Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing a press conference at the Governor’s House together with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Chief Minister announced a relief package for the victims of Monday’s earthquake in KPK, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Gilgit-Baltistan.
It envisages 600,000 rupees for each fatality, 200,000 rupees for a permanent disability, 200,000 rupees for a house destroyed as a consequence of the natural disaster and half that amount for a partially damaged residence. He also revealed that the package was approved by the federal as well as the provincial (KPK) government and the two would share the costs equally. Cash would begin to be distributed from Monday 2nd November and be completed by Thursday 5th November.
In addition, the Prime Minister stated that a three-member committee would be established comprising of a representative from the army, civil administration and the public to oversee disbursements under the package is carried out after appropriate verification.
The package is being hailed because not only was it promptly announced – a mere two days after the earthquake struck the country – but was also conceived in the spirit of federalism with critical inputs from the KPK government.
The Prime Minister urged political parties, with the obvious focus being the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led KPK government, not to play politics with natural disasters. In this context, it may be recalled that the farm package announced by the Prime Minister was rejected by Chairman PTI Imran Khan on plausible grounds that the 2015-16 budget for KPK did not have any provision for the farm package.
Reports however indicate that those earthquake survivors whose houses have been destroyed by the earthquake have expressed their reservations about the package terming the 200,000 rupees for a destroyed house “meagre” and “inadequate”.
It is unclear what the government based its estimates on but one would assume that it took what it considered was an average house size to determine the amount of compensation. But house sizes do vary and it stands to reason that some victims may be unable to rebuild the house of the same size as was destroyed in the amount allocated. In addition, there is also a fear that many victims may overstate the size of their residence prior to the quake and/or exaggerate the destruction.
However, one would assume that these concerns would be appropriately dealt with by the three-member committee which includes army personnel who may have a more accurate picture of the area as well as construction prior to the quake.
The Prime Minister also announced that the Lowari tunnel would be completed by the end of next year and once again, in the spirit of federalism, stated that he would get the KPK Chief Minister to inaugurate the tunnel, once completed.
The marriage between undertaking development works fully supported by the people of the area and a favourable political outcome is nowhere more apparent than in the case of Chitral which elected Musharraf’s candidate in 2013 elections because of the dictator’s financing of the Lowari tunnel. The tunnel’s completion by the Sharif administration with the support of KPK government may well change the politics of the region.
Large parts of KPK as well as Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir are located on a fault line and therefore while the incentive package can be supported yet one would hope that the federal and provincial governments do begin to formulate and implement building codes to ensure that the next devastating earthquake would have even less of an impact on the people.
More therefore needs to be done to protect publicly-owned infrastructure facilities as well as privately-owned assets from natural disasters.
Source: Business Recorder