Islamabad : America’s top trouble-shooter for Afghanistan and Pakistan said Wednesday the White House has sought an additional $200 million over the $110 million already committed to assist the millions of civilians displaced by the Pakistani military’s anti-Taliban offensive in the country’s troubled northwest.
“Today, the (US) president has asked me to inform you and your government that he has requested the Congress of the United States to allocate an additional 200 million dollars,” Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said at a joint press conference here after talks with President Asif Ali Zardari.
“Our delegation has come at very short notice at the personal instruction of President (Barack) Obama,” Holbrooke added.
“He sent our team to Pakistan to do several things, first to show our concern to the people of Pakistan and to the world our concern for the internal refugees,” the envoy maintained.
Holbrooke, who is on a three-day visit to study the anti-Taliban operations in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and to assess the needs of the refugees displaced by the fighting, met Zardari soon after his arrival here Wednesday evening.
The envoy is accompanied by officials of the state and defence departments and USAID. He will meet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, as also some of the displaced people to understand first hand their needs and requirements.
While flying here in his special aircraft, Holbrooke told APP news agency the US had promised to supply four helicopters to Pakistan for its counter-insurgency operations in the NWFP.
“We want to see how much we can do to support Pakistan in this moment of extreme pressure,” he said.
“We have already contributed $110 million, more than any other country. But we think that is not enough. And we hope to learn about needs,” Holbrooke maintained.
As for the military’s anti-Taliban operations, the envoy said Islamabad had “responded appropriately to the direct challenge to its authority”.
The security forces were ordered into action April 26 after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace deal with the NWFP government and instead moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.
The operations had begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered the peace deal, and later spread to Buner and Swat. The cleric is the father-in-law of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah.
Under the peace deal, the Taliban were to lay down arms in return for Sharia laws in Swat, Buner, Lower Dir and four other districts of the NWFP that are collectively known as the Malakand division.
The military says its operations have resulted in the killing of close to 1,300 Taliban, while the security forces have lost some 85 personnel.
The operations have triggered the biggest and fastest civilian exodus in recent times.
The social welfare department of NWFP has registered some 1.4 million refugees at its camps but the UN estimates the number could be as high as 3 million as many could be staying with relatives and friends.
The UN estimates that close to $543 million would be required for the relief and rehabilitation of the refugees.