Housing subsidy for militancy-hit people

Out in the open, still
Housing subsidy programme for people in the militancy-hit areas in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies needs to be pursued
By Tahir Ali


While the housing uniform assistance subsidy project (HUASP) for the militancy-hit people in Malakand division is nearing completion, it is still a long way to go in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies, particularly in the latter where not a single penny has been given in housing subsidy despite the lapse of around three years since the millions of internally displaced persons returned to their homes.

According to an HUSAP official, who does not want to be identified, as of March this year, 4919 of the completely damaged and 9500 of the partly damaged house owners have been disbursed Rs3.5bn — Rs0.4 million for the totally damaged and Rs0.16mn for the partially damaged ones — in the five districts of Malakand division — Swat, Buner, Shangla and Dir upper and lower and the federally administered tribal Bajaur and Mohmand agencies.

While only around 400 owners of the fully destroyed and 1000 partially damaged houses remain to be paid in Malakand division, over 4200 of these categories are yet to be paid in the two agencies.

In Bajaur, Rs1.44bn have been paid to 5389 owners of the 2437 and 2952 in the two categories respectively with over 3100 yet to be paid there.

But none of all the 1092 owners of totally damaged and 2 owners of partly damaged houses from Mohmand agency have been compensated as yet apparently for its distant location and security concerns. “The verification and registration process is under process there, through slowly as some areas are yet to be cleared of militants. But these people will also be released their compensation amount as soon as the verification process completes,” the official tells The News on Sunday.

The programme is being undertaken by the provincial reconstruction, rehabilitation and settlement authority (PaRRSA) with financial support from the United Agency for International Development (USAID).

It was originally to be financed by the World Bank but it wanted to pay money in instalments rather than in one go and had conditioned the release of the subsequent tranches to verification whether the earlier amount had been utilised for the purpose or not. WB had opted out of financing the project after authorities went for an owner-driven reconstruction and payment to the affected people uniformly in one go without establishment of an “assistance and inspection” regime. Later, the USAID agreed to the work-plan of the PaRRSA and became its financier.

Rationalising the amount, another official of PaRRSA tells TNS that according to the census of 1998, the average size of a house is 575 sq ft in Malakand region, in which each unit includes two rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. “Per square construction rate in the region is around Rs700 per sq ft and the estimated cost of Rs0.4mn and Rs0.16mn for reconstruction of the completely and partially damaged houses respectively has been derived by multiplying 700 with 575, which is the amount of compensation being made. The reconstruction cost included the brick, stone and block masonry and the rate is also adjusted for better standards and disaster resilience features,” he adds.

To a question about delay in disbursement of money, he says, “The compensation has been delayed as they are either to be verified, have no bank accounts of their own, or their forms are misplaced or they are out of the country when physical verification was being made or the house that has been damaged is jointly owned or they have mistakes in their names/addresses or have double entries due to which their payment is blocked.”

With an overall outlay of Rs6.58bn for total compensation, the damage and needs assessment (DNA) survey conducted by World Bank and Asian Development Bank for the government of Pakistan in 2009, had estimated that 11755 housing units were completely and 11738 partly damaged in the area. But later, the figure was slashed to 7024 for completely damaged and increased to 13039 partly in the two areas for reasons officials could not explain.

As per the DNA, the grants had to be released in tranches based on stages of construction with technical assistance. The proposed mechanism was to be a cash grant-based, owner-driven model but with close monitoring of reconstruction process. The mechanism was changed later to cash payment in one go but change in mechanism was against the experience and decreased the chances that the money would be utilised for its head.

For example, in the reconstruction strategy after Kashmir earthquake 2005, Rs0.175mn was provided to each affected family in instalments along with house designs and technical assistance. At the end of 2009, 95 percent of the destroyed houses were rebuilt with 97 percent of these according to the standards and hence safer.

But in the case of the 2008 Balochistan earthquake, the affected people were given one-time cash grant of Rs 350,000 and Rs50,000 for completely and partially damaged houses respectively but without any technical assistance or required reconstruction standard. The quality of reconstruction, according to UN-HABITAT engineers, was very poor.

There are rumours the money hasn’t been utilised for the purpose. The PaRRSA official says it is not true, “People adjust their incomes and expenses prioritising their needs. Most have built their homes before the compensation began on borrowed money. Now they can utilise the cash to return their debts they had taken for the purpose or divert the money to fulfil their other needs,” he adds.

The official says the damaged houses included luxurious bungalows as well as mud houses and their reconstruction cost was different. “But with our mechanism, the poor benefitted more. The government has only provided the well-off with token money in return for their sacrifices as it had no resources to provide Rs10 million to a rich person for building his destroyed luxurious house,” he says.

People from Swat also allege nepotism, political interference and corruption in the nomination of affectees and payment of compensation money. Tariq Khan from Miandam says the process became defective when the civil administration and the patwari culture got involved.

Militant control and subsequent military campaigns displaced and destroyed shelters and livelihood of hundreds of thousands in other federally and provincially administered tribal areas — Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber, South and North Waziristan and other areas but apart from relief support, no worthwhile rehabilitation support has been given to the affected so far.



About Tahir Ali Khan (Official)
I am an academic, columnist, and a social worker.

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