ISLAMABAD (APP/NNI) - President Asif Ali Zardari has said that he has invited the US President Barack Obama to join him at the Friends of Democratic Pakistans forthcoming meeting in September in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session to garner international support for Pakistan to help cope with the challenge posed by the war on terror.
He also said that the entire focus of the government would now shift to the rehabilitation of displaced persons and rebuilding of the damaged infrastructure in Malakand Division.
He was addressing a select gathering of international donors, NGOs and civil society on Monday who had contributed to the relief of the displaced persons in and off camps and who were specially invited to the Presidency to honour them for their efforts and contributions. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Federal Ministers, diplomats, senior government officials, representatives of donors, NGOs and civil society attended the function. Presidents daughters Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari also attended the function.
Briefing newsmen about the meeting, Presidential Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said the President described it is an auspicious occasion as the formal return of the displaced persons back to their homes has started on Monday.
The President said the beginning of the return journey of the displaced persons marked the beginning of the end of one phase; and the start of another.
President Zardari said that the issue of rehabilitation of displaced persons was a huge challenge before the nation which should be met through the collective effort of the people, the government and the international community.
Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying, Perhaps never before the world witnessed such large scale displacement in such a short span of time. The fallout was enormous. The challenge was huge.
The President appreciated the huge sacrifices made by the internally displaced persons.
They were forced to leave their homes, businesses and workplaces. They underwent great hardships but they courageously endured it. Without their patience and endurance it would have been most difficult for us to pursue the fight against the militants, the President said.
I salute their courage and the sacrifices they have made, he said.
We resolve not to abandon our brothers and sisters in this hour of trial. We will take every possible step to help them resume normal life in their homes.
He said that the government deeply appreciates the humanitarian assistance provided by the civil society and the international community.
Not only the displaced people but the people of Pakistan are grateful for their sincere support and assistance. Without your assistance it would have been most difficult, the President said.
The President said that the problems of the IDPs are both short term and long term. In the short, term our aim was to provide immediate relief.
In the long term, we have to rehabilitate them in their homes and also rebuild and reconstruct the damaged infrastructure.
The relief phase is phasing out but has not come to end and it will continue till the last family is relocated with dignity and honour, the President said.
The President urged the donors, the international community and members of civil society to keep this in mind and continue to extend humanitarian assistance to the IDPs.
We have been emphasising upon the world that rehabilitation of the IDPs is the most critical element of fight against militancy, the President said. We have asked them to come forward and play their role, he added.
Pakistan expects the international community, the Friends of Democratic Pakistan to step forward, the President said.
Help us in establishing peace, help us in fighting this cancer of militancy, otherwise the cancer will spread to other parts of world and no one will be safe, he added.
Addressing the gathering Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said Pakistan needed an estimated $2.6 billion to help it meet rehabilitation and reconstruction needs in the areas where military operation was launched.
He termed the operation a significant success as it gained the support of the locals, the entire nation and the political parties.
However, the crisis is not yet over, Gilani said and pointed that the government will be doing a Post Crisis Needs Assessment with the assistance of World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to help the people restart their lives.
He said the government has earmarked an amount of Rs 50 billion for the IDPs that will be used for their relief and rehabilitation.
He also pointed at the setting up of a Strategic Policy Committee, comprising senior political and official leadership of the NWFP that will provide details to the international aid agencies and donors. The Prime Minister gave details of the measures taken by the government for the millions of displaced people from Malakand and Swat. He said the experiences of the devastating Oct 8, 2005 earthquake were used to launch a massive operation to provide immediate shelter, food, medicines and relief to the displaced.
He lauded the international aid agencies, donors, NGOs, the civil society and the host families for reaching out to the displaced people. He thanked them for working in tandem with the government in helping the affectees.
The Prime Minister lauded the countrys Armed Forces for re-establishing the writ of the government.
He said the infrastructure in the area has been partially restored and a medium and long-term rehabilitation programme was being devised.
Gilani urged the nation to stand by and stand fast with the government as it takes extensive measures to make the troubled areas ready to receive back the displaced persons.
He stressed that measures need to be taken to ensure that the government does not have to resort to such measures. He said through good governance, provision of speedy justice and socio-economic measures such evils could be nipped in the bud.
UNs Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Mogwanja, Country Director Oxfam Neva Humaira Khan and CEO SRSP Masood-ul-Mulk spoke about the challenges that were faced by the millions of displaced people from Malakand and Swat.
They were appreciative of the quick response by the civil society, the government, NGOs, national and international aid agencies and the Armed Forces for reaching out to the affected people.
They pointed that around 20,000 families got shelter and food with thousands of host families, but also pointed that 150,000 people need a place to live once they leave the school buildings they are currently staying.
The representatives of the aid agencies said the return must ensure that it is dignified, safe, sustainable and voluntary.