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Clinton chides rich Pakistanis over floods

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday said Pakistan’s wealthy needed to dig into their own pockets to match global efforts to help it recover from 9.

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7 billion dollars of flood damages.

“It’s 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.

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADN) said they estimated damages from the floods that began in July at 9.7 billion dollars, almost double the amount caused by Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake.

“The most important step Pakistan can take is to pass meaningful reforms to expand its tax base,” Clinton said as she joined the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in pledging continued assistance.

“The government must require that the economically affluent and elite support the government and people of Pakistan,” added Clinton, who has repeatedly insisted on the need for fiscal reforms in Pakistan.

Grilling endured

Tax however was not among a myriad questions put to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during a 90-minute grilling before the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

Qureshi, asked to answer questions ranging from the use of flood aid relief to empowering women and Pakistan’s nuclear intentions, was in Brussels ahead of a key meeting Friday that he co-hosts with Ashton.

The ministerial-level session of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan — set up in 2008 and grouping 26 nations and international bodies — is to look at the impact of the floods on Pakistan.

Clinton, in the EU capital for a one-day NATO summit, said that as Pakistan shifted from relief to recovery from the disaster that affected 21 million people — with 12 million in need of emergency help according to the UN — more help would be needed from the international community.

The assessment by the two banks said floods devastated a fifth of the country, with agriculture and livestock the worst hit, followed by complete or partial damage to a large number of houses.

Roads were “hit hard particularly at the district and village levels, and irrigation facilities have also suffered serious damage”, a statement said.

To date the United States and the EU have provided around 450 million dollars each in aid. Europe this month also offered a major trade boost, proposing to lift duties on 75 imports as part of an aid-linked package.

The three-year suspension of duties still requires a waiver from the World Trade Organisation as well as a green light from the European Parliament.

Calling for further support from Europe at the 27-nation bloc’s parliament, Qureshi hammered home a message that Islamabad’s fledgling democracy was on the march after ending a decade of military rule in 2008.

“We are building a democratic culture,” said Qureshi in response to queries on the role of the military and the power of civilian authorities.

“Without your help I wouldn’t be here, but obviously it takes time. Old habits die hard,” he added. “We have to be persistent and you have to be patient.”

The Pakistani minister said relations with Afghanistan were on the mend and his government was tightening the screws along their common border.

“Today there is a realisation in Pakistan that we do not want Talibanisation,” he said. “We have been successful in converting public opinion in Pakistan against extremism and terrorism.”

Washington will be represented at Friday’s Friends of Democratic Pakistan ministerial meeting by US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke. Also due to attend is Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

“The amount of money to reconstruct what has been destroyed in Pakistan is going to be in the tens of billions of dollars,” Holbrooke said in Paris on Wednesday.

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