It is now 25 days after the earth quake, which destroyed the lives of people in NWFP and Azad Kashmir. During the period, certain issues have crystallized. Firstly, the comparative lack of international sympathy towards the quake victims, reflected in the poor response to appeals for assistance. It contrasts sharply with the availability of help after the earth quake which caused the Tsunami. Secondly, there are design faults in the creation of the new earth quake relief, re-habilitation and reconstruction authority, (ERRRA), as notified by the Prime Minister’s office on 24th of October. Thirdly, there is a complete dis-synchronization between the demands of the situation and the policies at the federal and the provincial level. These major events need reflection.
Lack of international response
It is true that the government to government emergency response of the international community was swift; they provided rudimentary first-aid. Many voluntary international NGOs helped. The international security apparatus in the form of CENTCOM and NATO also reacted with alacrity; reflecting depth in the common agendas of institutions rather than reflection of sympathy from the population of countries, which was reflected by the poor response to Pakistan’s call for help. Pakistan went to Geneva to seek additional relief funding of about $ 560 million. It returned with a dismal commitment of about 1/5th of its expectation; now a repeat meeting is planned in Islamabad for the 18-19th of November; the UN secretary general is expected to lead the effort.
Some of the bi-lateral and multi-lateral partners of Pakistan, like the World Bank in the case of NWFP, moved much more swiftly. It approved a $ 50 million soft term loan to NWFP as phase III, of a strategic adjustment credit. Other development partners are working within their existing budgets to accommodate us; this includes the Asian Development Bank, JICA, US Aid, DFID and others. Improvement in prioritization of projects will be helpful too. International NGOs are also making similar portfolio adjustments. Pakistan’s Arab friends, Turkey and China have also contributed; a point to note is India’s offer to provide $ 25 million for assistance to Pakistan, almost as much as China.
The recent New Delhi explosions, attributed to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, in which more than 60 innocent Indians lost their lives, will damage these fraternal feeling. Wouldn’t the principle of reciprocity and sympathy demand that we assist in some form the Indian families, who have suffered?
It is apparent that people world wide are failing to respond, possibly because of the negative perceptions about us. Our record of supporting the Talibans, our proxy war in Kashmir and our nuclear proliferation shenanigans discourage assistance. We do not look peaceful.
Nor are we helpful to our cause by our acts. How can one explain the ready availability of $ 1.5 billion, as the first installment for the purchase of F-16s, or the release of Rs. 70 million by the NWFP government, from the provincial funds, for the purchase of helicopters, when people are dying, due to lack of care? With such a record of accomplishment, why should we expect others to bail us out?
ERRRA is a mystification and another proof of erroneous perceptions. Over a period of time, we have lost administrative capacity rapidly in a series of ill conceived reforms; now the ghost has come to haunt Hamlet. I believe there is hardly any one at the higher echelon of the civilian bureaucracy willing to render sound advice. It is because we have created a system of governance, which treats contrary advice as sedition if not treachery; it would be a fool who would cross the threshold. What other justification can there be for the current anomalous notification? Some one perched high in the tree ordered and it was executed with out reflection. This notification is wrong in law and even in its construction. Let me explain;
- How can a notification be issued disguised as law? There are only two ways for the birth of any law. It is either by parliament or by ordinance. The prime minister has no powers to issue notifications disguised as law.
- How can relief be federalized, when relief is neither a subject in the federal nor the concurrent list as defined in Art 70 (4) of the constitution?
- Secondly, relief has always been delivered under the W. Pakistan Natural Calamity & Relief Act, 1958. After the creation of the provinces in 1970, they adopted the same law. Even in the hay days of a strong center, relief was a provincial matter. Obviously, it is a provincial subject.
- The Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir is a member of the board of ERRRA. Did we not read Art 1, wherein AJK is excluded from the areas constituting Pakistan? It is a serious matter on two counts. Firstly, this notification changes the status of AJK by implication.
- Secondly, it is not understood how an administrative notification provides immunity to the officials of an organization for their actions? All organizations work under law. Let us not revive the legacy of Ranjeet Singh.
- GOP is likely to take loans for rehabilitation/re-construction. Such loans are not likely to be negotiated for AJK because of its legal position.
I would not mind, if the LOC is confirmed as the international boundary. At least it would make funds available to deal with relief and poverty. But then such a pivotal decision ought to be made by parliament. It is the central issue in Pakistani politics for which billion of rupees have been sunk; 3 wars fought, countless lives lost and the body politic of the state repeatedly abused. It must not happen by default.
The relief effort in the province has been mired in the rivalry between the MMA, which rules NWFP and the PML(Q) at the centre. The district governments in the earthquake hit districts is with the PML(Q) save Kohistan, where Dr. Saifur Rehman belongs to the JUI(F). The core district of Mansehra is headed by the PML(Q)’s Sardar Yusuf; district Battagram is headed by PML(Q)’s Ehsan; Shanglapar in Swat is headed by NWFP’s PML(Q) convener Amir Muqam’s brother Dr. Ebad. Pir Muqam, the former is a renegade of the MMA.
The MMA knows that relief operation is politics. They presume that if the opposition managed district governments obtain funds, then they are likely to make political in-roads against the MMA; would the MMA behave with similar parsimony had the earth quake hit the southern NWFP districts? Many say not.
It is mainly for political reasons that the following sorry state of affairs exists in the province to the grave detriment of the suffering;
- The NWFP government has received Rs. 1560 million from the Federal, Punjab & Sindh governments. Yet it has released a major portion of these funds but none so far from the provincial own resources.
- NWFP’s actual development expenditure last year was Rs. 9.7 billion against a budget of Rs 14 billion. This year the development budget is at Rs. 16 billion. Enough lee-way exists for routing at least Rs. 3 billion to the effected people and infrastructure by revising the budget. No move has been made to undertake such an exercise yet. Furthermore, funds from horizontal programmes like Tameer-e-Sarhad, Roshan Pakistan, CM’s directives etc could also be used for the purpose.
- The prognosis is that we will not get largesse from the international community. We have created negative perceptions externally and now is the pay back period. A possible via media will be to contract concessional loans from the multi-lateral and bi-lateral agencies.
- The provincial government and not the federal government should handle relief. If not done it will create problems in the future.
- ERRA law should be moved in parliament. Parliament must be consulted; otherwise why have it?
- Be very clear whether AJK should be included in ERRA, or some other way found for assisting it?
- The provincial government must increase both the funding level and the absorption capacity in the relief areas. It should have been done yesterday. It should deal apolitically with the opposition district governments.