FOREIGN Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has returned from Istanbul emptyhanded. The Malakand Pilot Project that he took with him to the meeting of the FoDP, containing the required technical details and how the money needed was to be spent, won praise. So did his briefing regarding the momentous task of handling millions of internally displaced persons, setting up camps, distributing more than 100,000 tons of food and arranging education for over 50,000 students. The Foreign Minister had a series of meetings with his counterparts from friendly countries. He, however, failed to secure pledges of urgent support. While the Tokyo meeting held in April had pledged some $5.7 billion in aid, what Pakistan has received so far is a paltry $300million. With the war against the Swat Taliban having been won and nearly half of the displaced persons having returned to their homes, Pakistan faces the momentous challenge of rehabilitation and reconstruction. Not only Swat, but the entire Malakand Agency, has been badly affected by the insurgency and the subsequent military operation. Thousands of people need government support to build their houses, which have been destroyed, and restart economic activities. Hospitals and clinics, schools and bridges, which were badly damaged, have to be rebuilt. Any delay in undertaking the project would demoralize and alienate the local population, while it will provide the Taliban an opportunity to make fresh recruitments. All that has been won at great cost of life and property is at stake. What Pakistan needs at this juncture is hard cash rather than empty promises. Failure to undertake extensive rehabilitation and reconstruction in Swat and adjoining areas would cause widespread public dissatisfaction. This will in turn necessitate a large military presence in the Malakand Division for an indefinite period. Unless Swat, Buner and Lower Dir are fully stabilized, there would be public opposition against launching a military operation in Waziristan or elsewhere. Pakistan cannot abandon the people of Malakand. The Prime Minister has said that in case foreign cash commitments are not honoured, whatever meagre allocations have been made for development in the country's budget would be diverted to help the people of Malakand. While President's Afpak envoy Holbrooke was present in Istanbul presumably to encourage the donors to help Pakistan, one wishes he diverts part of his energy to expediting the fulfillment of US financial pledges made to Pakistan. With President Obama presiding over the FoDP moot in Washington next month one hopes the results would be better.