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'Terrorists' cannot be allowed to exploit floods: Pakistan

by Staff Writers
United Nations, Usa (AFP) Aug 19, 2010
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told UN members states Thursday that 'terrorists' must not be allowed to exploit his country's flooding disaster.

"The massive upheaval caused by the floods and the economic losses suffered by the millions of Pakistanis must be addressed urgently," he pleaded. "We cannot allow this catastrophe to become an opportunity for the terrorists."

He said the disaster, which has claimed nearly 1500 lives and affected 20 million people, "hit us hard at a time, and in areas, where we are in the midst of fighting a war against extremists and terrorists."

Qureshi said that if the international community failed to assist his government, "it could undermine the hard won gains made by the government in our difficult and painful war against terrorism."

"Our material losses exceed 43 billion dollars," he noted.

Qureshi warned that what he described as a "natural calamity of unprecedented proportions" was expected to worsen as "the second and third waves of floods inundate more lands and uproot more people."

And he said Pakistani authorities have decided to set up an independent national entity to mobilize maximum domestic resources and to ensure their effective and transparent use."

"We trust that we shall be provided with the much needed support to augment our national relief and rescue efforts," he added.

He spoke at a special session of the UN General Assembly called to boost financial aid to Islamabad.

related report
World must act on Pakistan or risk militant rise: Kerry
The world must act quickly to stop militants exploiting Pakistan's devastating floods to cause social unrest, the country's president and a senior US senator warned, as international figures pledged help for the embattled nation.

In a joint news conference with President Asif Ali Zardari, John Kerry said the global community had to step in and help people whose lives have been upended "to avoid their impatience boiling over or people exploiting that impatience".

In New York, UN chief Ban Ki-moon told the United Nations General Assembly the world had a duty to act.

"Make no mistake: this is a global disaster, a global challenge.

"It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity," he said, adding that Pakistan was facing a "slow-motion tsunami".

Around 4.6 million people are still without shelter following the wave of destruction wreaked by the worst flooding in Pakistan's history, the UN said.

It estimates 20 million people have been affected and a fifth of the country is under water with the risk of cholera, typhoid and hepatitis growing.

But anger at the slow response to the devastation in Pakistan was palpable Thursday.

At a camp Kerry and Zardari visited in Jampur town, survivors railed at the sluggish relief efforts, an AFP photographer said.

One young man brandished his national identity card before Zardari and shouted: "I got nothing."

Speaking to reporters after visiting the camp, Kerry said: "None of us wants to see this crisis provide an opportunity or an excuse for people who want to exploit the misfortune of others for political or ideological purposes.

"It is important for all of us to work over time to provide the assistance that is necessary."

The nuclear-armed nation of 167 million is a top US foreign policy priority due to concerns over Islamist extremism.

Washington says its porous border with Afghanistan provides cover for extremists to launch attacks on US-led troops fighting a nine-year insurgency there.

Pakistan is also locked in battle with homegrown Taliban who have been blamed over a three-year bombing campaign that has killed more than 3,570 people.

Kerry, who visited ravaged areas in Punjab, spoke of "miles upon miles of destroyed homes, of people dislocated, of people in camps in great heat losing their possessions, growing frustrated, worried about the future.

"We need to address that, all of us rapidly, to avoid their impatience boiling over or people exploiting that impatience," he said.

Many survivors have expressed fury against the weak civilian government, blaming the authorities for failing to provide adequate relief.

"There are 20 million people dispersed, 20 million people on the roads, 20 million people hungry," Zardari acknowledged.

"We are giving them everything we've got. There is a possibility that some negative forces would exploit this situation.

"I am sending an SOS on that. All this catastrophe gives strength to those forces who do not want a state structure."

At the United Nations in New York, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi echoed those thoughts.

"The massive upheaval caused by the floods and the economic losses suffered by the millions of Pakistanis must be addressed urgently," he pleaded. "We cannot allow this catastrophe to become an opportunity for the terrorists."

Qureshi said that if the international community failed to assist his government, "it could undermine the hard won gains made by the government in our difficult and painful war against terrorism."

Qureshi said long term losses from the flooding were more than 43 billion dollars.

At camps for the displaced from across the country, survivors are battling with crippling heat, miserable sanitation and swarms of mosquitoes.

Many fled their homes with just the clothes on their backs and have been forced to drink contaminated water, causing diarrhoea.

The Asian Development Bank said it would provide two billion dollars to repair roads, bridges, power lines, homes, schools, medical facilities and farm structures, and the World Bank has promised to lend 900 million dollars.

"The extent of human suffering caused by the floods cannot be easily quantified, nor can the damage wrought upon the country's physical and social infrastructure," said the ADB's chief for central and west Asia, Juan Miranda.

"But what is clear is that this disaster is like no other in living memory, and that our response must also be unprecedented, equal to the need and fast."

related report
US, Pakistan ask world to prevent flood unrest
US Senator John Kerry and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said Thursday the world must act swiftly to stop militants exploiting the country's devastating floods and to prevent social unrest.

Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-authored a record 7.5-billion-dollar aid bill for Pakistan, is the first senior US policymaker to visit since the disaster struck, affecting 20 million people.

"None of us wants to see this crisis provide an opportunity or an excuse for people who want to exploit the misfortune of others for political or ideological purposes," Kerry told reporters after visiting a relief camp.

"It is important for all of us to work over time to provide the assistance that is necessary... I know that President (Barack) Obama is determined to do that," he told a news conference held with Zardari.

The nuclear-armed nation of 167 million is a top US foreign policy priority due to concerns over Islamist extremism, as Washington tries to bring a swift end to the nine-year war against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Kerry, who visited ravaged areas in Punjab, spoke of "miles upon miles of destroyed homes, of people dislocated, of people in camps in great heat losing their possesssions, growing frustrated, worried about the future.

"We need to address that, all of us rapidly, to avoid their impatience boiling over or people exploiting that impatience," he said.

At a camp Kerry and Zardari visited in Jampur town, some survivors expressed dissatisfaction over sluggish relief efforts, an AFP photographer said.

One young man brandished his national identity card before the president and shouted: "I got nothing."

"We will not vote now," the man added.

Zardari is deeply unpopular in Pakistan and was heavily criticised at home for failing to cut short a European tour at the start of the crisis.

Many survivors have expressed fury against the weak civilian government, blaming the authorities for failing to provide adequate relief.

"There are 20 million people dispersed, 20 million people on the roads, 20 million people hungry," Zardari acknowledged.

"We are giving them everything we've got. There is a possibility that some negative forces would exploit this situation."

For example, he said, militants could "take" orphaned babies and put them in terror training camps.

"I am sending an SOS on that. All this catastrophe gives strength to those forces who do not want a state structure."




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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Aid response to Pakistan floods inadequate
Islamabad, Pakistan (UPI) Aug 18, 2010
New flooding alerts have forced tens of thousands of people in the northwest Pakistani province of Singh to flee their homes, while aid response to the flood-ravaged country is still considered inadequate. The United Nations says 6 million people desperately need emergency aid, but most still have not yet received it. "What is clear is that we need a lot more and we need it quick ... read more

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