Rescuers and aid workers on Thursday have stated that they believe they have reached most of those affected by the recent earthquake, but thousands of desperate survivors now face a race to rebuild before winter fast approaching. Chitral has been the worst-hit province, and prior to the earthquake the region was devastated by floods just three months ago. The villages in the area have people living in tents, with no provisions of additional tents or the reconstruction of their houses.

In Islamabad, the Parliamentary Secretary for Finance has told the National Assembly that the government has obtained foreign loans amounting to 9,750 million dollars during the last two and a half years- not including 3,495 million dollars loan and 4,769 million dollars obtained from IMF.

Where is the government spending all this aid? Even if the earthquake, flood and war hit northern areas are not being focused on, what startling development have we seen from these millions of dollars in the rest of Pakistan? There is no credible evidence that foreign economic aid has accelerated growth or reduced poverty in Pakistan. Donors usually take a huge chunk of the loans back because of terms and conditions stipulated in the credit agreements and the rest just evaporates.

With regards to the provinces having access to international aids, their ministries and governments have been directed not to have direct interaction with the foreign donor agencies for any kind of assistance, without the prior approval of the Economic Affairs Division (EAD). A letter issued to all the provinces requests that all negotiations should be routed through them and no advance meetings, solicitations or direct contact is to be made with the international development partners. This was in response to some provincial departments and ministries not adhering to the rules regarding assessment of requirements, appraisal, programming and negotiations for external economic assistance. The EAD is responsible for external debt management and accounting and analysis of economic assistance from foreign governments and organisations. It is good that they want to streamline the system, so that there is a maximum and effective utilisation of such aid with minimum overlaps, however, this also creates a longer chain of command. One wonders if the federal government has the time and resources to even address the needs of the provinces, when after two national disasters people in KP are desperate for shelter and food.

All we see is bureaucratic fuss over the issue of aid. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Friday that he wants UK to offer Pakistan aid not trade. On the other hand, we have accepted earthquake aid from China and the Parliamentary Secretary for Finance is announcing aid figures of millions of dollars.