Group: Pakistani officials storing aid

Aid reportedly held for when "senior officials demand supplies."

pakistan quake 88 (photo credit: )
pakistan quake 88
(photo credit: )
An international human rights group claimed on Saturday that Pakistani officials were storing tents and other relief supplies instead of immediately distributing them to earthquake survivors - an accusation angrily denied by the government and military officials. The charges came as the UN appealed for more aid for victims of South Asia's massive earthquake, warning of another wave of deaths if survivors didn't get shelter and food before the Himalayan winter came. NATO had agreed to send up to 1,000 troops to Pakistan to boost relief efforts. "We urgently need tents, shelter and helicopters for inaccessible areas," said Jan van de Moortele, the UN's humanitarian aid coordinator for Pakistan. "Time is against us, we can buy everything with money, but not time." New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a statement accusing civilian authorities, working under military supervision, of storing tents and other needed relief goods at a supply depot in Muzaffarabad, the city at the heart of the quake-shattered region. During the Oct. 19 incident, Pakistani officials at the scene told the organization it was being done "so that they would be able to avoid problems when senior military and civilian officials demand supplies that otherwise would not be available," the group's statement said. One official said he would be fired if he gave out tents, the group added. "Tents are the difference between life and death," said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. "It is essential for the public to know that aid is being handled in a non-arbitrary, non-discriminatory manner." But Pakistan's chief army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, rejected what he called "a totally baseless and wrong report." "At present there is no need to store, and there is no place to store these things, which we desperately need at this point in time to save tens of thousands of people rendered homeless due to the massive destruction," he said. Sultan said that relief goods were being received and then distributed to forward bases in affected regions, where quake survivors could obtain them. "Now we are trying to regulate more effectively the relief, which was disbursed in the first phase in chaotic conditions," he said. Also denying the charge, Liaquat Hussain, deputy commissioner of Muzaffarabad, said the civil government had set up a registration system for relief goods coming through official channels. He indicated that Human Rights Watch may have misunderstood what it saw. "It is part of the system. We have a registration location ... where we do check and register the supplies coming through the official channel, and then forward them to the most deserving locations in the affected areas," he said.