Gilani accepts Nawaz proposal on relief panel

By Ahmad Hassan

A flood survivor collects fire wood from the debris of his destroyed home in the flood affected area of Nowshera. -AFP Photo

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif agreed on Saturday to set up a ‘credible national body comprising men of integrity’ to ensure transparency in the collection, management and distribution of relief funds among the flood-affected.

Mr Sharif said it was gratifying for him that Mr Gilani had accepted his proposal regarding the commission.

Mr Gilani hinted at the names of the likes of retired justices Rana Bhagwandas, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim and Nasir Aslam Zahid to be nominated after getting their acceptance.

In their two-hour discussion, the prime minister was assisted by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Food and Agriculture Minister Nazar Mohammad Gondal and Water and Power Minister Raja Parvaiz Ashraf, while Mr Sharif was accompanied by Senator Ishaq Dar.

Addressing a joint press conference at the PM House auditorium after the meeting, the two leaders said they would appeal to the rich to come forward to help the millions of their compatriots in distress.

The prime minister said: “We can together turn around the economy which is destroyed by the floods by shunning our political considerations and point scoring spree.”

Mr Gilani said he had discussed the today’s meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari who appreciated and encouraged the initiative. He said he had also called Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and MQM leader Farooq Sattar and would continue to contact other leaders to muster their support for a national cause.

He said he and Mr Sharif stood together to help the people who had lost their homes and all means of livelihood.

The PML-N chief said he had witnessed the “unprecedented devastation” caused by the floods, adding that there was a need to unite the nation.

He said he along with the prime minister would tour the entire country to raise funds without waiting for the international assistance.

“We will not beg the world to come and help us. If any country wishes to extend help it may do so, but we have the ability to handle the calamity on our own,” he added.

Mr Sharif said the situation demanded that no distinction was made between the government and the opposition in reaching out to the flood-affected people and to raise and disburse funds.

He said that a meeting of the Council of Common Interests would be convened soon to evaluate the devastation and determine share of expenditures on a regional basis.

When asked if parties outside parliament would also be taken on board, Mr Gilani said: “It is a national effort in which not only political parties but also leaders of civil society organisations will be solicited.”

He said that in the next phase of planning it would be ensured that no structure was built on waterways and highways to avoid future devastations.

In reply a question about the closure of some TV channels in some areas of Sindh and Karachi, the prime minister said he had directed the Pemra chairman to ensure that no channels were blocked or he would risk his job.

Agencies add: Prime Minister Gilani in a televised address marking the Independence Day said that 20 million people had been affected by the floods.

“The floods affected some 20 million people, destroyed standing crops and food storages worth billions of dollars, causing colossal loss to national economy,” he said. “I would appeal to the world community to extend a helping hand to fight this calamity.”

Mr Sharif said names recommended for the fundraising body included Justice Rana Bhagwan Das, Justice Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim, Dr Adeeb Rizvi, Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Ali Ahmed Kurd.

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