Full-scale mobilisation

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AS latest reports pouring in from different parts of the country speak of huge human and economic losses caused by torrential rains and flash floods, the national leadership has rightly decided to mobilize all available resources not only to ensure prompt rescue and relief operations but also undertake the gigantic task of rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is personally monitoring the situation while Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, while chairing corps commanders conference on Thursday, directed the army formations to render all possible assistance to the flood victims, urging them to reach out to every single affected individual to bring him comfort in this hour of distress.

Pakistan Air Force has already deployed its resources for prompt rescue and evacuation missions as well as delivery of much-needed food and other assistance in areas that are otherwise inaccessible due to standing water and damaged infrastructure.

It is appreciable that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who has just returned from a two-day visit to Qatar after obtaining firm pledges for financial assistance and significant investment in different sectors of the economy at this critical juncture of our history, has decided to cancel his London visit to focus on relief activities.

He also made a timely appeal to the international financial institutions, organizations and countries to provide resources so that the flood-affected people could be reached and helped at the earliest.

The Prime Minister chaired an important meeting with the international donors in Islamabad for providing relief to the flood victims where the response of the international community was encouraging as several global financial institutions announced assistance of more than $500 million.

The World Bank Country Director has informed the PM that his institution would provide immediate aid of $350 million besides assurances of cooperation through a comprehensive plan for the restoration of the infrastructure after assessment of the losses.

The Asian Development Bank pledged to give $ 20 million assistance while the UK Aid would give 1.5 million pounds.

The UK Aid also announced another 38 million pounds for the mid-term and long term projects for the restoration of the flood affected people.

The Prime Minister has also announced to brief Islamabad-based envoys of different countries and multilateral institutions about different aspects of the situation and based on feedback to their governments, the country might get more pledges from different countries and institutions.

Apart from launching appeals to the international community for assistance, the Federal Cabinet, Pakistan Army and several other institutions have announced to donate salaries to the flood relief fund of the Prime Minister.

It is hoped that philanthropists would also come forward and make contribution to the Fund in the coming days in a big way.

There is no doubt that the federal and provincial governments are mobilizing their resources to cope with heavy monsoon flooding, but there is a distressing gap between resources and rescue operations and the number of people in need of urgent shelter.

The very fact that the Sindh Government has asked for one million tents and Balochistan Government one hundred thousand is reflective of the magnitude of the disaster.

Initial estimates speak of 33 million people affected by the disaster, but the real picture would emerge once the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) completes the ongoing needs assessment.

The overall situation is, however, grim as the country was already witnessing economic recession and people were badly hit by the record price-hike.

The damage done to standing crops, vegetable and fruit would mean the country might be forced to spend more on import of food items.

Such apprehensions have also been expressed by the Finance Ministry which has warned that the economic outlook is surrounded by global and domestic uncertainties, including lower growth, especially in the wake of ongoing heavy rains and floods affecting kharif crops as well as elevated inflation.

The Ministry also fears the recessionary tendencies may hurt Pakistan’s export markets in the coming months while diversion of resources for relief and rehabilitation would badly affect many other sectors.

No doubt, the international community is responding favourably to help mitigate the situation but it is quite understood that the country will have to share the major burden and that too for an extended period as it would take time to rehabilitate people and reconstruct the damaged infrastructure.

Federal and provincial governments will have to announce special relief packages including tax waiver for people affected by the natural calamity.

 

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