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Pakistan: President, PM ask nation to pray

President, PM appeal the nation to offer special prayers on Friday

President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz have appealed to the nation to offer special prayers on Friday next for speedy relief, recovery and rehabilitation of their earthquake-stricken countrymen. They made this appeal during a meeting Monday that decided to set up a federal relief commission for coordinated efforts in the unprecedented largescale rescue and relief operations, launched in the wake of Pakistan's worst earthquake that has claimed several thousand lives and caused destruction in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Hazara division of NWFP.

The President and the Prime Minister also asked the people to pray for the departed souls and grant of courage and fortitude for the bereaved families to overcome the huge tragedy. Meanwhile, responding urgently to the call of President Musharraf, people from cross-section of the society have come out with generous donations in kind and cash. Philanthropists and well-off people are contributing to President's Relief Fund for earthquake victims. Civil society organizations, volunteers and young men have been collecting assistance in the form of food, medicine and tents to transport to the devastated areas in Azad Kashmir and NWFP.

NA expresses solidarity with earthquake victims

The government and the opposition in the National Assembly on Monday expressed solidarity with the victims of the earthquake and vowed to work together, above party affiliations, to provide them succour and relief. The normal business of the house was suspended to offer the condolences of the house with those who died in the tragedy and pray for the recovery of the injured. Sher Afgan Niazi speaking on behalf of the government said thousands of people have lost their lives in the earthquake and billions of rupees worth property lost or damaged. "The loss could be even more as there are places where rescue teams have yet to approach," he said.

"The president and the prime minister have deployed all the available resources to provide help to the victims. The cabinet is holding meetings daily to try and find best ways to handle the crisis." The government, he added, will try and provide all practical help and relief to the earthquake-hit areas and referred to the Rs. 5 billion initial aid announced for the purpose. He said the Pakistani nation is with their brethren during these testing times and was ready to extend all possible help, within an individual's reach, to the victims. Leader of the opposition Maulana Fazalur Rehman said plight of the areas of AJK and NWFP, which bore the major force of the earthquake, has left everyone in shock and tears.

"The feelings of the whole house are unanimous. We express our solidarity with them. We will do whatever we can and appeal the nation to help those who are in distress," he added. "Thousands of them are buried under rubble and injured. They can't even spend the night in the open as it is cold and windy out there." "One should imagine if this had happened to him then how would he feel. This is a test from Allah Almighty. We have to do some soul searching and seek forgiveness for our sins." "We have to search for the reasons that why Allah became angry with us. We have to correct our deeds. When He sees that His men are helping each others He will also shower His blessings on us," Fazalur Rehman added. He called upon the government to provide protection to the convoys carrying food in the far off areas of NWFP.

"People snatch food from these trucks and it does not reach far flung areas," he said. He said air dropping food supplies result in wastage as people scurry to catch it. "It would be best if the government first deploys army on ground so that the system of air dropping food stuff can be streamlined and it is not wasted," he suggested. He said despite the fact that the NWFP government has taken relief measures in the far off areas, the federal government too should make its arrangements. Fazalur Rehman appealed the philanthropists and charity organizations to provide every possible help to the victims of earthquake. "We would also appeal the international community to help these people and thank those who have already sent supplies and equipment," he said.

Expressing his sentiments, Parliamentary Party Leader of Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), Amin Faheem said the entire nation is grieved over this sad incident that has brought about biggest devastation in the history of the country. "We should correct our deeds and seek forgiveness from Allah Almighty", he added. The entire nation is with the earthquake affected people and extending financial and practical help to them, he said. People, he said, are living in miserable conditions and they need blood donation, medicines, blankets and tentage and "we should extend them our all out support."

He said a vast area including government buildings, houses, schools, hospitals was destroyed by this natural calamity. Hundreds of children and other people are still under the debris and waiting for help of rescue teams, he added. He appealed to the nation to be united by setting aside their personal interest and help the government in its campaign for recovery of the people. Welcoming the opening of relief fund by the Speaker National Assembly, he said his party has also established a relief fund and asked the parliamentarians to donate funds generously in it. He informed that parliamentarians of his party would donate one month salary to both the funds.

The Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) has also opened camps to gather funds and other items, he added. He said the situation in the Federal Capital, Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir is grave and there is a need to mobilize all type of resources to assist the victims. Parliamentary Party Leader of PML (N), Ch. Nisar Ali Khan termed the earthquake as a national disaster and a test for the entire nation. He said a lot of people are still under the rubble and they need medicines and food. The estimates of the destruction is yet to be made. Appreciating role of the media, he said it has played a very important role in this difficult time. Nisar Ali Khan asked the government to take emergency measures to deal with the war like situation.

Time is essence and the help especially medicines and food should reach to the affected people timely, he added. He proposed that instead of providing raw food, cooked meal should be dropped to the affected people. He said all the assistance arriving from foreign countries should be channelise. Expressing his deep shock and grief, Member of National Assembly, Haider Abbas Rizvi said thousands of people including women and children were killed due to the severe earthquake besides a colossal damage to the property in AJK, Islamabad and NWFP. He said this is a national tragedy and the way opposition was expressing solidarity with the government in its efforts for rescue and relief of quake victims is commendable. Haider Abbas Rizvi, an MQM leader also appreciated armed forces, NGOs and other agencies for showing swift response and well coordinated and efficient efforts during the rescue and relief operations in the earthquake affected areas.

He expressed pride and appreciation for the tremendous spirit shown by the citizens and thanked all the countries helping Pakistan in carrying out rescue operation and providing relief goods for the quake affectees. The government, he said is well aware of the situation and is conducting relief operations on war footing. Haider Rizvi said their party workers were also taking part in the relief operation, adding, MQM leader Altaf Hussain has sent a cheque of Rs. 5 million for Prime Minister Relief Fund. "The MQM Ministers have also submitted Rs. 10 million each for the relief Fund and all of us are doing our best to help the brethren in distress," he added. Minister for Labour and Manpower, Ghulam Sarwar Khan said all the concerned agencies had been directed to carry out the rescue and relief operations on emergency basis in the affected areas.

The government has already set-up a special relief fund of Rs. 5 billion, he said and added people are generously donating for the victims. "The government is doing its best and would leave no stone unturned in rehabilitation of earthquake victims in all the affected areas," the Minister said. President and Prime Minister have visited the affected areas and directed the concerned agencies to make all out efforts in rehabilitation of the quake victims. He said besides armed forces, NGOs, volunteers and other concerned agencies had given tremendous response in conducting relief and rescue operations in earthquake hit areas of the country. The Minister said our teams were busy in providing medicines and edible items to the quake struck areas of Islamabad, Azad Kashmir and Northern parts of the country.

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