Twenty recommendations for meeting the earth quake challenge in Pakistan

(by Khalid Aziz)

          The 8th October earth quake has traumatized Pakistanis. It has hardly left any one untouched. Yet life must go on and it is for the fortunate to find solutions for those who are in trouble. Following are some of the recommendations, which if implemented can provide dignity to the afflicted.

Emergency measures

          The first step for the governments of NWFP and AJK is to ensure law and order. In cases of societal break down, as in the present case, lawlessness prevails. Rehabilitation and re-construction, will be adversely effected if any untoward incident befalls those, who have come to help.

          One very important step, which should be undertaken straight away, is to conduct an immediate survey to assess the damage to infrastructure, particularly the road network, so that the road communication with the communities can be re-established and assistance can reach them. Simultaneously, epidemiologists and public health experts should take immediate preventive steps against measles, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, gastro-enteritis, and other communicable diseases. The dead must be recovered and buried to prevent diseases.

           At the same time, helicopters be used to create food depots in inaccessible areas to prevent food shortages. Lastly, shelter in the form of tents be provided at nodal points to which villagers should shift temporarily.

          Simultaneously, we must establish tent field facilities for providing general medical coverage and emergency education to the surviving children. Here the Pakistani non formal education NGO’s can play an important role. They should be inducted right now.

          Roads, schools, hospitals, and water supply systems have been badly damaged in the region. My rough guess is that it would need from Rs. 7 to 8 billions just to replace the lost or damaged infrastructure. Another Rs. 6 to 7 billion will be needed to help people reconstruct their homes. These are massive tasks. They can be achieved if we devise robust organizational arrangements coupled with a reform and legislative package. After all, this is what governments are good for.


Twenty recommendations

          The following are some of the minimal institutional proposals in this behalf;

1)    The government should immediately convene the National Economic Council to discuss the single point agenda of proposing a national master plan for the recovery of the damaged region and its people.

2)    It should prepare within 1 month, a comprehensive re-habilitation / re-construction strategy and regional program to be implemented within a maximum period of 2-3 years.

3)    The infrastructure requirements should be assessed by the line departments of NWFP, AJK and detailed PC I, be prepared professionally. All projects should obtain conceptual clearance from ECNEC to ensure that they fit into the NEC laid down priorities and criteria. Their subsequent scrutiny and approval will be given at the provincial level and the ECNEC will review progress periodically.

4)    The ECNEC will carry out an independent monitoring/evaluation of implementation through the Planning Division, GOP. So that it is kept aware and informed.

5)    Simultaneously, expertise be obtained to assist in designing buildings and roads for earth quake prone areas. Our past experience in the 1972 earth quake in Kohistan and parts of Northern areas should be re-visited. The lessons learnt then should be implemented. We should accept that quakes will be a definite possibility in this area in the future.

6)    NEC should create funding space by using existing local resources and donor assistance. Scrapping horizontal programs like Tameer e Pakistan, Tameer e Sarhad or Chief Ministers directives will free resources for emergency work. Luckily, it is still October, when funds can be easily diverted. Yet another large source of funds will be Zakat. The availability of funds and utilization data must be placed in the public domain on a monthly basis under the direction of the NEC.

7)    NEC should constitute sub committees to recommend policies for provision of subsidized loans for home rebuilding; for this rules/bye laws need to be formulated and the task handed over to a dedicated housing loan authority/body; maybe the existing HBC can be used.

8)    The Planning Commission, EAD, and the ministry of Finance should handle stake holder coordination for reconstruction at the GOP level. At the provincial level, the Chief Secretary/Additional Chief Secretary should handle it.

9)    Donors would be involved at both levels. It may be a good idea to offer specific effected regions to the main donors, which are likely to be the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and perhaps US Aid/DFID. The smaller donors can be grouped with the lead players.

10) Smaller coordinating committees composed of all the stakeholders, including the MNAs/Senators/MPAs/District Government/Donors/armed forces (if involved) should be constituted at district level to oversee implementation. To avoid bickering over precedence, specially empowered senior officers, trained in planning matters, should head these.

11) Policies and actions on an immediate basis should be initiated to redress the plight of orphans and widows. Some form of state pension and protection mechanism against exploitation must be put in place.

12) Trauma treatment teams need to be introduced in the region. Psychologists can be obtained from the universities.

13)  Legislative action will be required for initiating building and use of construction material bye laws. The days of using, concrete in mountains is over. We have seen the results. Alternate construction material must be used instead. Some of the other areas for legislation/action are:
a) Criminalizing the sale of aid goods in the market.
b) Prevention of false child adoption (Kifalat), sale of orphans and body parts. Every orphan and support less woman must be accounted for and data of their movement kept by the DCO/DPO/department of Social Welfare.

  1. c) CBR to encourage donation by businesses, which should be adjusted against taxes. Additional resources be generated from savings and if need be fresh levies of duties could be introduced.
    d) Devising strategies for main streaming orphan and destitute women.
  2. e) Starting of short project management crash courses for government functionaries in project management at the Planning Commission’s Training Institute. Only certified diploma holders should be posted as project directors under the programs.

14)  All work should be carried out according to approved annual work plans with a fully funded cash plan, which is approved at the start of each year. There should be no delays in the seeking of approvals in the midst of implementation.

15)  Institution of an independent monitoring and evaluation system separate from implementing agencies, which will submit reports directly to the main committees at the GOP/NWFP/AJK level.

16) There will be a need for a robust auditing system, which is entrenched in the program right at the start, to ensure prevention of violations/wastages during implementation.

17)  An independent intelligence system created to pin point leakages and abuse will increase efficiency and effectiveness.

18) A detailed survey must be made by the Statistical Division to establish the base line data in the development and economic fields for establishing a profile of the effected regions; both pre and post project.

19)  Since capacity to undertake tasks will be limited, expertise from the market should be obtained.

20)  It is important that voluntary assistance sent by Pakistanis, should be collected at strategically located depots, from which organized distribution is made by state machinery and selected/certified NGO’s like the Edhi Foundation. This will prevent wastage and free the choking of roads.



     Implementation of these steps will ensure success in providing relief and rehabilitation in a short time. Longer term assistance in strengthening the agricultural and pasture economy of the region for improving livelihoods, and providing vocational training for absorption in the labour markets of Pakistan, are some other suggestions. These will increase the human rights of the people.