ISLAMABAD, June 30: President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Friday emphasised the need for an effective international early warning system about natural disasters and a global fund to meet emergency requirements in catastrophic situations.
He was addressing a special investiture ceremony held at the President House to recognize the contribution of individuals and organizations to rescue and relief challenges in the aftermath of the country’s worst natural disaster.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the Senate chairman, National Assembly speaker, services’ chiefs, chief ministers, federal ministers, diplomats and representatives of foreign relief organisations attended the ceremony.
Alluding to the devastation caused by last year’s earthquake, the president said Pakistan had learnt a lesson from it and understood importance of an integrated National Disaster Management Plan and a National Disaster Management Authority.
He said the government was taking steps to establish viable disaster management institutions with adequate powers, resources and skills to address future contingencies.
President Musharraf said in less than a year, rescue and relief efforts had successfully led to a well-planned rehabilitation phase but added more remained to be done.
He said though no effort was spared in undertaking the formidable task, nothing could compensate for the loss and anguish of the victims.
Praising the nation for a rapid response to help the quake-hit people, he said the world saw the people of Pakistan making history by writing out an epic of human courage and resilience, organized response and a collective endeavour.
“The force of the destructive earthquake was overwhelming but more powerful was the spirit of compassion displayed by caring people and organizations at home and abroad.”
“They have exhibited not only the instinct to survive but also the will to build anew, and to build better than before.”
“A nation that depends on its inner strength can overcome any crisis,” the president added.
The 138 recipients of awards included volunteers, members of civil society, armed forces personnel, international rescue agencies, the UN family, philanthropists and the media.
The recipients of award from the armed forces included Deputy Chairman Erra Lt-Gen Nadeem Ahmed.
Maj Naeem Ullah Khattak of the Army Aviation was conferred the award for his relentless flights in the difficult hilly terrain for rescue and relief of the victims.
Lt-Col. Mazhar Ahmed Chand of the Engineering Battalion was decorated for his round-the-clock efforts for restoration of land routes in the quake-battered areas in a record time of 28 days against the target time of three months.
Subedar Mahmood Ahmed of the Azad Kashmir Regiment, whose efforts saved scores of school children lying in the debris of classrooms, also received the award.
Those who received the Sitara-i-Eisaar posthumously included two young Turkish engineers — Ceneck Yakin and Ufuk Arsalan – who had offered the ultimate sacrifice of their lives while protecting their fellow beings in the hour of calamity.
President Musharraf also announced a Rs100,000 cash award for Ghulam Fareed Sabri, a vegetable vendor from Faisalabad, for showing courage and dedication for saving lives of those trapped in the rubble of the capital’s collapsed tower.
He also announced Rs100,000 each for Shabir Hussain and Syed Qaisar Shah, who received commendation certifications for their volunteerism and devotion.
A seven-year old Turkish girl, Erva Yelem, who had donated her gold bangles out of empathy for the quake victims, was affectionately received by President Musharraf, who announced a cash award of $5,000 for her.