On 8 October 2005 at 0850 PST, Pakistan was struck by a huge earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale. This was, at the time, by far the worst natural disaster to have affected the country, creating massive destruction and loss of life. By the end of that fateful day over 600,000 houses had been either damaged or destroyed over an area of 30,000 square km across 9 Districts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
The quake left 73,000 dead, more than 70,000 severely injured and approximately three million people without shelter. This presented the nation with one of the greatest challenges it had ever faced. It was a challenge not only for the people affectedby the disaster but also for the Government who had to undertake such a mammoth task of providing relief, then making the transition towards reconstruction and rehabilitation in theaffected areas. According to accounts of the various UN agencies, the affected areas were one of the most logistically challenging in the world. The scale of reconstruction required in such a difficult area had never been previously undertaken. As no model to follow existed,the government had to devise its own. The Federal Relief Commission for relief operations and, subsequently, the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA ) forreconstruction, were created to achieve these goals.
Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed (Retd)
Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed (Retd) served as an Infantry Officer in the Pakistan Army until his retirement in May 2010. During his 40-year career he held various command and staff positions as well as heading several national agencies. He has served as Director Military Operations and later as the Vice Chief of General Staff at Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters. General Nadeem has had the rare experience of handling both a natural disaster and a complex emergency through all phases. In 2005, as Chief Military Coordinator of the Federal Relief Commission, he coordinated, supervised and implemented the earthquake relief operations for both military and civil relief agencies, working closely with the United Nations, humanitarian agencies, and foreign militaries. As Deputy Chairman of the Pakistan Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (2005–2008), he was responsible for the entire early recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the earthquake-affected region in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders. In 2009 until May 2010, he served as Chairman of the Special Support Group established to assist the 3.2 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) affected by the complex emergency in the North West Frontier Province. He holds two Masters Degrees – one in War Studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad and one in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College. In July 2010, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Disaster Management by the University of Huddersfield in the UK.