WASHINGTON, Nov 18 (APP): Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States has called for greater American public support for his country’s flood victims as he sought to raise awareness about human sufferings the worst natural disaster inflicted on around 20 million Pakistanis.
Ambassador Husain Haqqani faulted coverage of the tragedy in the American media, a factor which partly contributed to a tepid initial response to the catastrophe. He pointed out that the media stories ignored the plight of flood victims and instead focused unduly on political and security implications of the floods that triggered an epic humanitarian crisis.
Haqqani was making an impassioned appeal to back recovery efforts for flood victims to a gathering of American citizens, Congressional staffers and Pakistani-Americans at an event the ambassador and his wife, MNA Farahnaz Ispahani, hosted at their residence.
“One fifth of Pakistan, an area of the size of Italy, an area of the size of the entire east coast of the United States all the way from Maine to Florida, was inundated…two large rivers basically merged into each other…ten years of rainfall occured in a space of seven days in the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa province.
“When 20 million people are in trouble the first priority is savasing lives, making sure that there are no waterborne diseases (breakout), no epidemics and making sure that immunization of children remains on track and pregrant and lactating mothers in relief camps get the support they need and the people are enabled to return to their farms and homes,” he stated as a slideshow of images illustrated the extent of human suffering and infrastructure losses.
The international effort, where the United States has been clearly in the lead in providing relief assistance, has fallen short partly becasue governments alone cannot help assist the victims of such major tragedies.
The ambassador appreciated the fact that the U.S. government has allocated $ 493 million towards flood relief recovery and is in the process of directing $ 500 million from Kerry-Lugar funds, approved by Congress last year. But, he underlined, Pakistani flood victims would still need a lot of support from individual donors and private charitable giving in the United States.
“More than the dollar cheque that you may write for the effort, what is more important is to contribute to increasing the awareness of this tragedy, taking the focus away from the political debates to humanitarian dimension of the tragedy.”
Jonnah Blank, chief policy advisor for South Asia to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reaffirmed the influential panel’s support for flood victims.
Speaking on behalf of Senator John Kerry, he commended the Pakistani envoy’s efforts to improve relationship between the two countries.
“Ambassador Haqqani has been a lynchpin in the US-Pakistan relationship. I don’t think that is any exaggeration. Anyone who looks at the US-Pakistan relations will come to the same conclusion.”
Blank said the Senate panel is trying to re-direct as much money as possible from long-term funding to immediate needs in the flood-affected areas.
“Pakistan of July (this year) is not the Pakistan of August (after flooding). Everything has changed and our plans for development have to change with that.”
The gathering evinced a keen interest in a display of Pakistani dresses designed by leading fashion exponent Deepak Parwani, whom the ambassador hailed as a designer of immense talent, “reminding every one, Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis of the pluralism of Pakistan. He symbolizes a new Pakistan that we are trying to build.” The proceeds from the sale of dresses will support flood victims.
The monsoon floods buffeting Pakistani lands this summer have been termed as the largest natural d1isaster in the world since the inception of the United Nations, more than 60 years ago. But statistics in terms of world response to recent disasters reveal that in comparison with the Far Eastern Tsunami, the Pakistani and Haitian earthquakes, the flooding disaster has so far received much less financial and in kind backing.