ISLAMABAD - Can Pakistan do it’ is a big question after the government’s emotional refusal of foreign help as the nation confronts destructions caused by Monday’s massive earthquake.

Hours after the disaster that killed more than 300 people besides wounding scores of others and devastating infrastructure, Information Minister Pervez Rashid said that no foreign aid was needed for rehabilitation of the quake affectees.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif repeated the words claiming his government was capable to deal with the situation on its own. The premier said every effort will be made to help the people in distress and bring them back to life.

The Monday’s earthquake, at revised magnitude of 7.5 from 8.1, was powerful enough to remind of the October 2005 tragedy which left thousands dead and millions homeless.

The devastating 2005 Kashmir earthquake was of 7.6 magnitude and 26 kilometres deep. The Monday’s quake caused widespread but less severe ground shaking being much below the surface at some 200 km deep.

Offers for help started pouring in from around the world soon after the Monday’s earthquake. The United Nations led the way by offering help in providing relief to the victims.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan said in a statement the world body and its humanitarian partners stand ready to support the Pakistan government’s ongoing relief effort for the people affected by the earthquake and mobilise any support, if requested.

As a contingency measure, the statement said, the UN agencies were mobilising emergency stocks.

The United States also showed concern and pledged to stand with the people and the government of Pakistan. “The United States stands with the nation and people of Pakistan and we are in touch with the National Disaster Management Authority and we are ready to provide assistance if requested,” the US embassy in Islamabad said in a statement.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a leap amid high tensions to contact his counterpart Nawaz Sharif with an offer for help. But Pakistan’s government decided to wait until it really needed the foreign help and vowed to use available resources as a first step.

A senior government official said the government’s decision to cope with the disaster without foreign help did not mean they will not accept it if needed.

“We are calculating the losses. We will see if we can do it ourselves but this does not mean, we have closed all the doors for foreign assistance. We will use that option when required,” he added.

The official maintained the Monday’s earthquake was horrifying but the destruction was far less than the 2005 upheaval.

He said Prime Minister Sharif and his team were positive that with the help of the nation they will face this tragedy and come out victorious.

“If we look at the Richter scale it could have been worse. So we feel we can do it. But we may need foreign help when we have a complete picture of the destruction,” the official told The Nation.

Pakistan’s ability to cope with natural disasters on its own has always been in question and fair use of foreign assistance is doubly inconceivable.

There were widespread reports after the 2005 earthquake that the foreign aid for the affectees was misused.

Former Prime Minister of Azad Jammu Kashmir Farooq Haider had claimed the government of Pakistan diverted $450 million in aid to some other projects, which hampered the reconstruction.

In addition, the government agencies as well as Non-Governmental Organisations reported incidents of widespread corruption and lack of transparency in the use of international aid.

The Auditor General of Pakistan traced serious irregularities in the Earthquake Rehabilitation Authority, the organization established after the 2005 earthquake to undertake rebuilding of the affected region and resettlement of its people.

Pledges of aid from abroad totalled $6.7 billion, with at least $200 million coming from the US. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank estimated $3.5 billion would be required for rebuilding, yet Pakistan received only $576 million in aid for rehabilitation of quake victims, reported Global Humanitarian Assistance Organization.

The Auditor General revealed that thousands of people were illegally paid, although their houses were not damaged in the quake or they did not follow the new building codes.

Survivors of the 2005 South Asian earthquake are still waiting for permanent resettlement and reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure in Kashmir and the northern Pakistani region, 10 years after the disaster.

People blame poor performance of government departments and alleged mishandling of international aid for the delayed completion of reconstruction work.

But the government says that frequent disasters and floods since 2005 have diverted its attention and resources from the quake-hit region to other areas of the country.

The destruction in the Monday’s earthquake was much lesser than 2005 as then thousands of people were killed and even cities had turned into ruins. This encouraged the government to believe it might be able to rehabilitate the affectees with the available resources.

The total death toll stood at 343 with at least 260 people killed in Pakistan and around 83 in Afghanistan. More than 2,000 people were injured. In 2005, 73,000 were dead and more than 100,000 wounded. An estimated 2.5 million people were left homeless.

Government officials said the exact calculation of losses will be available very soon. “If the losses are beyond our means, we can turn to the world for help. For the time being we will rely on our own resources,” one official said.

He said Prime Minister Sharif was confident no foreign aid will be needed keeping in view the ‘within range’ destruction. “It will still be a big challenge,” he added.