Special US representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said the US does not favour a military coup in Pakistan and backs a civilian government instead.
Holbrooke arrived in Karachi on Wednesday to visit the flood affected areas in Sindh.
The US envoy spoke to the media at the Chief Minister’s House in Karachi after an aerial visit of the submerged areas. He said the Pakistan Army is part of the government and should not be separated from the centre in any effort.
Richard Holbrooke refused to comment on what he called the past mistakes in Pakistan.
Holbrooke said only a portion of the Kerry Lugar Bill has been allocated for flood relief while the rest is for major development works in the country. He said the use of a non-military aid package to fund flood relief instead in Pakistan may delay important water and energy projects in the country.
Updated from print edition (below)
US envoy puts humanity above diplomacy
US Special Envoy to Pakistan Richard Holbrooke sought to highlight Washington’s aid efforts on Wednesday during his first visit to the country following the floods.
According to the Associated Press news agency, Holbrooke, who visited two relief camps in Sindh, stressed that US support was focused on saving lives rather than winning hearts and minds or pushing Pakistan to step up operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
“Our country has donated the most money and the most helicopters,” Holbrooke told a local official during a briefing at a relief camp run by the Pakistan Army in a small cricket stadium in Makli in Thatta district. “We do it through international organisations so it may not be as visible but it is very big.”
Other senior US officials have also stressed that the flood relief is purely humanitarian. But even before the disaster had hit, the US was looking for ways to improve its image in Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment is pervasive.
The US has donated more than $260 million for flood relief and has provided 18 military helicopters to evacuate people and deliver food and supplies. It has also provided water purification kits and deployed mobile medical teams to help prevent the spread of disease.
Manzoor Ali Shaikh, the top official in Thatta district, told Holbrooke that he needs more food, water and shelter for the 500,000 displaced people camping out in his area. He also warned that the lack of proper sanitation was a “time bomb” of disease waiting to explode.
Holbrooke, who wore a baseball cap for most of the visit that said “USAID: From The American People”, met and spoke to flood survivors as well as officials.
“My home was made of mud and bamboo, and it was totally washed way along with everything in it,” flood survivor Bachal Lashari told Holbrooke. “I need money so that I can travel to my village and start over,” he said, as he wove a charpoy in his tent at the relief camp.
Lashari and many other refugees at the camp hailed from the area around Sujawal. Holbrooke swooped over the town in his helicopter as he made his way to the relief camp from Karachi.
Although tents have been set up and water has begun to recede in flood-hit northern areas, Sindh is still under water.
“Much of the land for miles around Sujawal and Makli is still flooded, and it could take up to six months for the water to fully recede,” said Shaikh.
Holbrooke made an unscheduled stop at a camp run by Saudi Arabia as he made his way back to his helicopter from the cricket stadium. He briefly chatted with Faiz Mohammed, a farmer who fled Sujawal along with his wife and six children. At the end of the discussion, Holbrooke asked if Mohammed knew where they were from. Mohammed shook his head, and Holbrooke said, “We are from America, and we are here to help you.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2010.
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