President says Pakistan requires financial assistance in colossal task of rehabilitation


ISLAMABAD. President General Pervez Musharraf Saturday said Pakistan requires massive financial assistance from the international community in carrying out rehabilitation and reconstruction in the earthquake-afflicted areas. "We require colossal finances for reconstruction efforts, we need international assistance, we also need assistance in the form of pre-fabricated houses, schools, colleges, hospitals so that we can erect them quickly and bring life back to normal," he told newsmen at Chaklala Airbase after attending a marathon review of the relief activities. However, the President said, the country has not yet ascertained the exact amount of financial assistance it would require in the mammoth task of rebuilding widespread damage in an area, that sprawls over 20,000 sq kms. The President described reconstruction and rehabilitation in the wake of October 8 as a " mega stage". He said as many as 32 countries have extended relief assistance to the country and expressed his gratitude to the international community for responding urgently to the catastrophe. President Musharraf said Pakistan is importing tents from other countries and the international community can also extend assistance in providing tents and blankets for the quake-affected people as winter sets in. President Musharraf said the earthquake has claimed over 38000 lives, adding that the figure may rise. In reply to a question, President Musharraf said the Government is continuing with rescue operations to pull survivors out of rubble. "We are continuing rescue efforts and also carrying out relief operations." Minister for Information Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was also present. He informed the media that a comprehensive initiative, to be known as President's Rehabilitation Initiative (PRI) is being launched to rebuild damaged infrastructure, including roads, bridges, houses, government buildings, schools and private buildings. The PRI will oversee the completion of the task through an Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority (ERRA). "This authority will undertake the whole exercise of evaluating the size of reconstruction work, expenditure and time frame and come with proposals." The President said, the authority will complete this task on fast-track basis. Replying to a question, he said half of the roads in badly-hit Jehlum and Neelum valleys are still closed, making access for rescuers to all areas difficult. "Pakistan Army engineers have been working day and night to reopen the damaged roads - we are striving for reopening them at the earliest," he said informing that the relief commission is examining satellite imagery and video footage by the PAF aircraft to find out ways to access the cut-off areas. On providing medical treatment to the injured, the President said 40 to 50 hubs have been established under Pakistan Army at various places of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and NWFP to set up medical and relief facilities. However, he stated, none of these units is self-sufficient at the moment and Pakistan needs medical assistance. In addition, the President said, field hospitals have been set up for on-the-spot surgical operations and only serious cases are being brought here. He said as many as 32 countries have extended assistance to Pakistan in the wake of the devastating earthquake and expressed his gratitude to the international community for responding urgently to the human tragedy. About surviving children, who have lost their parents or yet to be in contact with their parents or near of kins, he said the Government would set up SOS centres to take care of them. Advisor to Prime Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar has been assigned to coordinate these efforts, he said. "We will house the children at these centres and take full care of them and fulfil our responsibility," the President assured. President Musharraf said in view of air traffic at Chaklala base it has been decided to make use of Dhamiyal Airbase, which is in near vicinity. Earlier, the President attended a brief about operations at the Chaklala Airbase, which has been serving as the main logistic base for rescue and relief operations, since October 8 earthquake. The President was informed that all foreign assistance flowing into the country is received at the base, sorted out and transported by air and road to the quake-stricken areas. The facilities at the air base are working under Pakistan Armed Forces. Director General, Logistics branch of Pakistan Army briefed the President about the logistics activity. The President expressed satisfaction at the round-the-clock operations by Pakistan Air Force, Army Aviation and Logistics Branch of Pakistan Army at the airbase. He commended efforts being put in by all the services in the trying time for the nation. On arrival at the airbase, the President was received by Vice Chief of the Army Staff Ahsan Saleem Hyat and Air Marshal Arif.

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