An attempt to promote US contributions in Malakand division backfired when Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain blamed the country for militancy in the region, at a seminar on Monday.
During the seminar held by USAID to promote its success in reviving the conflict and flood-hit division, USAID Country Director Andrew Sission gave a detailed explanation of various rehabilitation projects initiated by the aid agency.
However, the atmosphere became somewhat tense when the provincial information minister came on stage and criticised the US for “initiating militancy in this part of the world after 9/11.”
Hussain, who lost his only son in an attack in 2010, said that while America’s hard work to revive the region is commendable, there is a need to revise its foreign policy towards Pakistan to gain locals’ confidence.
At the same time, he blamed Pakistan for falling into the hands of US and said if it were not for the US intervention in Afghanistan, “We wouldn’t be having seminars on life-affirming stories…we would be talking about development and progress.”
He said people in K-P have learnt to live with danger and will continue to do so. “It is great to see that the US is supporting education but it should be reminded that the majority of children are still studying in destroyed school buildings irrespective of the risks.” However, the minister clarified that the people would openly support the US if they worked in Pakistan’s interest.
Moving on to talk about the humane side of people in the province, which has become a battleground for the war against terror, Hussain said the world needs to come to K-P and see how people uphold universal values in contrast to popular perception. “We will fight this war till the end,” he declared.
According to a statement issued by USAID, the US government has given over $450 million in direct humanitarian assistance to conflict and disaster-hit areas through various projects in the past five years.
Several projects have been initiated to revive Malakand’s economy, which include reconstruction of 261 hotels besides rebuilding fisheries, schools, health clinics, water supply system and government buildings. More than 14,000 affected families have received funds to reconstruct their homes, while over 100,000 farmers and micro-entrepreneurs have received assistance.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2012.