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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 October 2005, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Asian crisis
On Sunday 16 October 2005 Andrew Marr interviewed Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's High Commissioner to UK

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Dr Maleeha Lodhi
Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's High Commissioner to UK

ANDREW MARR: A week ago we were talking also about 20,000 people being dead in the South Asian earthquake and now it looks like double that. Pakistan's president said yesterday that reconstruction was going to cost three billion pounds.

The BBC correspondent ... [REPORT FROM PAKISTAN]

ANDREW MARR: I'm joined now by Pakistan's ambassador in London, Dr Lohdi. Dr Lohdi, there has been criticism of the Pakistani government.

We read that perhaps as many people have died in the days after the earthquake as were killed immediately by it, presumably of disease, hunger or lack of medical attention.

For a country with a large army and a lot of resources of its own, has Pakistan done well?

DR MALEEHA LODHI: Well I think in the circumstances and if you look at the circumstances, the UN Under Secretary General who was touring the region has said this is something that he's never seen before.

He's even been cited as saying that this is larger than the tsunami, both in terms of the area that has been devastated - the sheer size of the area that's been devastated - as well as the numbers of people who have been rendered homeless and displaced. I think we have to keep in our mind the fact that this is rugged terrain, this is a very remote part of the region, far flung areas, mountain region - these are very difficult areas to access even at the best of times.

So I think the military has done a remarkable job in trying to get supplies as far as they could and as quickly as they could - as President Musharraf himself emphasised, it took several hours on the first day to even figure out the extent of the damage because of the rugged terrain and the mountain region.

ANDREW MARR: But he himself has also said that there was something wanting in the response.

DR MALEEHA LODHI: Yes indeed he has said that it took us a while and to the extent that some of the media were there ahead of the relief workers, they played a valuable role at times in identifying where the authorities needed to go.

Part of, of course, the challenge was that the local administration, both civilian and military, had collapsed along with the rest of the people, which was what happened in the worst affected areas, so we had nothing on the ground.

ANDREW MARR: So there was no one in charge, in effect.

DR MALEEHA LODHI: Yes, we had nothing on the ground.

ANDREW MARR: Jonathan Head was suggesting there that there's still not nearly enough international aid going into the region. Is that something that you also feel?

DR MALEEHA LODHI: Well I think one of our concerns is the fact that although the international community has reacted generously in the first instance, we need more.

The international assistance so far is insufficient for what we need because what we need is not just the immediate emergency relief supplies, what we need is international support for the longer term because as we begin the very difficult process of recovery, as well as rehabilitation and reconstruction, huge amounts will be needed.

You just cited the damage assessment, but that's only a tentative damage assessment, it will run into billions of dollars and Pakistan will need, for example, one of the things that Pakistan will need is empathetic consideration by the Western community of trade concessions, for example - just like trade concessions were given to the tsunami-affected countries. I think as we begin the process of -

ANDREW MARR: To allow Pakistan to earn its way -


ANDREW MARR: - to be able to rebuild -

DR MALEEHA LODHI: Absolutely. Absolutely.

ANDREW MARR: One of the many things that has been said in the aftermath of this is everybody knew that this earthquake was going to come sooner or later, it is on one of the world's great fault lines and these things have to happen, and yet so much of the construction, so much of the building, right across the region, collapsed instantly - all those terrible scenes of schools which just went down like a pack of cards - clearly the buildings were not properly built or designed to sustain an earthquake, even probably a minor earthquake. Do you think that this is something that Pakistan now has to seriously think about, a totally different approach to where people live and how their buildings are constructed?

DR MALEEHA LODHI: I think we always try and want to learn the lessons and I think one of the lessons is precisely what you are saying.

And I also think that one of the international mechanisms that was set up, agreed to, at the summit meeting last September by world leaders who attended the summit meeting in New York, was the establishment of an emergency fund, so that the UN could come into action quickly in the aftermath of ...

ANDREW MARR: It surprised quite a lot of people that it's not.

DR MALEEHA LODHI: Well I think that's why I'm saying that although a decision has been taken to set up such a mechanism it has yet to be implemented and I think the earthquake in South Asia should underscore the urgency with which this should be implemented. We do need at the global level an international machinery that comes into action quickly, swiftly and generously.

ANDREW MARR: Well generously we hope, Ambassador thank you very much. We'll be keeping watching this story very closely over the next weeks ahead.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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