Musharraf slams quake aid response

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has criticised the international community for failing to provide sufficient aid to survivors of last month's devastating earthquake.

    The Pakistani president said contributions had fallen short

    The Pakistani leader said the world had given less money than it had for survivors of last December's tsunami because no Westerners had been involved. 

    "With the tsunami, I think if one compared realistically the damage there is much more, the magnitude of the calamity is much more," military ruler Musharraf told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Friday.

    "But there it was spread to many countries, it affected many people from many countries of the world, especially the West who were tourists," he said.

    Funds diversion

    The army chief of staff and president also said he was postponing the controversial purchase of 25 F-16s from the US at a cost of $25 million each in order to divert funds to survivors of the earthquake.

    Responding to Musharraf's comments, British International Development Minister Hilary Benn agreed that the international community had failed to respond adequately.

    "I saw with my own eyes the scale of the damage... and it is literally a race against time to save people's lives"

    Hilary Benn,
    British International Development Minister

    "Internationally, it is true the response hasn't frankly been good enough, and I don't understand it because nobody can be in any doubt whatsoever about the scale of the crisis," Benn told BBC radio.

    Benn, who visited the affected area two weeks ago, said: "I saw with my own eyes the scale of the damage ... and it is literally a race against time to save people's lives.

    "And the message just needs to be heard very clearly around the world - we need more help from everybody if we are going to get shelter, and warmth in particular, to people who will otherwise die of the cold."

    Money pledged

    Britain's Disasters Emergency Committee said more than $52.9 million had been pledged to its Asia Quake Appeal.

    The United Nations says it needs $550 million in emergency aid for earthquake victims but donor nations have pledged only $131 million.


    Thousands of Pakistanis face a
    winter without adequate shelter

    Pakistani Finance Ministry official Ashfaq Hassan Khan said the world has pledged $1.93 billion in aid over the long term, but the country has said it needs $5 billion.

    By comparison, donors pledged $13.5 billion for victims of the December tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people.

    Relief effort 

    More than 73,000 people died in the 8 October earthquake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale. Almost the same number were injured and more than three million were made homeless.

    On the ground, the effort to ensure survivors had food and protection continued as Pakistanis marked the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr in a sombre mood.

    Musharraf asked Pakistanis to tone down festivities out of respect for victims and many donated money instead of spending money on gifts.

    Oxfam said camps for the
    homeless posed a health risk

    There is growing concern over the well-being of many earthquake survivors who face a harsh mountain winter with inadequate shelter.

    Disease warning

    The British charity Oxfam said squalid conditions in camps could kill thousands more people, far exceeding the toll in remote villages that have been the focus of aid efforts so far.

    Oxfam said the risk of disease was growing in crowded camps that have sprung up in devastated cities, while the sheer numbers of people living there meant that any outbreak would be disastrous.


    "The focus on what's happening in the most remote communities in earthquake-hit Kashmir is overshadowing the thousands more lives that are in danger in the increasing number of camps," the charity said in a statement.

    "Unless conditions are improved in these camps, diseases like cholera could spread like wildfire," the statement said.

    Army under fire

    As the huge task of returning the affected areas to normality hangs over Pakistan, there is growing criticism of Islamabad's  response to the disaster.

    Pakistani cricket-hero-turned-politician Imran Khan also visited the earthquake zone, where he called on aid efforts to be taken out of the hands of Pakistan's army and given to a parliamentary committee instead.

    "The army is not accountable to anyone," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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