Corrupt disaster funds

The recent disastrous floods have wreaked havoc in Pakistan, claiming the lives of over 1200. 416 children of these deaths were children. More than 33 million have been displaced as well. However, a large number of those affected have been successfully rescued and shifted to safer areas with the coordinated efforts of rescue teams and volunteers. Now, the next step is to supply food, medicines and shelters to the affected families. Nevertheless, rebuilding the infrastructure devastated by the flash floods and extreme precipitation will be the most daunting task to execute. Rehabilitation and reconstruction requires humongous finances to be spent on floods ravaged areas and afflicted people.
Pitifully, the unprecedented flash floods brought more destruction to the already underdeveloped areas, proving viciously fatal for the dwindling economy of Pakistan. The poor and downtrodden have suffered the most by this disaster. As per assessments, the complete restoration of flood hit areas may take more than five years. No fewer than $10 billion are required for the rebuilding and repairs of a number of devastated roads, buildings, bridges, houses, schools, hospitals and hotels.
Although, ample flood relief funds are being raised by the government, international organisations and local communities, they do not seem sufficient to overcome the destruction caused. And the dark side of the picture is that the funds which have been collected so far hold no surety to be spent wholly due to the prevalent malpractices of misappropriation and embezzlement.
Some reports disclose that during the floods of 2010, Saudi Arabia’s gift of 252 lakh tents to flood victims were illegally sold in the market by the involved commission mafia. A “Civil Society Flood Situation Report” released by the People’s Accountability Commission on Floods’ disclosed that an amount of Rs.8 billion was pledged for rehabilitation under the annual development programme 2011-2012 but it was brazenly devoured by certain MPAs of the Sindh province. Similarly, Rs.12 billion was provided through the Sindh Social Relief Fund for responding to national disasters and emergencies. These funds were also not utilised in 2010-2011, rather the same amount was transferred to the federal government to pay Rs. 300,000 to each of the 35,000 beneficiaries under BISP.
Likewise, a report by The Daily Telegraph divulged that more than 300 million pounds of aid to help rebuild destructive areas of Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake was dishonestly spent on other projects. A senior official of Pakistan’s Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority also exposed that Rs.12 billion pledged for repairs was diverted from the budget to other governmental projects. In addition, after the 2005 earthquake, the Contractors Association President, Muhammad Anwar Abbasi, had also accused ERRA of corruption and misuse of funds. According to authentic reports, 4043 projects worth Rs.60 billion were approved for health, education and communication in Abbottabad, Mansehra, Battagram, Kohistan and Shangla. However, ERRA could hardly release Rs.15 billion and the rest of the heavy amounts were embezzled. In 2019, a report in the British Newspaper alleged that Mr. Shehbaz Sharif, with the collusion of his family members and some confidants, embezzled and laundered sent as foreign aid for relief activities after the massive earthquake in 2005. Pakistan’s former PM, Yousuf Raza Gilani, also contritely held the necklace donated by Turkey’s first lady Emine Erdogan after 2010 floods in Pakistan.
For the current floods disaster, aid details are as follows. The Red Cross Society of China under CPEC has recently announced emergency cash assistance of $300,000 including 25000 tents, 50000 blankets, 50000 awnings and other supplies for the victims. The European Union is providing 1.8 million Euros in humanitarian aid to the affected families. The United States will be providing $100,000 in immediate assistance to support the people affected. Amidst this time of adversity, the UK has also announced to provide an emergency aid of 1.5 million Euros. Besides seeking $160 million in emergency aid for Pakistan floods, the UN has allocated $3 million for flood response in Pakistan. Imran Khan raised Rs.5 billion via the international telethon. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has collected about one trillion and 30 billion rupees from the United Nations member countries. The Turkish government has also sent seven planes loaded with tents, food, medicines and more.
Now the gigantic task would be to sincerely utilise the accumulated aid for the rehabilitation of affected people and rebuilding of damaged infrastructure. Nevertheless, the precariousness over the proper and just usage of funds gives rise to so many questions: Will the aid genuinely reach the affected families? Will they actually get shelters, foods, medicines and tents? Will the affected people be completely compensated for the losses of their crops, cattle, properties and houses? Will the amassed funds be honestly spent on repairs and reconstruction? Deplorably, if wrongful practices of malfeasance and embezzlements like that in the past are recommitted and the acquired aid goes into the corrupt hands instead of truly spending on the restoration, it will certainly be the matter of great degradation for the whole nation. If funds are meant to be illegally devoured like always, they are of no use and all humanitarian efforts will be in vain.
Therefore, it is high time that the incumbent government and institutions involved deviate from the malpractices of the past and make an honest use of the money provided. In this time of rising demands of food and other usable commodities, the wholesalers and retailers should keep aside their profit objectives and must keep the prices of foods, tents, medicines and costumes as low as possible.

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