October 21, 2005

PAKISTAN : Massive airlift, but to where?

Comment By Dr.Gul Agha

The military is not providing its millions of sandbags which can provide a base for shelter, nor doing other any innovation for temporary constructions, the Saudis are not cancelling Haj for the majority in order to donate the 300,000 tents, so a mass migration to warmer climate is now the only likely outcome.. and that is what the UN is now logically proposing in order to save tens of thousands of lives. Something that some of us anticipated several days ago..

But with almost 90% of 3 million people (this estimate is up from 2.5 million) without shelter, where does the Pakistani govt. propose to airlift say about 2 million of them (assuming it can get to 33% tent shelter rate, a figure that even seems dubious)? There is no transparency about the planning.

BBC NEWS:

{UN emergency relief chief Jan Egeland has asked Nato to stage a massive airlift of those without shelter, on the scale of the Berlin airlift in the 1940s.
The 26-nation alliance, which began flying in 900 tonnes of aid on Thursday, is considering the demand, but says it would need to muster more helicopters.
The US said its extra helicopters would arrive in Pakistan next week, giving a significant boost to the 60 currently operating in the region.
Neighbouring India has also offered to send more aircraft, but Pakistan insisted they be provided without Indian crews, which India has refused to do... }

{ So, incredibly Pakistan still refuses 60 helicopters from India as tens of thousands of people are dying and being crippled for life.. nor has it moved with any speed to open the border so people can move across the "line of control" to come to help or go to live with their Kashmiri relatives. }

The Pakistani govt. wants the world to donate $5 billion:


{Gen Musharraf told the BBC that about $620m had been promised, but that Pakistan needed about $5bn to rebuild devastated areas. }


if Pakistan is so earnest about reconstruction, why doesn't it start by cancelling the $1.2 billion for the F-16 contract, the almost half a billion for the French submarines, etc. .. It should get them started and reassure the world that it is serious about reconstruction. I am sure under the circumstances, US and France will waive the small contract cancellation penalties. Some more defense cuts and it can raise half the amount needed..


{[General Musharaf] said it was likely that Pakistan would need to build 500,000 new homes. }

When and where? No one should release charitable funds for reconstruction except in small increments that are monitored for its proper use and for building in Kashmir itself. Last time, it is reported, the Pakistani govt. redirected earthquake relief aid to the nuclear program. This time it may be Kalabagh, National Drainage Project, etc., where they can avoid the hassle of dealing with the World Bank and the possible embarassment of being turned down by some panel of international experts hired by the WB (as has happened with the NDP twice).

All construction also must meet earthquake proofing standards. These people are shell shocked. Once people inevitably scatter, the only way a majority of them are likely going to return is with a lot of help and some reassurance that the trauma would not be repeated..

All logging, hunting, etc., must be permanently banned in Pakistani Kashmir.. it will be decades before the forest ecosystems recover and provide full protection from landslides and flooding.. clearly the catastrope has been compounded by lack of healthy forests whose deep roots stabilize the land and help break up surface shock waves.

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