Mon, Nov 21, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Flush with foreign cash, Pakistan must now deliver

RAISED EXPECTATIONS The nation has access to US$6 billion more after the head of the UN blasted the world community for a weak response to the devastating quake


Pakistan is flush with the success of raising nearly US$6 billion to help it recover from last month's massive earthquake, but the pressure is now on for it to deliver.

The sum pledged at an international donors' meet Saturday exceeded the government's appeal for US$5.2 billion for reconstruction and ongoing relief after the 7.6-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 73,000 people.

Having been chastised by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for a "weak response" to the Oct. 8 quake, a host of countries, international banks and other groups pledged more than US$5.8 billion in grants, loans and aid.

"It was, from the point of view of Pakistan, a roaring success in that they actually obtained more pledges than they had asked for," political commentator Mohammad Afzal Niazi told reporters.

However, "The real test for the government will be whether they are able to deliver to the victims the fruits of this," Niazi said.

Another concern was whether the pledges would be honored, he said, because donors to international disasters frequently fail to deliver on grand promises that catch the spotlight.

Also, the government had been so focused on raising the aid that it had not properly worked out what it would do with it, Faisal Bari, economist with the Islamabad-based Mahbobul Haq Human Development Center, told reporters.

"It is good to know that they have been able to raise what they wanted," Bari said.

"The negative side of it is that there has been too much attention in raising money and too little thinking on what the reconstruction and rehabilitation plans should be," he said.

The UN and aid agencies have warned of a possible "second wave of deaths" with the onset of the severe Himalayan winter and the homes of three million people reduced to rubble in the quake.

President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz were warm in their thanks to the conference delegates from about 50 countries and 25 international organizations and financial institutions.

The generosity had shown "that this world is truly a global village," Musharraf said.

"We are not isolated," Aziz said. "We are on the world map. We have respect."

Donor fatigue after last year's tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in the US were blamed for some of the initial donor reluctance.

Aid agencies said privately though there were also concerns about Islamic fundamentalists based in Pakistan, and widespread corruption.

After years of isolation because of its support for the brutal Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan was brought back into the global fold in late 2001 when Musharraf agreed to support the US "war on terror" launched after the Sept. 11 attacks claimed by al-Qaeda against the US.

In what some said was payback for Pakistan's efforts against al-Qaeda-linked militants, the US led the emergency relief effort in the immediate aftermath of the quake.

It was also among the main donor nations on Saturday, pledging US$510 million that was second only to Saudi Arabia's US$573 million in loans and grants.

That most of the new pledges were loans was a disappointment, Oxfam humanitarian coordinator James Cocking told reporters.

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