Farewell tour: ‘Since 2009, US provided $1.58b for region’s uplift’

Ambassador Olson says 650kms of roads reconstructed with American help

Asad Zia July 04, 2015
Ambassador Olson says 650kms of roads reconstructed with American help. PHOTO: AGENCIES


United States Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson said in the last six years, the US government provided $1.58b for the region’s uplift.

Talking to journalists at the US Consulate in the city on Saturday, Olson said over 650 kilometres of roads was reconstructed with American funding in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

These roads helped provide access to three of four major crossing points along Pakistan’s western perimeter – Torkham, Angoor Ada and Ghulam Khan. “US provided $70 million for the rehabilitation of the 46 kilometre Peshawar-Torkham Road which serves as a vital trade route,” he said.

The US was also helping construct the Southern Ring Road in Peshawar, said Olson.

Binding ties

Talking about floods and post-conflict recovery, Olson said $437 million was provided for humanitarian and development projects for K-P and Fata. He appreciated the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project and said it would strengthen the country’s economy. “New dams and irrigation projects now provide water round the year to hundreds of thousands of acres of land and directly benefit 250,000 people.”

From Batkhela to Swabi’s plains, US-funded reconstruction of headworks have helped revive agricultural land, shared the ambassador.

He said Gomal Zam Dam and Kurram Tangi Dam, both built with US funding, also provide flood control and irrigate over 500,000 acres of cultivable farmland.

Anyone for a crisp?

“More than 2,200 families have benefited from micro-grants and training for women.” Olson added the US also provided training and equipment to help more than 1,500 peach and potato farmers improve their produce and connect with international buyers such as Frito-Lay, Inc.

He said that more than 62,000 farmers in Swat are benefiting from better financial services and market information through a pilot project that the US government launched in collaboration with a Pakistani cellular service provider.

Global threat spinning

He said Islamic State’s emergence in Pakistan is “an international threat” and that every country should devise a strategy to counter the terror organisation. Briefly touching on the Osama bin Laden operation on May 2, 2011, Olson rejected rumours that Bin Laden had not been captured and killed in Abbottabad.

Condemning the December 16 Army Public School attack, Olson said, “12 APS survivors (students) and two teachers will be taken to the US for a tour this summer.”

Soft power

Detailing various projects undertaken by the American government in the region’s education sector, Olson said over 480 students from K-P and Fata received scholarships to study agriculture and business at different universities in Peshawar. He said USAID provided scholarships to 7,300 students from displaced families of conflict-struck areas.

In his farewell visit, Olson also met Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan at Governor House on Saturday.

Mehtab apprised the ambassador about administrative reforms being undertaken in the tribal areas. He said the first phase of the repatriation of displaced South Waziristan Agency tribespeople has been completed while as many as 40,000 families have also returned to their homes in North Waziristan and Khyber agencies.

He said all Khyber Agency IDPs will return home by mid-August.

“The revival of industry in the tribal heartland will provide numerous employment opportunities to locals,” he said, adding the government is particularly focusing on Fata’s mineral reserves.

He also called on the military leadership and lauded the army’s efforts in curbing terror.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2015.