Posted by: Administrator | 16 August, 2006

President address on cccassion of 1st Anniversary of 8 October Earthquake

5 October 2006, Islamabad

Chairman ERRA Altaf Saleem Sahib, Federal Ministers, CM of NWFP, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff, Excellencies, General Officers and Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure and a special privilege to me to be speaking on this occasion of first anniversary of this terrible earth-quake that struck Pakistan.

Ladies and Gentlemen, last year on the 5th of October, exactly one year back, one could never imagine that three days later, Pakistan in general and Azad Kashmir and NWFP in particular will be hit by a disaster of apocalyptic proportions. Where 73 thousand people would die, more than 70 thousand people would injure and entire generation of children would be lost. That 400,000 houses would be destroyed and now we believe the number is about 600,000, where 3.5 million people will be homeless, where 9 districts of these two areas, covering about 30,000 sq. kilometres would be affected.

Nature made history in terms of saga of destruction. But the world also saw, the people of Pakistan made history, in writing an epic of human courage, resilience, compassion and sacrifice. We also witnessed acts of compassion and altruism by the global community, by the United Nations, any numerable NGO’s from all over the world, who came and helped us at this hour of need and may I say without their assistance, it would have been impossible for Pakistan to meet the challenge that it confronted. The people of Pakistan and the International community joined hands to give everything they could to those who lost every thing they had. To sacrifice their comforts, to provide comforts to those who in utter distress, to bear hardships, to mitigate the hardships of their fellow human beings. And to provide solace to those upon whom an unprecedented tragedy had been fallen.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when this tragedy struck, the Pakistani Government moved fast to meet this challenge. We immediately launched the President’s Reconstruction Initiative. And established a Federal Relief Commissioner and  Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority. We were determined to show and resolve to convert this challenge into an opportunity. We immediately faced, three major almost insurmountable challenges. And I called them the three gluts. We immediately faced a telecommunication glut, where thousands where if not hundred of thousands of people were ringing up, trying to establish contact with their loved ones al over this 30,000 Sq.km’s of area. They wanted information, they wanted to contribute and ask how they could contribute. So we have to meet this hundred of thousands of calls coming in. Then there was a transportation glut or a traffic glut. Where thousands not again if not hundred of thousands of trucks and vehicles loaded with relief goods by volunteers, organisations and individuals, on their own headed for the earth quake zone. Not knowing where they are going, no direction, no guidance, they had to be directed and guided in all over the places, inaccessible places, directed in a balanced manner, so that whatever they were trying to do, reached out to the people in all nook and corner of the affected area. Then there was an aircraft glut. Where the international community sent goods in aircraft loads, these aircraft loads came to the single airport, the Islamabad airport, where the aircraft landed on ground more space for them for additional ones and many were flying in the air. The aircrafts had to be unloaded. I think we managed this amicably, effectively and efficiently in the shortest possible time. I must give credit to the Armed Forces of Pakistan. Who established immediately about 80 nodes all over the affected area, with three Division Headquarters and under them each of them about 3 to 4 brigade headquarters, which means 12 brigade headquarters, each of them about 3 to 4 battalion headquarters and each of battalion headquarter having 4 company headquarters. Therefore we established about 80 nodes all over the area, on every artery, on every branch, on every road leading inside.

And each one of these nodes had a telephone no and a person in charge. This was publicized in the TV and the print media. Then I commend the efforts of the volunteers who sat in this Federal Relief Commissioners Office and manning the telephones round the clock for 24 hours. To answer those who were ringing up.

And also since we established the communication network in these 80 nodes, people could directly access to them. This was the massive transition form that challenge through resolving the issue and meeting this challenge in an effective manner. These nodes directed the traffic, directed anyone who came for the assistance to the right places. Then the aircraft glut was managed. Again the

Armed Forces of Pakistan helped out. The armed forces managing the traffic, the Army unloading and sorting out the medicines, tent-age, water and food, which were in packed conditions, no one knew what they contain. All this massive management of millions of tons of goods to be unloaded and transported forward to the people who were affected. To be unloaded, sorted out and transported forward. We therefore, ladies and gentlemen, the rescue and relief operation, most effectively and efficiently. I would like to express our, the nations gratitude to the international community who helped us in the rescue operation. Because we did not have the tactical know how. Again I would like to express my gratitude to an International community, who came forward with all the relief goods, without which we could not have managed.

The effectiveness or the efficiency of this success, the manifestation of all this is visible in the effects that we ultimately produced. The results that we achieved. And I would like to say this specially to those, the dooms day predictors, many of them who are appearing in the media casting all kind of aspersions of ineffectiveness, inefficiencies, slow movement, lethargy, but the end product and end result speck for itself. I remember people saying that, people are dying because there is no medical attention. Nobody died because of lack of medical attention. Again thanks to volunteer doctors, international health agencies, and again the Armed Forces of Pakistan, who reached out, and provide medical assistance. Then there was prediction of famine coming out. That the people will die because there is no food and water. No body died of food, no body died of hunger, and again I would like to commend the efforts of the International community who provided us everything. And of all too all those who transported all that was available. From the bases here and all over Pakistan, to reach out the mountain of the remotest places. There was no famine. Then the same dooms day predictors and important personalities, who said that there will be an epidemic of proportions, because medical facilities were not reaching out, health facilities are inadequate. There was no epidemic, ladies and gentlemen, and again we thank the International community, the volunteer doctors, agencies who came and ensured due attention. Then again when we succeeded in this, these dooms day predictors came again and say that winter is setting up and people are going to freeze to death in the snow. There was no freezing to death. Because we provided one million tents. And one million tents reached out to the people of Pakistan. The people affected by the earthquake. I would like to again express our gratitude, immense gratitude, to the whole world, because Pakistan did not have the capacity to produce one million tents. We may be about 200 or 250 thousand. We got all this support from the International community. Which flew in the tents but then it was the management on ground to transport all that forward to the people. It was a chain of harmonious action, internationally and domestically and down to the grass root level.

I would like to say is again a message to the same dooms day predictors to see things in the correct light, to see things practically, to understands realities, there is no doubt that the task is immense, the magnitude of the effort is unimaginable and you heard part of that. But it saddens one when all the efforts that one puts in, there are again negative aspersions, like even today in the press, I know the negative aspersions. Some are saying that 18 lac people will be in tents. It means the half of the original will be in tents. It is just unfortunate how anyone can say these things. Whereas I know there are only 30 to 35 thousand people will be in tents. And 5 percent as they have said. We challenge anybody to go and see themselves. But it is disappointing to give these figures in the media.

Then this talk of corruption at some levels, ladies and gentlemen, we must understands that when 60 billion rupees have been distributed, and let me give credit to all those, the organisation which has been formed to distribute those money, that I have never once heard any negative aspersions. I am very sure that at some level, some exploiters must be doing something wrong, but if anyone tries to convert this exception into a rule, that because a few people may be involved in corruption. If they come out and say that the there is corruption all over, it saddens us. Because I don’t think that there is any corruption. We should ignore any few immoral characters who managed to do some corruption may be possible. There may be some. But on the  whole I give credit entirely to the system that put in place. I know the system that was put in place. This ensures transparency, which ensures that money goes and relief goes to those who are affected. I have personally checked at many places, even a place Karachi I saw a worker, and he said that he is from Azad Kashmir and I said did you effected and he said yes. I asked have got money he said yes I got the money. I have at least 10 people myself, in various places of the country. And every answer was to my extreme satisfaction that all have been paid the money.

So we must understand the realities that things are going so well. And also I read a report that this whole activity is going to get completed in 5 years. Yes indeed in 5 years, but I know 80 % of this activity will take only 3 years. By 2009, 80 % of the reconstruction effort will be over. But if you are talking of a university to be made of 50 million dollars, yes indeed it will take more time. So therefore if one is to put it negatively that all this is so slow that it will take 5 years is portraying negativism much more than the positive outcomes of this ERRA is so wonderfully achieving and doing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I must commend ERRA for the exceptionally wonderful work that they are doing. Which has been shown now. Obviously we saw how all this effort came about, how we supported that much massive relief operations from the base in Islamabad to the people forward. I can never forget. We worked firstly with the helicopters, the Army Aviation, the air force and the navy, all the helicopters been used. All the facilities those were available for Pakistan. And the Chinooks we got, especially from US, which move in the days when there was road communication was broken down. Moving all the goods forward to the people. And then I would like to commend the work for Army Engineers who opened up the roads in the shortest possible time in two to three days. And then onwards from the main base here to the forward bases, it was the road transport. trucks, which are being used to move the goods forward and helicopters helping them moving them forward bases to the people. So this whole effort was very synchronized and extremely well done. I would like to boast at this moment, it gives me pride to boast indeed that our exemplary handling of the aftermath of the disaster has been termed as a textbook case. I have met Secretary General Kofi Anan, and his representatives, who have said that this handling of this earthquake of massive proportions has been an exemplary. It is an example for the whole world. And we are proud of it. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan nation owes the special gratitude to the entire world. All nations of the world, the UN, the innumerable NGO’s for assisting us. And I also salute the entire nation, the people of Pakistan, the Armed Forces of Pakistan, the local NGO’s, who helped contribute to this success. We assess the entire damage and the whole damage came to, an assessment of 5.2 billion dollars. May I say this assessment was the joint assessment, by the World Bank, by the ADB, by our own organisations.

It was assessed that 1.6 billion dollars is for relief and 3.5 billion dollars for reconstruction and 100 million dollars for rehabilitation. We called a Donors Conference because we don’t have this kind of money. Again, we extremely thankful to the whole world, because in this hall, there were representatives from more than 80 countries and they pledged over 6.5 billion dollars. Pakistan remains grateful to all these donors. We opened a President’s Earth Quake Relief Fund. And over 12 billion rupees have been contributed by everyone. Especially Pakistanis here in Pakistan and overseas Pakistanis. Our gratitude to everyone who contributed. But the task is not yet over, ladies and gentlemen.

The relief effort is over. The Federal Relief Commission is being merged into ERRA. We have now entered the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase. One year has passed and therefore we thought that this conference may be held to convey to those who assisted us, in financially or in kind. We thought we owe it to them. To show we have used whatever they gave us in the best possible manner. To show them on ground, what we have achieved. My assurance to all those who have assisted us. That your assistance has not gonein waste and will not go waste. It will be utilized for the people, genuinely affected by the earthquake. A lot has been achieved already and it has been given out. Only 5 % will be in tents. 95% will be in some kind of shelter and houses. All the schools and health units are functioning in temporary accommodations. But may I say the temporary accommodation that I see and know have visited some are better than the old permanent accommodation. We are again grateful to the all world community, local NGO’s, international NGO who helped us. The offices are functioning, departments are running, the streets and bazaars are bustling with activity. That is the success again of the ERRA.

Seismic studies have been carried out. Balakot, the main effected town is going to be shifted to Bakrial, which is about 20 km’s away. A new town a better town in a seismic free zone will be built. Muzaffarabad, Rawalkot, Bagh are being developed with expert advice, with proper town planning. And since the government offices are being shifted out, therefore more space created.

Therefore we better town planning, I think these places will become better towns, attracting more tourists and giving better facilities to the people. The strategy that we are following are on the houses and owner driven strategy where money is being paid to the people. They have been given designs to make their houses earthquake proof. And the last transcend of the money to be given to them will be paid only when they have followed the earth proof design that we have giving them.

I think this is going very successfully. I keep monitoring all this. But I know instead of 400,000 houses its 600,000 houses now. Therefore more expenditure

is required. On health and education side we are basing it on need based strategy. We will construct whatever is required to be done. Needs of the people and in a better manner.

Therefore as you have seen the run over cost have come from, instead of 3.6 billion dollars, which was initially worked out, comes to something like 4.4 billion dollars. Which mean there is a short supply of 800 million dollars. At this occasion though this address to donate more for the President’s Relief Fund or the International Community to help us more. Because only then we meet the challenge of access of houses to be constructed and health and education facilities to be constructed.

Our pledge is, as I said, that we will utilize of donations most judiciously and we will complete 80 % of the work by 2009. That is the target I have set for ERRA leaving a side the big projects, everything must be completed by 2009. All housing especially ought to be completed by 2008. That is the division of effort that I would like to put in place. The housing which is the main issue of sustenance of the people will be completed Inshallah by Dec 2008.

At the national level, we have to raise and equip rescue teams to meet such disasters in future and we know that we lack this facility in the past. We need to create a National Disaster Management Authority. We need to create National Disaster Management Plan and that is what we are doing.

I would like to end, ladies and gentlemen, by giving a promise to this nation that we convert this challenge into an opportunity. Inshallah, we will not fail as nation.

We will not fail the people who have been affected. We cannot bring the 73,000 people who have died and lost their lives. We can not bring them back but what I assure those who survived, we will give them a better life, give them better living standards, give them better facilities. That is the promise that I make to this nation and the people who have got affected.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen! 

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