‘People suffered for ignoring warnings’

PM said people living in the kachcha area suffered losses because of their own negligence.

Hafeez Tunio September 06, 2010

KARACHI: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Sunday that the people living in the kachcha area suffered losses because of their own negligence. “Despite government warnings, they did not move to safe locations, which led to the situation getting worse,” the premier said at a press conference with Sindh chief minister after a special cabinet meeting at the CM House.

The meeting was jointly presided over by him (Gilani) and President Asif Zardari.

Gilani said the government had no other option but to impose section 144 and forcibly shift the people to relief shelters and other places.  He said all the departments of the Sindh government had briefed them about the flood situation, which has affected most districts situated on the right side of the River Indus.

He said after sitting through presentations on floods, he had come to the conclusion that Sindh has suffered less than Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in terms of human loss. In K-P, 1,500 people lost their lives.

Gilani said that flood devastation which started from Gilgit-Baltistan is continuing in Sindh.

He said an inquiry should be launched into the breaches which occurred in Indus embankments and tributaries, unleashing devastation in the province.

He said the federal government along with the army and the navy is making all-out efforts to cope with the situation. But the big challenge on hand is to contain disease outbreaks, especially gastroenteritis, diarrhoea and malaria, because of which many more people have lost their lives.

He said mobile hospitals have been established in the stricken districts where doctors and paramedical staff are working round the clock to provide treatment to the ailing people.

The premier said that before Eid flood survivors will be compensated with a partial amount to be determined at a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) being held on Monday (today). All provincial chief ministers and other relevant officials will attend the meeting to take stock of the flood situation in the country and map out a strategy for relief and rehabilitation.

Sources said that during the meeting President Asif Ali Zardari proposed to the Sindh government to impose a one-time tax on areas not damaged by the floods.

The President asked the Sindh government to consult with coalition partners and political parties to impose the tax so that around one million dollars could be collected. “We should not depend solely on the assistance of the international community, but come forward to show that we have the spirit to help our brethren in the hour of need,” sources quoted him as having told the meeting.

Sources privy to the meeting told The Express Tribune that the tax may be slapped on houses, agricultural land, gardens and farms houses etc.

“The taxes can be collected from people living on the left side of the Indus including Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Nawabshah and Mirpurkhas,” sources said.

The sources citing the President’s suggestion said that Rs50,000 tax may be imposed on those occupying 500 square yard houses. Similarly, Rs100,000 is proposed to be collected from people owning 1,000 square yard houses and Rs500,000 on those who have 5,000 square yard houses.

Sources said that during the briefing Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah told the President that Sindh has suffered around Rs500 billion loss. The chief minister asked the President to provide the province with funds, so that the process of relief and rehabilitation could be started. The president, according to sources, replied: “We will support the Sindh government, but you also use your own resources in order to raise funds. If the Sindh government will collect one hundred thousand dollars the federal government is ready to pay one million dollars,” sources quoted the President as saying.

Talking to The Express Tribune Sardar Ahmed, parliamentary leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the Sindh Assembly, said that it is a suggestion and all the coalition partners have been asked to consult with their party leadership. “We should help our brothers who have suffered a lot. I cannot make further comment until the party reaches a decision,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2010.

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