BRUSSELS - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Pakistan on Thursday to ensure wealthy Pakistanis contribute to helping the country overcome the devastation caused by this summer's floods.
Some have estimated that flood recovery will cost tens of billions — a mammoth sum for a country that has relied on international loans. Aid groups have struggled to raise funds for the country because the disaster unfolded relatively slowly and the number killed remained low compared to other major disasters such as the Haiti earthquake.
"It is absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while taxpayers in Europe, the United States and other contributing countries are all chipping in
," Clinton said after meeting with Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign and security affairs chief.
Saying "the international community can only do so much," she urged the government in Islamabad to "take immediate and substantial action to mobilize its own resources" for the immense task of reconstructing schools, health clinics, bridges, thousands of kilometres of roads and repair new irrigation systems.
Her plea for more action from Islamabad came a day before an international conference is to hear from Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Pakistani foreign minister, about his government's long-term economic and other reforms.
The "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" meeting in Brussels brings together 26 nations and international institutions. Established in late 2008, it enables Pakistan to regularly brief the international community on its security and economic challenges, which are acute and directly linked to the instability of neighbouring Afghanistan and its own struggles with Islamic insurgents.Earlier Thursday, Qureshi told the European Parliament in Brussels that economic aid is key "if you want to help us fight extremism."
"When we are stable we will be able to address the issues of poverty. When we are economically stable we will be able to invest in the sectors that have been ignored in the past, like health and education," he said.
To date, the EU and its 27 member states have contributed nearly $450 million toward flood relief and recovery efforts
. The EU has also extended trade benefits to Pakistan. The US has provided $388 million in aid so far and another $75 million in logistical and other support.
Donor nations have warned Pakistan that they cannot foot the entire recovery and reconstruction bill, which some have estimated could surpass $40 billion. U.S. officials have urged Pakistan to improve its tax collection to aid its long-term rebuilding.
After meeting with Ashton, Clinton insisted much remains to be done.
"The progress (the EU and the US) have made together toward fostering stability and prosperity in Pakistan is threatened by the catastrophic damage caused by the floods," she said.
Both she and Ashton stressed their commitment to help Pakistan rebuild itself, adding that a stable Pakistan is essential to the fight against terrorism and the security of Americans and Europeans. The U.S. government warned Americans earlier this month of new terror risks in Europe and focus fell on Pakistan, where U.S. drones have struck suspected al-Qaida targets and where Pakistani officials said eight German militants were killed.
The floods began in late July during unusually heavy monsoon rains, eventually covering one-fifth of the country and affecting some 20 million of its 175 million people. Nearly 2,000 people died, while millions were left homeless, according to the United Nations.
Dozens of bridges were washed away, while more than 1.9 million homes were damaged or destroyed. Around 5.9 million acres of farmland were damaged, a severe blow to agriculture, the most important pillar of Pakistan's economy.
This isn't even a question of tax rates. Many industrialists and landowners use their government positions to avoid paying taxes entirely in Pakistan.
It's one thing to offer a helping hand
after an enormous tragedy. It's another thing to build a country from the ground up. Pakistan borders Afghanistan, you would think they'd know better than to trust the United States with something like this.