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Relief groups slam PM's use of flood aid

Allegations of large scale fund misuse

Relief groups slam PM's use of flood aid
More than a million people are still affected by last year's monsoons reporter, Lahore

January 30, 2013

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Relief agencies have criticized the government’s transfer of 1.2 billion rupees (US$12.28 million) from a general flood donation fund to constituencies of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, despite a recent ban prohibiting such actions.

Caritas Pakistan, the largest Catholic relief group in the country, said the money transfer – taken from funds collected in 2011 – was illegal and further imperiled the hundreds of thousands of people in need of assistance following this year’s monsoon season.

“Such instances of bad governance are hurting the organizations trying to help those still suffering. The ECP [Election Commission of Pakistan] should make sure such transfers do not happen again,” said Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan.

The Election Commission issued a ban on seemingly politically motivated fund transfers on January 22, after Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf diverted 15 billion rupees from 106 development project funds to his ruling party’s constituents ahead of national elections expected later this year.

The commission characterized the transfer as a “political bribe" in a statement announcing the ban, but Ashraf this week made another transfer to constituencies, this time from flood relief funds, in direct contravention of the commission.

“The latest move is sensitive and a legal matter. The commission is reviewing the case and will take action after our planning division confirms the transfer of money,” Altaf Ahmad, public relations officer for the ECP, told

Heavy monsoon rains last year affected more than a million people and destroyed 827,000 acres of crops. Aid agencies have said that the damage poses dire threats to farmers’ livelihoods.

Amjad said Caritas has had to cut short its relief plans this year after a poor response from donors last year, making reserved flood relief funds more important than ever.

Mohammad Hassan Mashori, president of the Fundamentalist Human Rights and Rural Development Association, further criticized what he said was the prime minister’s misuse of relief funds.

He said only non-government organizations had helped villagers in southern rural Sindh province, which regularly suffers during monsoon season.

“The ruling party only helps its political workers in flood affected areas,” he said.

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