Pakistan: President welcomes LoC opening for relief, reconstruction efforts
Secondly, the President believed, there was an opportunity for the two countries to utilize and move towards a solution of the decades-old dispute. "I think, there is an opportunity, which we should utilize for a solution, for moving ahead towards a solution. I think that is a great opportunity," he added.
The President said the two countries should think of demilitarizing the whole Kashmir region.
"Lets give comfort to those people. Therefore, a lot can be done if we sit down and talk, a lot of steps can be taken," he added.
Responding to a question, the President said the recent bomb attacks in New Delhi would not have any impact on the ongoing peace process between Pakistan and India. "There should not be any impact (of the terrorist attacks) on the peace process." He condemned the weekend bombings in New Delhi as "dastardly act of terrorism," and offered Pakistan's support to the Indian authorities in carrying out investigation into the incident. "We condole the loss of lives with the Indian government and the bereaved families," he added.
President Musharraf ruled out any cut in the defence budget in the wake of earthquake, saying it was a security requirement and a separate issue. The defence share in total budget is just around 17 percent, he added "I don't want to do one thing and jeopardize the other," the President said while adding, the government would meet the challenge of reconstruction and rehabilitation.
The President appreciated the international response to the rescue and relief efforts but stressed more support was needed for the second phase of reconstruction and rehabilitation which was a very big task and required billions of dollars. President Musharraf said he would inform the meeting of the donors' community convened in Islamabad on November 19 about the extent of financial requirement for the reconstruction phase. He said the process of assessing the quake-wrought damage was underway and would be completed by November 15.
The President did not support the idea of inviting world leaders for the Conference, saying it would deviate focus from the main issue reconstruction and rehabilitation. President Musharraf appealed to the industrialists, businessmen and expatriate Pakistanis to wholeheartedly contribute to the President's Relief Fund. He said sponsorship for any structure - like school, college, hospitals etc. - would be dedicated on the sponsor's name.
Responding to a question, President Musharraf brushed aside the impression that the civilians are not engaged in the relief and reconstruction processes. He pointed out that the Federal Relief Commissioner and the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) were working under the Prime Minister.
He said Cabinet division and a lot of civilians were working with the Relief Commissioner. Similarly, the Planning Commission was assisting the ERRA. The President said both ERRA Chairman Lt General Zubair and Major General Farooq Ahmed Khan eminently qualified to head relief and reconstruction efforts.
Responding to a question, he said, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and the CDA were looking into the building construction codes. He, however, noted that buildings in Islamabad, except for one, withstood the tremor of 7.6 magnitude.
The President rejected the impression that the government and the army had reacted belatedly after the quake hit. Despite broken roads and disrupted communication, the army reacted swiftly to reach out to the affected people in the quake-hit areas, he added.
The President said roughly 100,000 army personnel including three divisions were involved in the rescue and relief efforts. On helping the displaced persons, the President said details of damages were being prepared with the help of data available with NADRA. He said a committee was also working and expressed the confidence that all people would get assistance in a transparent manner.
President Musharraf, when asked why Pakistan did not accept Indian helicopters with their pilots, said there was a sensitivity involved here. He said both sides were maintaining their defences along the LOC and both would not allow helicopters from opposite sides flying over them.
President Musharraf dismissed the impression if the government was doing any re-thinking on the construction of mega projects in the wake of the devastating quake. "Pakistan has to move on and not stop," he said and added, the country would meet the challenge posed by the calamity. To a question, President Musharraf said there was a threat to people living on mountains, who were facing problems of shelter from plummeting temperature. He hoped that those living in higher ridges would understand the compulsion and come down to valleys where they could be helped more.
However, the President added, army teams were helping these people to re-erect their houses. Replying to a question, the President said he would like to meet opposition leaders to discuss the relief and reconstruction efforts. He said he was ready to invite them himself.
He said, at the moment destitute women and orphaned children were being retained at the rehabilitation centers, after they were released from the hospitals. These rehabilitation centers would be relocated to their own areas in the later stages. Those children, identified by their parent were handed over to them while the government would undertake the responsibility of education and upbringing of unclaimed children, he added.
President Musharraf appreciated the NGOs and helping the destitute women and orphans and said volunteers have also offered financial adoption of these children. The government was making efforts and also talking to various countries for making available artificial limbs to help those rendered disabled by the quake, he added.