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NGOs complain to Gilani about poor relief work

gilani NGO meeting pakistan newsISLAMABAD: Representatives of leading national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) complained to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday about lack of coordination and adequate monitoring of relief and rehabilitation work in flood-affected areas.

At an interactive dinner with the prime minister, they called for immediate revival of the local government system and said the worst-hit rural areas were being neglected in the relief and rehabilitation work.

They called for land reforms and more tax on the rich, terming it the only way to help the affected people.

Samina Khan of the Sungi organisation said it was impossible to undertake rehabilitation work at the district and tehsil levels in the absence of local governments and, therefore, the government should take immediate steps to hold their elections.

The prime minister said that 2011 would be the year of local bodies’ elections.

Naeem Mirza of Aurat Foundation said women and children were the most vulnerable among the affected people who needed special attention of the government. He complained of a lack of coordination in relief work.

Sarwar Bari of the Pattan development organisation said that governance was deteriorating and the suffering of affected people would not end without an improvement.

Referring to the poor performance of the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, he said: “I doubt things will be much different this time, because on the ground I could see a sheer manifestation of partisanship by political parties.”

Minister of State for Finance Hina Rabbani Khar rejected the remark about partisanship.

Mr Bari called for taxing the rich more aggressively and for across-the-board land reforms. Over the years, poverty has deepened and an equal distribution of land is the only sustainable way to help the people.

Another NGO representative urged the government to also focus on ecological rehabilitation of the affected areas. He said riverbeds had been massively encroached upon and it should be ensured that no housing, legal or illegal, was built on such places.

In reply to a question, the prime minister said the government was taking austerity measures and around 10 ministries and divisions would be wound up in a few months under the 18th Amendment.

“The government has already given an action plan whereby it will provide Rs100,000 to every affected family for the building of their homes, besides an immediate release of Rs20,000 through Watan cards.”

Those who said the government did not have any plan actually didn’t want to help Pakistan, the prime minister said.

Federal Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said it was not easy to increase tax collection. “When the government talks about tax on big land holdings, my colleagues sitting in parliament oppose it, brokers are against tax on capital gains and people are not willing to pay taxes on their costly houses.”

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