Even as the United Nations launched a global appeal for $357 million to help flood victims in Sindh and Balochistan, international donors have made it clear to the government that they will not donate a penny to Islamabad unless they receive a clear blueprint for third party audits of where their money is being spent.
This revelation was made by Punjab Governor Abdul Latif Khosa during a press conference at the governor house in Lahore on Sunday.
“They [donors] want a transparent mechanism in which all damages and losses should be evaluated by a reputable third party,” Governor Khosa told reporters.
The $357 million appeal is only to garner initial “life saving assistance to the most affected people” said the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, Timo Pakkala.
The reluctance – which borders on outright refusal – to help Pakistan overcome its second devastating floods in successive years is seen as an indicator of a serious lack of global credibility for the administration of President Asif Ali Zardari.
When asked to explain the international community’s skittishness, the governor evaded the question, saying only that “foreign aid should not be made controversial.”
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had launched an international appeal for funds which was met with a paltry $4.7 million pledge of donations from China, though Iran has promised another $100 million in aid, the only foreign government so far to come forth with any significant assistance to Pakistan’s flood victims.
While the appeals continue to be made on a daily basis, the government appears to have all but given up on the idea that any foreign government would be willing to help Pakistan. Governor Khosa, returning from a whirlwind tour of the flood-affected areas of Sindh, appeared morose and downtrodden when he said that it was up to the people of Pakistan themselves to help those in need.
The governor announced that the Punjab government would be holding a concert in Lahore, where Rahat Fateh Ali Khan would perform. Tickets would be sold for Rs10,000 a piece. He expected to raise up to Rs100 million from that initiative.
Meanwhile, Gilani rounded up his two-day visit to the six calamity-hit districts of Sindh with pledges of help for relief for the flood victims and their subsequent rehabilitation. He started off his visit from Nawabshah, Sanghar and Hyderabad on the first day and visited Tharparker, Umerkot and Mirpurkhas districts on Sunday. Besides observing an aerial view of the submerged areas, the PM also met people in the relief camps.
“Each affected family will be given a Rs20,000 grant through Pakistan Cards, and they will also get stipends from Pakistan Baitulmal and Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP),” Gilani said while visiting relief camps in Naukot and Tharparker.
Gilani said that he has directed the army to use helicopters to provide relief, food and health services to people in the marooned areas.
The premier made appeals to independent donors, friendly countries and non-government organisations to take part in the relief and rehabilitation efforts and requested all political parties to come forward and help the affected people.
A significant proportion of the population in Thar and Umerkot districts comprises minority communities, especially Hindus. These marginalised people, according to some reports, were being discriminated against in the distribution of relief goods. Citing such reports, the prime minister directed the officers to monitor and ensure a no-discrimination policy.
“All people are equal before the government and Hindus are our brothers. The government will extend them all facilities given to other affected people,” he assured.
The torrential monsoon rains and the ensuing flooding in canals and saline water drains have destroyed around 1.7 million acres of agricultural land, according to government estimates. But the farmers’ representative organisation puts the losses far beyond the government’s calculation.
Gilani met a delegation of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture, led by its president Dr Syed Nadeem Qamar, at the Circuit House Hyderabad, and turned down the farmer’s demand to waive loans for land holders cultivating around 50 acres.
“The prime minister said they can’t waive the loans because the growers who suffered from floods last year didn’t either get a write-off either,” Nabi Bux Sathio, who was representing farmers during the meeting, told The Express Tribune.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) some six million people in all 23 districts of Sindh have now been affected by the floods with another 824,000 displaced.
Thousands of people are stranded on hillocks and roofs, with the government unable to meet more than 30 per cent of funds needed for emergency rescue and relief efforts, it said in a joint news conference with the UN.
The UN said its assessment showed that nearly every district in Sindh had seen flooding, as well as five districts of Balochistan, killing 342 people and injuring 633 others so far.
(With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2011.