Severe floods eclipse Pakistan’s I-D celebrations


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IANS
Bellevision Media Network

Islamabad, 15 August 2010: One of the worst floods in the history of Pakistan eclipsed the Independence Day celebrations on Saturday, even as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appealed to the world community to extend a helping hand to tackle the calamity. Pakistani citizens have celebrated Independence Day every August 14 since 1947 to mark the creation of the country after the Partition. Vehicles and rooftops are festooned with flags and flower garlands on the occasion. But this year, the euphoria has vanished.

 

The country is grappling with its worst ever floods that have left over 1,600 people dead and affected over 14 million people. A media report put the total economic loss because of floods at around Rs.250 billion ($ 2.92 billion). The government canceled all festivities and there was no ceremony at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, the official residence of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

 

Zardari was scheduled to spend the day with flood victims in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces, according to a statement from the president’s office. Government officials were also reluctant to organise functions and participate in festivities as they visited flood-hit areas, said officials at the chief minister’s secretariat in Sindh.

 

 

The Pakistan army also cancelled its celebrations, donating the fund it would have spent on the day’s activities to flood victims instead. Gilani, addressing the nation on the occasion on Saturday, expressed profound grief over the loss of hundreds of lives in one of the country’s worst floods. He said the biggest challenge the government was facing was rehabilitation of over 20 million people affected by floods.

 

The prime minister said Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has been the worst hit with thousands of houses ravaged, link roads and bridges destroyed and billions of rupees worth of standing crops washed away. This will result in further crisis, and therefore, the civil society, NGOs and public should strengthen the hands of the government to cope with the catastrophe, he said.

 

"I appeal to the world community to extend the helping hand to tackle this calamity so that Pakistan could stand tall against the menace of terrorism," he was quoted by Geo News as saying. Gilani said that despite the challenges posed by nature, the government and people of Pakistan are committed to protect their motherland.

 

"We are celebrating our 64th Independence Day at a time when the country is up against many challenges, the chief being rehabilitation of flood victims, the fight against terrorism, the struggling economy and ensuring political stability." "Our national economy has been hit hard both by the ongoing war against terrorism and natural disasters."

 

"We have already traversed that road a number of times in the past but each time we came out victorious and more resolute with renewed faith in our ability to steer the ship out of unchartered waters," Gilani said. The prime minister said the Independence Day "reminds us of the heroic and relentless struggle the Muslims of the sub-continent waged for a separate homeland".

 

"We should be proud of the fact that our freedom struggle was fought along constitutional lines. Pakistan came into being through a political and democratic process." "I have my complete faith and trust in our people. I am sure that together we can rise to the occasion with determination and will power," he added.

 

 

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