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Pakistan government at odds over control of flood money

Pakistan's government is at loggerheads with its international backers over the government's demands that it is put in control of billions of dollars of aid to reconstruct the flood-hit country.

Pakistani officials have demanded "democratic control" over funding set to be pledged at meeting of the Pakistan Development Forum in Islamabad next month. The World Bank said last week that the floods, which inundated an area the size of England, had cost the country $9.7bn (€7bn) in direct damage and lost output.

The United Nations has pressed Pakistan to set up an independent body to oversee spending of the aid while America wants a military-dominated government agency to take control of the funds.

Wajid Hasan, Pakistan's High Commissioner in London, said that control over reconstruction spending represented an opportunity to bolster the legitimacy of democratic government in the coup-prone Muslim state.

"The funds should be dispersed by parliament and the civilian government rather than the army," he said. "People are not giving the democratic government the credit it deserves for managing the relief effort."

But fears that the funds will be looted by the government of President Asif Ali Zardari has bolstered the case for Pakistan's National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), headed by a former general to take the lead role.

Mark Ward, a leading official from America's Agency for International Development, said the NDMA had demonstrated a surefooted competence that had eluded other organisations responding to the flood. "The NDMA knows what it wants to do," he said. "I sure hope that they leave the NDMA in a major role."