Donors pledge $244 mn for Swat refugees

May 21st, 2009 - 4:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 21 (IANS) Pakistan has received pledges of $244 million for the relief and rehabilitation of civilians uprooted by the anti-Taliban operations of the security forces in parts of the country’s troubled northwest.
Addressing an international donors conference here Thursday, Minister of State for Economic Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar said the pledged amount includes the $110 million announced by the US.

She said the UN will also launch an appeal to raise some $500-600 million for the relief of the 2.5 million refugees who have fled the fighting in Swat and two other districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Terming the response of the donors as “very good”, Khar said Pakistan had shared with them the political strategy it had devised to deal with the humanitarian crisis.

“We are pursuing a three-pronged strategy of relief, return and rehabilitation and have got good response,” she added.

Inaugurating the conference, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said given the large number of refugees, Pakistan was seeking greater assistance from the international community to effectively deal with the situation.

“Taking care of IDPs (internally displaced persons) is the government’s foremost responsibility. There is also an urgent need for a comprehensive response towards fighting the issue of terrorism,” Gilani maintained.

“We have to win the hearts and minds of the people. We need to do something concrete and visible on priority basis for the (displaced) people,” he added.

The Pakistani government had Wednesday granted Rs.8 billion for the relief of the affected. It also said each displaced family would be given a one-time grant of Rs.25,000.

Pointing out that Pakistan was facing the twin scourge of terrorism and extremism, Gilani said the government had pledged to completely eradicate this to ensure the country’s development.

The military action had begun April 26 after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace accord with the NWFP government and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operations had begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-linked radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered the peace deal with the NWFP government. They later spread to the Buner and Swat districts.

Some 1,100 militants have so far been killed in the operations. No consolidated figures have been released on casualties among the security forces.

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