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The Friends of Democratic Pakistan will meet in Brussels on Friday. It is a group of about 20 countries, including Australia, whose aim is to help Pakistan consolidate its democratic credentials and assist with its socio-economic development.

Pakistan will be hoping that this meeting will go better than the last one, held in New York last month.

That meeting was an opportunity for the international community to demonstrate its solidarity with the plight of the 20 million Pakistanis who had been affected by the devastating floods that hit two months ago.

About 7.5 million are homeless and about six million people will need emergency food relief for months. These numbers are on top of the hundreds of thousands already internally displaced by the army's counter-insurgency operations earlier in the year.

Unfortunately, the response to what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon refers to as "the biggest, most complex natural disaster we have faced in UN history", was pathetic and utterly inadequate relative to the challenge facing Pakistan.

The spokesman for the global aid organisation Oxfam, Louis Belanger, described last month's meeting as "yet another letdown by the international community".

The participating countries did pledge more funds in response to the UN's global appeal to raise $US2 billion ($2.02bn) but managed to reach only 33 per cent of this.

Taking into account all the new pledges, the US has allotted about $US450 million, Britain has doubled its aid to about $US200m and the EU has given about $US315m.

Australia has committed a total of $75m.

Meanwhile, some of Pakistan's closest friends, China and the UAE, came up with $US47m and $US8m respectively -- fair-weather friends indeed.

After a slow start, Saudi Arabia, a country only too happy to spend millions on building in Pakistan madrassas that churn our thousands of unemployable jihadists, has donated more than $US240m. Meanwhile, India, Pakistan's erstwhile enemy, has given $US25m.

According to Jean-Maurice Ripert, UN special envoy for assistance to Pakistan, the members of the Friends group are insisting that Pakistan take a "leadership role in its own recovery and make a certain number of decisions in terms of governance and accountability".

They are particularly keen that Pakistan reform its tax system. It has one of the lowest effective tax rates in the world; fewer than 2 per cent of the 170 million people pay income tax. However, reforming the tax system is not an easy task, so this is not about to happen overnight.

While short-term emergency funding is a worry, the massive long-term reconstruction needs of the country are a much bigger concern for all. The damage statistics are staggering: more than 5000km of roads, 10,000 schools and 500 hospitals have been affected.

About 20 per cent of the country's irrigation infrastructure, livestock and crops have been destroyed. There is a real worry that the first post-flood harvest may not arrive until August next year. The potential lack of food would lead to severe social tension.

All this has hit Pakistan at a time when it was already in the economic doldrums: 15 per cent unemployment, inflation rate of 13 per cent and expected to rise to 20 per cent, and an economic growth rate that had dropped to just above 4 per cent.

Before the floods, about one- third of the country lived in poverty. Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh says the economy is "heading towards the abyss".

US ambassador for Afghanistan-Pakistan Richard Holbrooke has warned Pakistan it will have to fund its own post-flood reconstruction rather than rely on fundraising by allies. This is rather easier said than done when Pakistan's external debt is at $US55bn, costing the government an average of $US3bn annually to service it -- three times more than it spends on healthcare.

Still, the US has indicated it will redirect some of the $US7.5bn of the five-year non-military economic package towards rebuilding the country's infrastructure.

And while Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's estimated reconstruction cost of $US43bn is probably an exaggeration, it will nevertheless amount to tens of billions of dollars. Pakistan does not have that sort of money.

Desperate times require extraordinary measures. Accordingly, the world must come up with a Marshall Plan that would guarantee substantial reconstruction funding over several years.

Such a plan would have to include cancelling completely Pakistan's external debt -- most of it accumulated during the previous military regime.

Already, the EU has decided to waive temporarily tariffs on a series of Pakistani exports. That's a good start, but these should remain in place for longer.

Similarly, the US congress should ease restrictions on Pakistani exports to the US. Only measures such as these will help Pakistan pay its way out of its present situation.

The international community simply cannot allow nuclear-armed Pakistan to collapse and become a failed state. Simply put, if the world does not help Pakistan, the jihadist militancy problem confronting Pakistan will almost certainly get worse: the militants would undoubtedly exploit the misery of millions.

Moreover, the military has made clear it will have to put on hold its counter-insurgency operations in the border area with Afghanistan because of its need to focus on assisting with the rebuilding of the country. This will set back the few gains it made recently.