reviewed the ongoing peace process between the two
countries, whose third round would begin from January 2006 to discuss
various issues including Sir Creek, Siachen and arrest of fishermen etc.
Prime Minister Aziz said
Pakistan desires resolution of Kashmir dispute in line with the wishes
of the Kashmiri people and, added, it would help improve ties between
the two countries. He told his Indian counterpart that Pakistan believed
in free trade but added, the same was not possible with India unless
there was a progress on the decades old Kashmir issue. The Prime
Minister reiterated that progress in economic relations should be in
tandem with the progress on the Kashmir dispute. In the context of
restricted trade, Prime Minister Aziz told him that some Pakistani
traders complained about non-tariff barriers they faced in India, to
which the Indian Premier assured him that he would look into it.
Briefing newsmen on the return
flight from the 13th SAARC summit, the Prime Minister described the
Dhaka Summit as historic. He said for the first time since SAARC's
creation, a new member is being inducted into the body. "We are
proud that the desire from Afghanistan was received on our watch.
Secondly, giving observer status to the Asian economic giants-China and
Japan (who are not members of Asean, but have the observer status) is a
very important development."