MUZAFFARABAD, Nov 6: President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Friday announced postponement of the purchase of F-16 fighter jets aimed at increasing relief supplies to quake victims.
The president, who had earlier refused to cut down the country’s defence budget, said he was delaying the purchase of 77 F-16 planes so that more could be put in for relief and reconstruction activities in quake-hit areas.
“I am going to postpone that (jet purchase). We want to bring maximum relief and reconstruction efforts,” he told reporters during his visit to Muzaffarabad on Eid day.
Gen Musharraf pointed out that delaying the purchase of the high-tech aircraft would not harm Pakistan’s defence requirements. “We should never do anything that would jeopardize our security.”
He urged the world to provide more aid, regretting that the response to the quake was far less than that for tsunami or Hurricane Katrina.
The world did not respond to the quake as generously as to the last year’s tsunami because western tourists were not caught up in it (quake), he said.
“When we are talking of the bigger issue of reconstruction and rehabilitation, which is now to come, there we expect the equal amount of assistance (which the) tsunami and Katrina got,” the president maintained.
The United Nations says it needs $550 million in emergency aid for quake victims, but donors have pledged only $133 million.
Meanwhile, in an interview to a foreign TV channel, President Musharraf dismissed criticism of NATO which he said had airlifted about 1,000 tons of relief supplies. “Nobody else can lift this other than NATO which is really assisting us.”
He also praised the role of US forces who had provided helicopters for the relief work and set up a field hospital in the AJK capital.
“I think this will go a long way towards creating a right kind of impression about American concerns for us, for people,” he said.
Earlier, the president mixed with children at a camp set up along the left bank of River Jhelum in Thoori locality and distributed gifts among them.
He told them that the government would build them new schools.
He asked women to bear the loss they had suffered in the quake with fortitude.