ISLAMABAD: Funds allocated under the Kerry-Lugar Bill will be utilised for reconstruction, while another $100 million have been reserved to rebuild destroyed infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, US Senator John Kerry said on Thursday.
Kerry was addressing a joint news conference with President Asif Ali Zardari at the Chaklala Airbase in Rawalpindi, after an aerial tour over southern Punjab’s worst-hit areas Dera Ghazi Khan, Jampur and Rajanpur.
“What Pakistan faces is an international challenge and it will have to be dealt with through international efforts,” kery said, urging the world to help Pakistan in its hour of need. “I have seen the devastation caused by the floods. It is a big catastrophe and it will require extraordinary effort to limit the consequences,” he added.
Speaking about US aid to Pakistan, he said that the US will extend all possible help to Pakistan. “The American flood relief effort will further strengthen bilateral ties,” he said, praising the Pakistani and the American armed forces for doing what he called a great job of helping flood survivors.
The US has already deployed army helicopters in Pakistan as part of a package worth $90 million. Earlier, speaking at the Ghazi Airbase, Kerry had said that the US will increase its aid to Pakistan to $150 million.
Kerry, who heads the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-authored the record 7.5 billion-dollar Kerry-Lugar Bill for Pakistan, is the first senior US policymaker to visit since the disaster struck, affecting 20 million people.
He announced that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce additional assistance to Pakistan at the UN. Kerry said that the vacuum created by the destruction of floods would have to be filled so that militants did not exploit the situation.
Agreeing with him, President Asif Ali Zardari said that militant groups might recruit children affected by the floods if proper aid is not provided to these families.
He assured the international community that money allocated for flood relief will be disbursed transparently. “Some anti-democratic elements are fanning fears about misappropriation of relief money. In the past, the government has successfully and transparently rehabilitated millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and flood survivors will be repatriated in the same manner,” he said, encouraging the international community to generously help Pakistan. He said that Pakistan had a strong opposition and a Public Accounts Committee so misuse of funds was not possible.
The president said that the government will reach every flood-affected family and will rebuild “every village, town and city devastated by the floods”. He asked the people of Pakistan not to lose heart in the face of the enormity of the damage wrought by the floods. “Pakistan will gloriously emerge from this crisis. The government will bring a positive change and will usher in a new dawn,” he said.
(With additional input from agencies)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2010.