Friday, August 20

Nawaz Sharif turns thumbs down on 'independent' panel set up to avoid theft of aid to Pakistan. Only hope now: UN and private charities. Small hope.

Pakistan has announced it will set up an independent commission to oversee flood relief amid international concern that the country's reputation for corruption was hampering efforts to raise aid money.

Rob Crilly in Islamabad
Published: 5:52PM BST 19 Aug 2010

International aid officials are struggling to raise funds for Pakistan because of what they call an "image deficit". Business leaders inside the country are also offering goods and services rather than cash in order to make sure funds are not misused.

Yousuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, said he would staff the National Oversight Disaster Management Council with individuals of "impeccable integrity". Their names and remit would be announced soon, he added.

"These respectable members of the council will ensure that the funds are distributed and utilised in a transparent manner and spent judiciously as per the requirements, without any discrimination to any area or province," he said.

The idea was first raised by Nawaz Sharif, leader of the country's main opposition party.

Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for Mr Sharif's PML-N party, said the bipartisan proposal had been watered down and the council was in danger of being little more than a "paper body".

"The government doesn't want to give up their own executive authority," he said. "After this statement, it seems that whatever body they create will defeat the spirit behind the proposal." The UN estimates that 4.6m people are still without shelter as fresh rains fell.

The Daily Telegraph has disclosed that more than £300m in foreign aid for victims of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake had been diverted to other causes.

Schools, hospitals, houses and roads planned with money offered by foreign donors were never built, almost five years after the earthquake killed 80,000 people.

This time around foreign diplomats say privately they are channelling aid through the United Nations (UN) and charities rather than the government.

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