LONDON/ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations Abdullah Hussain Haroon said on Thursday that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s accusation of Islamabad promoting terrorism has hampered aid efforts for the flood-stricken country.
Cameron, during his visit to India last month, had said that Pakistan could not “look both ways” in receiving billions of dollars in aid from Western nations while continuing to “promote the export of terror, whether to India or Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.”
“Pakistan has suffered because of what David Cameron has said, because the British people will listen to their prime minister,” The Daily Mail quoted Haroon as saying.
The Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella group comprising of 13 United Kingdom charities, has so far raised 9.5 million pounds from the British public for the flood-affected people in Pakistan. However, experts have said that the amount is less than the money raised for comparable disasters, such as the Haiti earthquake.
Cameron later defended his comments, and said, “I think it’s important, as I say, to speak frankly about these things to countries that are your friends.” However, with aid efforts hampered, it seems the damage might be done by Cameron’s statement.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, has appealed to the British public to donate more amid concern that the official international response to the flood disaster in Pakistan has been slow and ungenerous compared with past emergencies.
The former Prime Minister, in one of his first interviews since his election loss, insisted that “compassion fatigue” was not a factor. “I think there’s not compassion or giving fatigue,” Brown told GMTV. “I think there’s an outpouring of compassion in this country. I think we are seeing the number of people wanting to do something rising,” Britain’s widely circulated newspaper the Guardian reported. Brown, who said he was adapting to life after being prime minister and enjoying spending more time with his family, added: “When you see on television a young infant girl struggling for life, probably not being able to make it as a result of the floods, you want to do something. I think every single person in this country will have that compassion.”
Aid officials in the United Kingdom agreed with Brown that Britons had given generously. “We are very grateful for donations from the public,” said Brendan Paddy, a spokesman for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which has raised £9.5 million for the floods relief effort. “We are pleased with the response.” Paddy further said that it was important to distinguish between the official international response, which has been criticised as sluggish, and the donations from the general public, “where the money coming through is not a problem”. The DEC said, however, that people needed to keep giving because the flood waters are still spreading fast and continuing to affect millions of people.
Brown said he hoped the government would match any donations made by the British people. The DEC said more money was needed to help the 14 million people affected by the worst flooding in Pakistan’s 63-year history. Aid has been distributed to 545,000 people by the DEC’s member agencies, but the UN yesterday warned that its emergency workers were in danger of being overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis. The UN says the disaster is the biggest Pakistan has faced and it would cost billions to rehabilitate the victims and rebuild ruined infrastructure.
Oxfam, the aid agency, said the UN’s financial tracking system showed that as of August 9 this year, governments had committed less than $45 million (£28.5 m), with an additional $91 million pledged, considerably less than was collected for previous disaster relief efforts over a similar period. India, Pakistan’s much larger and wealthier neighbour, has not offered any aid or assistance. The boxer Amir Khan appealed for people to contribute to the relief effort. The 23-year-old, whose family comes from Pakistan, said:”Day by day it’s getting worse, the monsoon weather, and it’s just a shame to see that. Pakistan is a poor country, and you just feel for them because they need help.” The world light welterweight champion, from Bolton, added: “We have to remember that these people have lost their homes, their livestock - they’ve lost everything. The main things they need are food, water, clothing and shelter.” (with additional input from agencies)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2010.