Action against anti-state elements won't be abandoned: PM Gilani
22 September, 2011
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday reiterated his resolve to eliminate terrorism from the country and said the writ of the government would be established in Karachi and other parts of the country.
The prime minister was making his opening remarks at the outset of a cabinet meeting, chaired by him, at the PM Secretariat.
"We cannot be forced to abandon our operations against anti-state and anti-social elements," he said. "Let me reiterate that such cowardly acts will not deter our resolve to eliminate the terrorists, whose leadership has been mostly killed or arrested."
He condemned the suicide attack on the residence of an SSP in Karachi, assassination of former Afghan president Prof Burhanuddin Rabbani and the killing of pilgrims in Mastung on Tuesday.
The prime minister told the cabinet that he cancelled his visit to the US because he could not bear to see his countrymen in a miserable and vulnerable position at home. He said the floods had reportedly affected 7.3 million people and there was an urgent need to cater to the food, shelter and medicine needs of flood affectees.
"We have to employ all our energies and resources for the relief and rehabilitation of the flood-hit people. The government will leave no stone unturned in bringing normalcy to people's lives," he added.
The prime minister said he had visited the flood-affected areas twice with the Sindh chief minister and got first hand briefings from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) about the loss of human lives, damage to standing crops and private properties, and destruction of infrastructure. "The floods have not only caused severe infrastructural damage but also affected the livelihood of millions of people," he added.
Gilani said the damage assessment had been done by the United Nations and NDMA jointly and an international appeal for $356 million had been launched simultaneously from Islamabad and Geneva. "I have also established a Prime Minister's Relief Fund where contributions from various government and private institutions are being deposited," he added.
The prime minister urged the Sindh government to assess the damage caused to private properties so that those who suffered financial losses were adequately compensated.
About dengue fever, he said the federal government immediately responded to the request of the Punjab government and issued instructions to the managing director, PIA to facilitate the transportation of personnel, equipment and insecticide for the control of the virus.
"Inshallah, all efforts will be made to eradicate the virus. The Sri Lankan medical team has expressed its satisfaction over treatment facilities being extended to dengue patients in hospitals," he added.
About his visit to Iran, Gilani said he exchanged views with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on augmenting existing bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields ranging from trade and economy to internal security and intelligence sharing. He said it was also agreed that the volume of bilateral trade should touch a figure of $10 billion for which the transportation and communication network had to be improved. "I was touched by the Iranian gesture to donate $100 million for flood affectees," he added.
Meanwhile, the federal cabinet approved the immediate release of Rs1.5 billion for the relief operation in flood-hit areas and directed the NDMA to mobilise all available resources to provide effective relief to flood affectees in Sindh and Balochistan.
The cabinet decided to assign responsibility to Shahnaz Wazir Ali to get in touch with national and international organisations and overseas Pakistanis, including the Kashmiri people, to mobilise them by apprising them of the scale of the disaster in and seeking their assistance. The cabinet members also decided to donate one-month salary for the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.
Later, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan along with NDMA Chairman Zafar Iqbal Qadir briefed the media about the cabinet meeting.
On PML-N President Nawaz Sharif's statements during his visit to flood-affected areas, the minister said this was not the time to engage in politics but to help the flood-hit people.
When asked about a 10-day visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to London and Prime Minister Gilani's visit to Iran during the floods in Sindh, the minister said that despite his illness President Zardari was monitoring relief operation in flood-hit areas and had contacted foreign leaders to generate funds for the flood affectees.
To another query, Firdous said WHO and Unicef had advised against anti-malarial aerial spray because of its health hazards. Spray guns and spraying materials are being imported from Germany, Korea and other countries to spray flood-hit areas, she said. She said anti-malarial spraying had already begun in different areas.
She said a Communication Crisis Cell had been activated at the Press Information Department in Islamabad and representatives of both local and foreign media would be briefed regularly about the flood situation.
NDMA Chairman Dr Zafar Iqbal Qadir told mediapersons that 8.07 million people had been affected in all 23 districts of Sindh. He said the flood related death toll had reached 352 and 651 people had been injured; the total area submerged in water was 6.5 million acres out of which 1.9 million was crop area. The floods destroyed or damaged 1.35 million houses, he added.
Dr Zafar said in all 2,792 relief camps had been established where about 565,000 people were being accommodated. "Badin is the worst affected district followed by Khairpur, Sanghar and Benazirabad," he added.
The federal cabinet earlier also considered and accorded approval for negotiations regarding the agreement of Customs Cooperation between Pakistan and India, in order to formalise the efforts to facilitate trade through cooperation.
The cabinet also accorded approval to the signing of MoU between the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation as agreed during the recent visit by secretary commerce to India.
The Ministry of Power informed the cabinet that the issue of land acquisition for Bhasha Dam had been amicably resolved and payment had been made to the people.
The cabinet was also briefed about the import of 1,000MW electricity from Turkmenistan, that the feasibility report has vindicated its cost effectiveness in its entirety.
The cabinet considered and accorded approval in principle, to start negotiations on an agreement to transfer offenders between Pakistan and Azerbaijan. Five Pakistanis are confined in Azerbaijan, in drug trafficking cases and undergoing their sentences awarded by the Azeri Courts.
Their parents requested the government for the transfer of their sons from Azeri jails to Pakistani jails. Accordingly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was requested to take up the matter with the Azeri government for the transfer of these prisoners from Azerbaijan to Pakistan on humanitarian grounds, enabling them to complete their remaining sentences in their homeland.
The cabinet considered and accorded approval in principle, to start negotiations on an agreement on the transfer of offenders between Pakistan and Ukraine. The cabinet also considered and accorded approval in principle, to start negotiations on an agreement to transfer offenders between Pakistan and Ireland.
The cabinet failed to ascertain the reasons for poor public response and lack of public mobilisation on the flood situation in Sindh.
According to sources, a cabinet minister from Punjab spoke about lack of public mobilisation and pathetic public response to the flood situation in Sindh as compared with the response last year. He said that the spirit and enthusiasm of last year was missing this year.
"This is either the failure of the government or our own that we could not effectively highlight the misery and destruction wrought by the massive floods this year which are far more destructive than the floods of last year," he said.
Sources said that the prime minister also agreed with his cabinet colleague and cited lack of coordination among the different government institutions as the reason behind the sorry situation.
Sources said the prime minister directed the Information Ministry to prepare documentaries depicting the sufferings of flood-affected people and highlight the devastation. Sources said the cabinet members also grilled the NDMA for the lack of coordination with the provincial government for the distribution of the relief goods. A cabinet minister from Sindh questioned the NDMA about the non-utilisation of last year's funds received from international donors.
The NDMA admitted during the cabinet meeting that they still had $570 million but these were not spent as international donors had put the condition of third party validation. Sources said the NDMA said so far only Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa gave the data while Punjab and Balochistan were still preparing it and the Sindh government had not yet furnished any data of damage need assessment. He said these factors had caused delay in the utilisation of funds.