October 8, 2005 earthquake
Muzaffarabad, Feb 2: Authorities in Pakistan administered Kashmir have been greatly dismayed by what they believe nonchalant attitude of the House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC) towards reconstruction of private housing in its earthquake affected areas.
Official sources, who did want to be named, told this correspondent here on Saturday that the corporation had been repeatedly asked, in the aftermath of the Oct 2005 temblor, to help survivors from the urban areas rebuild their fallen structures by offering them soft loans “but the genuine demand had always been paid a cold shoulder.”
Even the former prime minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz had also directed the HBFC to issue soft loans to the quake survivors but to no avail, the sources said, adding that the PaK authorities had written a number of letters to the HBFC high-ups in pursuance of (then) prime minister’s directives but those too had cut no ice. “The HBFC is sitting on this proposal which is very unfortunate,” said one source, affiliated with the reconstruction related affairs.
He pointed out that it was next to impossible for the survivors in urban areas, almost all of whom belonged to middle and lower middle class families, to rebuild a house from the compensation money provided by the government – Rs 175,000 for a completely damaged house.
“Unless, the survivors are extended interest free loans, reconstruction of private housing will remain a distant dream,” he said.
When contacted by Greater Kashmir, PaK chief secretary Major (retired) Javed Majid acknowledged that the problem existed with utmost gravity. He also admitted that the HBFC had been requested time and again to show empathy towards the survivors in this regard but a positive response on its part in this regard was still being awaited.
“Now as we move towards the implementation of the master plan of Muzaffarabad, we ought to facilitate the survivors so that private housing also gets under way around same time,” said the chief secretary, who has been pleading for grant of interest free loans to the survivors at every official forum.
“The reimbursement period of loans should be 20 years and even if the lending institutions impose a marginal mark up on loans, it should be picked up by the government as a subsidy,” he said.
Majid said this issue would be raised before President Pervez Musharraf for an urgent decision.