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Disaster panel dormant since 2012

NDMC’s last meetin­g was in 2012, PM refuse­s to respon­d about meetin­gs, Khursh­id Shah said



ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has not convened a single meeting of the National Disaster Management Commission (NDMC), the country’s top forum responsible to prevent and respond to disasters, since 2012.

Premier Nawaz, who is also the head of the commission, has not responded to a written request from the leader of opposition in the National Assembly, Khursheed Shah, for convening the overdue NDMC meeting.

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“I wrote to the prime minister in July [this year] for calling the NDMC’s key meeting but he did not respond to me,” said Shah, who, along with all chief ministers, is a key member of this commission.

“Despite my repeated calls for meetings, the PM did not spare time to take up this issue [before October 26 tragedy],” Shah lamented.

According to the National Disaster Management Act, unanimously passed by parliament in December 2010, “the NDMC shall meet as and when necessary and at such time and place…It shall have the responsibility for laying down the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management.”

Civil, military efforts mobilised

The commission, which is supposed to come up with a unified national disaster response plan, held its last meeting on February 21, 2012, said officials of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

“Yes, the NDMC has not held its meeting after 2012,” confirmed the NDMA spokesperson Ahmed Kamal. He said the government had not held the meeting as the 10-year national plan for disaster management had already been put in place for the entire country.

The NDMC, formed by former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani, formulated in its fourth meeting a 10-year plan aimed at improving the country’s capacity to cope with future disasters in the wake of earthquakes and floods. The PM’s spokesperson did not respond to this question regarding the NDMC meeting despite repeated attempts by The Express Tribune.

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Loans disbursement

The commission can also recommend repayment of loans in cases of severe calamities and can order banks to release fresh loans to people affected in natural disasters, said an NDMA official. “But here is a different situation now as we cannot receive desired funds for rescue operations,” he added.

Where PM Flood Relief Fund 2010 went?

A major chunk of an estimated Rs7.8 billion collected under the PM Flood Relief Fund 2010 has either been misappropriated or diverted to the Finance Division or still lying with the Prime Minister Office, NDMA officials revealed.  “A probe should be launched into these funds as no one knows where billions of rupees went. Government has yet to release funds to implement 10-year disaster national action plan,” a senior official of the NDMA said while requesting anonymity.

The government itself informed the National Assembly in July that an amount of Rs70 million collected under this flood relief fund five years ago by former premier Gilani had remained unspent.

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Breakdown of donations

The government received donations of Rs7.812 billion under the PM Flood Relief Fund from 16 stations, according to an official letter written by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

The letter, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, gives detailed breakdown of the funds. It reveals that over Rs6.7 billion were raised in Islamabad office, Rs1.6 billion in Faisalabad office, Rs1.5 in Lahore and over one billion rupees were raised in Karachi.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2015.

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