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Pakistan Center for Philanthropy


Congressional Pakistan Caucus Holds Special Session

October
21, 2005. Washington, DC

 

The Congressional Pakistan Caucus, with co-sponsorship of Pakistani-American Leadership Center (PAL-C) held a special session on Thursday, October 20th to address the earthquake in Pakistan and U.S. assistance with relief efforts. The well attended meeting brought together a dynamic cohort of leaders committed to bringing relief to Pakistan. The meeting featured speeches by members of the Caucus, Ambassador Jehangir Karamat, Pakistani Senator Akbar Khawaja, State Department officials, and distinguished legislative and community leaders.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas’ 18th district expressed the sentiments of members of Congress, who on October 18th passed House Resolution 492, mourning the loss of life caused by the earthquake, expressing the condolences of the American people to the families of the victims, and urging assistance to those affected. Jackson-Lee also recognized the Pakistani-American community, whom she said had already mobilized and sent substantial funds and supplies to Pakistan. Congressman Dennis Moore from the third district of Kansas also expressed his appreciation for the Pakistani-American community’s effort, underscoring the efforts of Pakistani-Americans in Kansas.

Ambassador Jehangir Karamat addressed the current ground situation in Pakistan, stating that the earthquake had already taken the lives of at least 47,734 Pakistanis and caused unprecedented and widespread damage on rural and urban communities alike. With at least 67,000 Pakistanis injured and 3.3 million displaced from their homes, he articulated the need for securing supplies to care for victims before the onset of the harsh, Himalayan winter. The Ambassador also underscored the need for more support for long-term relief efforts, which he said will require serious infrastructure rebuilding efforts, five to ten years, and billions of dollars.

Dr. Raza Bukhari, President of the Pakistani-American Public Affairs Committee (PAK PAC), praised the Pakistani-American community for its activism and demonstrated generosity. Dr. Bukhari emphasized Pakistan's role as a strategic ally in the American led War on Terror and urged members of the Congress to do their best to increase earthquake aid to one billion of dollars.

Akbar Khawaja, a visiting Pakistani Senator who was in Islamabad during the earthquake, also addressed the need for the U.S. to increase aid and relief efforts, particularly through securing and sending more tents for the 3.3 million Pakistanis displaced by the disaster. Distinguished member of the Pakistani-American community, Hanif Akhtar emphasized the importance of sustaining the energy of the relief effort.

Fauzia Tariq, representing the Pakistani-American Leadership Center (PAL-C), addressed the Caucus, thanking Co-chairs Shelia Jackson Lee and Dan Burton for their leadership and commitment, and expanding upon PAL-C's mission to work with the Caucus as a liaison to the Pakistani-American community.

Nadia Naviwala, Founding Director of Rising Leaders, an organization of young Pakistani-Americans, also addressed the Caucus. She updated Caucus members on the $160,000.00 dollars collected by Rising Leaders so far for the President’s Relief Fund, the highest of any Pakistani-American group. Her remarks particularly focused on the need for continuing relations with Congress and Caucus members, in order to encourage stronger aid to Pakistan.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Callahan and Pakistan Desk officer Steve Fagen at the U.S. Department of State, also briefed the Caucus with figures on U.S. aid to Pakistan. Callahan acknowledged the difficulties of the disaster, whose unprecedented magnitude deserves more American media coverage than it currently receives. Callahan said that of the $50 million pledged by the U.S. Government, U.S. AID has already provided $17.4 million and is working expediently to provide the rest. Fagen expressed the commitment of the U.S. Government to send additional helicopters to Pakistan to aid in reaching remote areas. The Defense Department has already sent twenty-one helicopters to Pakistan, which Fagen said have completed 399 sorties. Mr. Fagen also stated that while the U.S. was attempting to obtain more tents in a scarce market, it would begin planning to provide alternative shelter options in addition to tents, such as containers and corrugated iron roofs.

Representative Jackson-Lee expressed her particular concern for those who have been orphaned by the earthquake and vowed to keep the particular issue in her focus. Jackson-Lee also recognized Mohammad Sadiq, Deputy Chief of Missions, whose work in relief coordination with the community and Administration has been paramount in securing valuable supplies. Congresswoman Jackson-Lee ended the meeting by urging ongoing and continuous support by those present and setting follow-up meetings dates with Department of State officials, members of the Caucus, and the Pakistani-American community.

About PAL-C The Pakistani-American Leadership Center seeks to serve the interests of the Pakistani American community in the United States, to promote a positive image of Pakistan and Pakistani-Americans, and to increase their effective participation in America's political and public policy arenas.

Shaantech

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