Pakistan PM to meet opposition as flood aid dries up

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Saturday that he plans to meet with opposition politicians about the use of aid money for flood victims, as the flow of international funds has nearly dried up — mainly due to corruption concerns.

The five-week-old floods, caused by torrential rains, affected more than 18 million people and destroyed millions of hectares of farmland, making it impossible for impoverished Pakistan to cover the losses without international support. The relief effort has been hampered by allegations from inside Pakistan and abroad that the aid money may not reach the actual victims due to corruption and inefficiency.

Acknowledging the difficulties in meeting the needs of those affected, Gilani said he wants to get support from opposition parties on vital issues related to the floods.

“I have decided a meeting of all political parties, both inside and outside the parliament, to create consensus on the issue of relief and rehabilitation,” Gilani said during a debate on the floods in the national parliament.

He also said he would call the Council of Common Interests (CCI), which is made up of both federal and provincial leaders, on Monday to discuss the floods.

The United Nations had warned that the flow of funds had almost stopped since last week, making it difficult to meet the early appeal for $460 million. The international assistance had picked up after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Pakistan in mid-August, but slowed again, creating fears among aid workers that the urgent needs of those displaced by the floods would not be met.

So far, just $47 million have been donated to a relief fund set up by Gilani, far below the $43 billion damage estimate he had given on Wednesday.

Pakistan is planning to hold an international donors conference in Islamabad within the next two months.

The floods ravaged the national economy, which was already suffering from sluggish growth due to deteriorating security in the country and its ongoing war on terror.

Analysts fear that a delay in rehabilitating the millions of people living in makeshift camps will further destabilize the government, making it easier for the powerful military — which has boosted its image with relief activities — to stage a coup.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 9:32:13 AM |

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