Pak Political forces join hands in disaster management

Floods hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,Sindh,Panjab,Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan showing no sign of mercy.

The top political leadership of the country joined hands on Saturday to cope with the worst ever floods in the country and agreed on setting up a body to raise funds for the rehabilitation of flood victims.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistam Muslim League-N (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif, while addressing a joint press conference after a meeting here at the PM House, expressed deep shock and grief over the wide scale devastation that displaced around 20 million people and caused losses of billions.

The two leaders expressed the resolve to work together for the rehabilitation of the flood-affected people.

Prime Minister Gilani said he also telephoned Asfandyar Wali of Awami National Party (ANP) and would continue to contact other leaders to gain their support for a national cause.

“The calamity demands of us that all political parties rise above their differences to jointly cope with the disaster,” Gilani said.

He said the government has decided to set up a body to transparently collect and disburse the funds amongst the provinces judiciously, as per the damage assessment.

The prime minister said the members and details of the new body would be announced in a few days and would have the credibility and trust of the entire nation.

Gilani said the members of the new body have not yet been finalized, but amongst those on the list could be Rana Baghwan Das, Fakharuddin G Ibrahim, Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid etc.

Gilani said the government would not have any favourites in the fund raising body and anyone may join it for a noble cause.

Gilani said the government has mobilised entire resources for the rescue and relief efforts and would continue to work with all the stakeholders for the rehabilitation.

He said both he and Nawaz Sharif stood together to help the people who not only lost their homes, but also all means of livelihood.

Nawaz Sharif said he had witnessed the “unprecedented devastation” caused by the floods. There was a need to unite the nation, without indulging in any point scoring, he added.

He said he had visited several flood affected areas and seen for himself the scale of destruction, which was not possible for any government to handle on its own and all the people would have to work together to confront the crisis.

He suggested formulation of an independent authority to raise funds, to conduct damage assessment and transparently distribute the funds for the rehabilitation efforts.

Nawaz Sharif said he together with Prime Minister Gilani would tour the entire country to raise the funds, without having to get assistance from abroad.

“We will not beg to the world to help us. If any country wishes to extend help, it may do so, but we have the ability to handle the calamity on our own.”

He said every effort would be made to ensure complete transparency in the working of the body.

He said the situation demanded that no distinction was made between the government and the opposition in reaching out to the flood affected people and to raise and disburse the funds.

The PML-N leader said the nation would have to render sacrifices to help their brethren in need. He said the federal and provincial governments too would have to cut down drastically their expenditures to cope with the challenge.

Sharif said he believed that according to his estimates the damages ran between 300-400 billion rupees.

Prime Minister Gilani said the federal and the provincial governments would have to drastically cut down their expenditures to raise funds.

Regarding cut in recently increased salaries, Gilani clarified that the raised salaries would not be cut.

He said the meeting of the Council of Common Interests would be summoned soon to evaluate the situation and suggest ways and means to generate funds and cut on expenses.

When asked about his meeting with the PML-N leader, Prime Minister Gilani said it was decided that the political parties sit together and formulate a body that is headed by a credible team which can generate funds.

Nawaz Sharif appreciated the “positive” gesture of the prime minister in swiftly responding to his suggestion and said together they can help in the rehabilitation effort.

The prime minister said the government would also ensure that in future there was no construction in the waterways.

To a question about closure of some channels in Karachi, the Prime Minister said he has directed the Pemra Chairman to ensure that no channels are blocked. He said the government fully believed in freedom of media and would not let anyone impose any restriction.

The PML-N leader when asked about any chance of his meeting with the President, Sharif said, “please do not sabotage. Let the process move forward.”

Prime Minister Gilani said he had apprised the president about his forthcoming meeting with the PML-N leader.

Gilani did not agree with a question that the earthquake affectees were still awaiting relief and said he was personally monitoring the projects of Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Agency, which was doing its job.

Regarding operation of foreign agencies and military personnel in the affected areas, Gilani said these were working with the permission of the government in specific areas. He said in practical terms the United States has given the highest amount of aid to Pakistan for the flood victims.

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