Apex court seeks report on 2005 quake victims' rehabilitation

Balakot residents allege financial misappropriation in foreign assistance for survivors


Hasnaat Mailk March 26, 2018
Rescuers and the Pakistan military are now in a race against time to reach victims stranded in remote regions . PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday sought a report from a Mansehra district and sessions judge on the rehabilitation of 2005 earthquake victims.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice after Balakot residents approached the top court. They claimed international donations received had not been used to rehabilitate quake victims. Citizens alleged misappropriation in billions of dollars collected as financial assistance for those affected in the wake of the 2005 disaster.

2005 earthquake: A tale of unfulfilled promises

A three-member bench, headed by the CJP, was then constituted to probe the case.  The bench asked the judge to submit a report in three weeks. The court also sought a report from the federal government on international donations and the utilisation.

Over a decade after the 2005 earthquake brought death and destruction, survivors of the calamity still await rehabilitation promises to be fulfilled by the government. Over 600,000 families were affected in the earthquake. An estimated 87,000 people were killed and as many severely injured. About 600,000 houses, 6,000 schools and 800 health facilities were affected.

The government later made promises of rehabilitation and support. Elaborate plans and policies were drawn up. Dedicated institutions were set up to expedite their implementation. Donor commitment of $6 billion was secured. But all to no avail.

According to data collected by January 2017 by the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) – a dedicated institution established in 2005 for fast-tracking rehabilitation – shows that nearly half of the total 5,723 schools are yet to be rebuilt. Responding to the public frustration at the slow pace of rehabilitation, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government announced its decision to reconstruct 760 schools destroyed in the province.

Scientists predict more big earthquakes in 2018

A total of Rs3.7 billion was initially allocated, which was later increased to Rs8 billion in the 2014-15 budget. Till 2016-17, the total reported expenditure against the allocated budget line was Rs765.31 million.

In other words, in three years, the provincial government was only able to use less than 10% of the total funds of Rs8 billion. At its current pace, it will take another 20 years for the government to simply allocate funds.

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