Gloom and doom: CM defends government’s disaster management skills

Published: January 18, 2012

“As a student of history, I have never heard or seen of a calamity like this,” Shah said.

“As a student of history, I have never heard or seen of a calamity like this,” Shah said. Only two or three districts have managed to compensate the families who lost loved ones in the natural disasters since 2007. PHOTO: FILE
KARACHI: 

The Sindh government has not paid compensation to the heirs of those killed in the floods or excessive rain since 2007, according to information collated by the relief department.

Death, disaster and doom were the highlights of the Sindh Assembly’s proceedings on Tuesday, as the government had to answer for how it managed to rehabilitate the survivors of the floods in 2008 and rains in 2011.

Pakistan Peoples Party minister Haji Muzaffar Ali Shujra, answering questions on behalf of the government, told MPAs that the delay was because the district coordination officers (DCOs), who serve as the government’s ‘primary’ points of information, had not verified accounts of claimants in their areas.

To almost every question, Shujra, who seemed a little out of his depth, responded that this was “under process”. Another issue that was highlighted in the assembly is that often people claim that their relatives who may have died of natural causes were killed in natural disasters to get a share of compensation money, which is why verification was important.

That may not assuage the pain of the families of over 800 people who have died since 2007. The only districts, Shujra said, that did pay compensation were Ghotki and Sukkur. The written reply to the questions, however, states that Sukkur and Jamshoro districts compensated the legal heirs in 2010.

Shujra also said that “every DCO has been told to keep two per cent of its budget in reserve” for relief work.

CM Qaim Ali Shah, who was in the assembly, then rose to speak on floods and disaster management. “As a student of history, I have never heard or seen of a calamity like this,” Shah said, speaking of the disasters that hit the province in the past two years. Shah recalled holding meetings when the floods hit Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and subsequently, meetings held by the prime minister on the issue.

“We were being accused of artificial breaches etc,” Shah said, but noted that there had been an unprecedented outflow of water from Guddu Barrage which had worsened the situation. While he credited international NGOs for their help, he said it was primarily the government that had taken charge of affairs, particularly last year. “We’ve spent more than Rs12 billion,” the chief minister said.

With disaster off the agenda, death came knocking, as PML-F MPA Nusrat Seher Abbasi presented a resolution paying tribute to the recently deceased party leader, Pir Pagara VII. The resolution calls Syed Shah Mardan Shah, “the most prominent, distinguished and matchless personality of Pakistan” and calls on the Sindh government to announce January 10 as the ‘day of Pir Sahib Pagara and make it a public holiday’.

The last bit of the resolution had some MPAs in a tizzy, including MPAs Jam Tamachi Unar, Shazia Marri and Rafique Engineer. Marri’s point was that even the birth and death anniversaries of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto are not official holidays and are announced by the government, Unar said one should follow Quaid-e-Azam’s policy and do more work instead of holidaying, while Rafique Engineer said holidays were affecting school schedules and there should be a “decrease in gazetted holidays too.”

The Sindh Assembly adjourned its last two sessions on account of the deaths of Pir Pagara VII and MPA Mohsin Sha

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