Aid for 2005 Pakistan quake spent elsewhere: report

LONDON: More than 300 million pounds of aid to help rebuild parts of Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake was diverted to other projects, a British report said Saturday.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper, citing unnamed senior Pakistani officials, said there were fears this diversion of funds would put off foreign donors from giving money to help 20 million people currently affected by heavy floods.

“There’s reluctance, even people in this country are not giving generously into this flood fund because they’re not too sure the money will be spent honestly,” opposition leader Nawaz Sharif told the newspaper.

The Daily Telegraph said more than 300 million pounds (370 million euros, 470 million dollars) of aid for the 2005 earthquake, which killed more than 73,000 people, has yet to be handed over to Pakistan’s Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA).

It cited one senior ERRA official as saying they were told in March 2009 that Rs12 billion Pakistan (90 million pounds) was being diverted from their budget to other government projects.

“When we have the money we will pay you,” the unnamed official said that ERRA directors had been told. “All the money was given by Western governments, but they said ‘we have so many other problems’.”

In June this year, ERRA staff were again told their budget was being cut, from Rs43 billion  for 2010-2011 to just 10 billion, the newspaper said. The paper also said it had visited the town of Balakot, where 5,000 people were killed in the earthquake.

Despite a promise to rebuild it on a new site, no new roads had been completed nor had building construction begun. Pakistan’s finance secretary, Salman Siddiq, denied any foreign aid funds had been diverted and told the paper: “No cuts were imposed last year.” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said Saturday that 20 million people had been affected by the worst floods in the country’s history, for which the United Nations has appealed for $460 million in aid.