ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the country’s earthquake response agency to provide details of funds spent on rehabilitation efforts in Balakot and Mansehra after the devastating 2005 quake.
The court also summoned Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s chief secretary and the secretary of its relief department.
During a hearing on Wednesday, Justice Ijazul Ahsan regretted that no progress had been made even after more than 17 years since the earthquake. “We have been moving round and round” in rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, said Justice Ahsan, who was heading a three-judge bench.
The case will be taken up again after a month.
The Supreme Court had taken a suo motu notice on the application of Mansehra resident Shehraz Mehmood Qureshi, who pointed out alleged embezzlement in the funds of the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra).
Orders Erra to furnish details of money collected, spent
In his application, Mr Qureshi alleged even after several years, the people of Balakot were still living in makeshift arrangements without water and health facilities, and children had to study in schools that didn’t have roofs.
He said Rs55 billion had been transferred to the Benazir Income Support Programme and Rs185bn to other government accounts out of Erra funds.
On Wednesday, the apex court asked Erra officials to furnish how much funds had been collected by both international and local donors in the name of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the quake-hit areas.
The authority will also need to explain how much funds are still available for rehabilitation and which department is looking after those funds.
On being informed that around Rs205bn had already been spent on rehabilitation, the court wondered whether an audit was conducted.
On Nov 6, 2018, a court-appointed commission in a report had regretted the failure on the part of the state to address the grievances of the quake-affected people of Mansehra since the victims were then facing the same miseries and hardships after so many years.
The commission had also blamed Erra for failure on its part to update project-related information, which led to pilferages, failure and stoppages.
The commission had suggested that Erra should hand over all the development projects to the departments concerned, which should be placed before the relevant provincial and local governments for early allocation of funds and completion.
The commission recommended that the government should live up to the legitimate expectations of the downtrodden and quake-hit people of Mansehra and give them what they deserve by investing in what was guaranteed to them by the fundamental rights cited in the Constitution.
Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2023
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