Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani. — Photo by APP

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has called for greater American public support for the country's flood victims.

Haqqani faulted coverage of the tragedy in the American media. He pointed out that the media 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 occurred in a space of seven days in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“When 20 million people are in trouble, the first priority is saving lives, making sure that there are no waterborne diseases, no epidemics and making sure that immunisation of children remains on track…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 ambassador appreciated that the US government had allocated $ 493 million towards flood relief and was in the process of directing $ 500 million from the Kerry-Lugar funds, approved by Congress last year. However, he stressed that Pakistan’s 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,” he said.

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 Haqqani’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.

He said the Senate panel was trying to redirect 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.”

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