US to help but Pakistan is on its own
ISLAMABAD: The US point man on Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, has said while the US is trying its best to financially help out Pakistan it needs to overcome its economic miseries compounded by the war on terror and the IDP crisis.
He was addressing a press conference here on Wednesday along with Minister of State for Economic Affairs Ms Hina Rabbani Khar. During the press briefing, the special representative also announced $165 million humanitarian assistance for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) for their early recovery and for long-term reconstruction efforts in the militancy-hit areas.
Since May 2009, the Obama administration has committed more than $320 million to the Pakistani people to help them respond to this crisis. All such offerings shall be deducted from the overall annual $1.5 billion package and do not constitute any additional funding.
“Since the US is facing the economic crisis, but even then it is extending every sort of financial help to Pakistan,” said Holbrooke. He, however, admitted that the response of the Gulf states was very slow but expressed the optimism about them ultimately delivering on the monetary assistance front.
He claimed the US was in contact with EU countries, seeking the materialisation of the pledges made for IDPs at the Tokyo moot for development projects in the country, and conceded the response was not up to the mark “because of the global economic recession”. He admitted the response was not good enough while the crisis was enormous that Pakistan was facing.
When his attention was drawn towards the fact that Pakistan’s economic managers had made the annual budget based on these very pledges (and now highly uncertain flows) and that the Pakistani masses were looking towards the government and the government was looking towards the western counties and the countries which had made pledges in the Tokyo moot, he responded by saying the US had pledged $1 billion for the development projects in Pakistan, which would soon be released to Pakistan, but the other pledges would materialise in stages as the financial years of the countries start on various months; therefore, one could expect such delays. In addition, he said, the US would extend $7.5 billion assistance under Kerry-Lugar bill under which Pakistan would get $1.5 billion per annum.
Holbrooke again mentioned the fact that the whole world is in economic crisis, and said the US even then had so far allocated over half of the total pledges made so far for the internal refugees.
Hina Rabbani Khar explained that $5.28 billion pledges at Tokyo moot were made for two years and this year Pakistan was expecting arrival of $2 billion or less. Holbrooke, labelling India as a “great regional power”, said New Delhi would be taken on board on actions against militants, as this is the common enemy of the US, India and Pakistan. He said this enemy attacked in the US, India and is also killing innocent people in Pakistan. “This enemy also murdered Pakistan’s great leader Benazir Bhutto.”
He said tension between Pakistan and India was now over and both the countries needed to move forward and take action against the common enemy. To a question, he said India was not in his mandate and he had postponed his visit to India this time and next month he would visit the country.
To a question as to what assurance the US has given on the concerns Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has raised on drone attacks, Holbrooke refused to divulge anything, saying the conversation on the issue is highly confidential.
When again asked as to whether the US had agreed to provide drone technology to Pakistan, he opted to keep mum and said dialogue on the drone issue remained confidential.
He welcomed the four-hour long meeting between President Asif Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif and said, “That’s democracy and both leaders are one against terrorism.” To a question, he said the Taliban were still freely moving across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and the Taliban in Afghanistan were in contact with the Taliban in Pakistan.
During the press briefing, members of the US delegation also explained the salient features of the $165 million funding for IDPs, saying out of $165 million, $45 million would be provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to support locally-driven rehabilitation of basic infrastructure that included water system, health facilities, schools, roads and bridges with the maximum use of local labour. They said $30 million would be used for small-scale infrastructure and community development grants for displaced families in the NWFP.
Of the total announced amount, $25 million will be given to family resources to rebuild homes and livelihood; $23 million will be contributed to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for humanitarian relief and managing volunteer return of displaced families to their homes; $20 million will be provided to rebuild educational infrastructure across Dir, Swat and Buner; $12 million will be contributed to the International Committee of Red Cross to be used for humanitarian operations and assistance for returning families as they rebuild their lives and $10 million will be provided for livelihood and agriculture programmes, mobile health clinics in Buner and Swat and cash for work activities.
Holbrooke also mentioned a small programme of $1 million, but an innovative one that will allow the Pakistani government to work with the US and Pakistan telecom companies to deploy an SMS-text messaging system designed to help displaced families obtain critical information from the government, international relief agencies and local community members.
US to help but Pakistan is on its own