Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Ten Americans doing great things for Pakistan

Published Jan 17, 2013 10:41am


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Over the last few years, the experiences of Americans in Pakistan have been quite memorable — for all the wrong reasons.

The actions of our government representatives in the country — from a certain Mr. Davis to those Navy SEALS in Abbottabad — have produced heaps of hostility. Yet more unsettling is how private American citizens have run into trouble. We’ve been enmeshed in scandal (think Greg Mortenson), detained (remember those photo-snapping Chicago hip hop singers?), and abducted (development worker Warren Weinstein’s captivity has now lasted nearly 18 months).

Even giving lectures can be perilous. Several years ago, the scholar Clifford May had a shoe thrown at him during a presentation at Karachi University.

Making matters worse are the powerful media narratives and hostile public opinion that constantly call into question American motives and actions. (It often seems every US aid worker in Pakistan is reflexively assumed to be a CIA agent.)

Despite this all, many Americans are making remarkable contributions to Pakistan. I present, in alphabetical order, 10 of these people here. They’re not motivated by any sense of duty arising from ancestral ties (on that note, I’ve written previously on the efforts of Pakistani-Americans). Rather, they’re simply driven by an abiding interest in and concern for Pakistan. Some names here will be familiar, others less so. Yet, they all deserve equal recognition.

1. Lorraine Adams

A Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, Adams has spoken of her love for Pakistan’s people, culture, and fashion (she wore a Pakistani dress at her wedding). She has served as an ambassador for Bags for Bliss, an NGO that empowers rural Pakistani women by teaching embroidery. Adams is now immersed in a project rarely pursued by Americans — she’s writing a novel about Pakistan, set in Lahore.

2. Medea Benjamin

Though this Code Pink activist’s tactics are sometimes questionable (last year she disrupted John Brennan’s controversial Wilson Center speech), the determination with which Benjamin opposes drones strikes in Pakistan is remarkable. Last year, shrugging off great security risks, she joined Imran Khan’s anti-drones peace march. She has written of her encounters with civilian drone victims during the march.

3. James Bernstein

A medical doctor-turned-entrepreneur, Bernstein’s Eniware company is developing inexpensive and portable sterilisation technology that would allow medical equipment to be sterilised when energy isn’t available. Pakistan is one of the target countries — and such an innovation could be invaluable in a nation with widespread power deficiencies and immense public health challenges.

4. Ethan Casey

A travel writer and journalist, Casey has authored two acclaimed non-fiction books on Pakistan (Ahmed Rashid and Mohsin Hamid, among others, have offered rave reviews). The work of Casey, who has spent extensive time in Pakistan (including a semester at BNU), is neither starry-eyed nor deeply cynical — the dominant characterisations of much of the then on-scholarly American writing on Pakistan.

5. Teresa Lister

Many Americans engage with Pakistani Fulbright students (after all, Pakistan constitutes the scholarship’s largest program). However, Lister took the exchange to new levels. After hosting students in America, she visited them in Pakistan. She chronicled her trip in a CNN blog post, which describes her joy when offered the gift of a goat in a small Sindh village. Lister plans to return to Pakistan soon.

6. Jacqueline Novogratz

The track record of Novogratz’s Acumen Fund is impressive enough. The Fund, which uses patient capital to invest in businesses that help the poor, has contributed about $15 million to housing, health, water, and agriculture projects in Pakistan. Yet, it also enjoys a sterling reputation — young Pakistanis (so I’m told) regard Acumen’s Pakistan office as a highly coveted and even hip place to seek employment.

7. Anne Reese

This psychologist’s work in Pakistan began in the 1990s, when she signed on with the NGO Rozan to set up the first program in Pakistan dealing with child sexual abuse. Later, she left for a career with the US State Department. However, most impressive to me is that after her retirement, she was asked to return to Pakistan — and she did, making several extended trips in recent years to run training programs for Rozan.

8. Cynthia Ritchie

She’s participated in a variety of humanitarian projects in Pakistan, from flood relief and health care efforts to the reconstruction of high schools and women’s health clinics. Ritchie has said she finds much in common between Pakistan and her native American South, and she now hopes to produce media projects that promote positive relations between Americans and Pakistanis.

9. Todd Shea

For years, he was a struggling musician. Then, after seeing television images of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, he flew to Pakistan to help with relief efforts. He’s been there ever since, running a hospital he opened several years ago. Through his humanitarian work and collaborations with top Pakistani musicians, he’s arguably become the most visible and admired American living in Pakistan.

10. Silbi Stainton

Unlike many development organisations, the Colorado-based Marshall Direct Fund focuses not on building schools in Pakistan, but on sustaining them — through investments in teacher training, scholarships, uniforms, and meals. Stainton, who directs MDF, will soon be heading up a new subsidiary — Peace of the Action, which aims to link Pakistani women entrepreneurs with the global market.

The implication from these brief portraits is clear: While relations between Islamabad and Washington may be floundering, relations between  common Pakistanis and Americans are flourishing.


The author is the Senior Program Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. You can reach him at


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Author Image

Michael Kugelman is deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. He can be reached at or on Twitter @michaelkugelman

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (46) Closed

Nina Jan 18, 2013 10:13am
No Sue, I think he was referring to incidents like the Salala attack on our soldiers. Of course the billions of dollars are welcome, coz thats what gives US leverage over us. No dollars , no leverage. Money talks.
Khurram Sher Jan 18, 2013 02:18pm
I have nothing but respect and admiration for these gentlemen and women, working for Pakistan, whereas they could have done anything else.. However, what about the one hundred and eighty million Pakistanis and other hundreds of millions of people belonging to the third world who do the bidding with their life and blood for the Americans, just so that their Wallmarts, McDonald Douglases, JP Morgans, Chevrons and Unocals keep churning their billions... ???
Sue Sturgess Jan 18, 2013 06:16am
Can you also list 10 Pakistanis who are doing great things for America?
Sue Sturgess Jan 18, 2013 06:18am
that foreign policy includes billions of dollars of foreign aid. Do you also oppose that?
Mohammad Ataullah Jan 18, 2013 04:41pm
Well said. In fact Allah, SWT is tests to see who helps His Creation regardless of race, religion, creed, color, rich or poor, this is what Islam is all about.
abbastoronto Jan 19, 2013 07:12am
Greetings from Dearborn MI A believer in world peace knows no borders. Your
Satyameva Jayate Jan 17, 2013 12:33pm
Of little help though, for those who who have never been taught the skill to think critically.
ahmed Jan 18, 2013 07:57am
yes, I am working in America as an engineer helping US economy as well as my own economic situation. and ofcourse there are many Pakistanis investing in America's future, i.e US born childrens education.
Faisal Jan 17, 2013 04:11pm
Might like to add another name......A certain Mr Kugelman!
Dr Khan Jan 17, 2013 12:17pm
No doubt these 10 Americans are doing good for Pakistan. But perception matters more than reality.
skeptic Jan 18, 2013 07:49pm
Had the pleasure of meeting up with Todd Shea. A very earthly man.
PakAm Jan 18, 2013 02:10am
Another American who helps Pakistan.... the Pakistani American community who send billions to relative in Pakistan a percious foreign trade and source of income for thousands. I am a very proud Pakistani American. God bless America!
Islmail Jan 17, 2013 12:23pm
very informative. thank you
desi Jan 18, 2013 01:23am
Lets understand one thing,the hate for America is for the people who make the policies,the people of America are the most kindest and caring.American public donates more money then the world combined,the earth quake,the floods,just regular people from the U S,old folks who don't even have enough money to even buy their medicines sent money,lets be thankful,I know most will always see America as an enemy,but please don't forget to thank them,these regular people have nothing to gain from helping.If you want to blame someone,blame the government of Pakistan and ask them whatever happened to millions upon millions of Dollars,not rupees,Dollars that were sent by the American people and the government.I am a Pakistani who has lived in United States for over 33 years,I may find a couple of negative things here and there but at the same time,I find hundreds of good things to focus on.So lets focus on the positives,it will make the world alot nicer place to live no matter what your land is called.
Janjuah Jan 18, 2013 12:48pm
we have atleast not demaged America nor we have the power to do so...but open your brain eyes without being sarcastic what they have done for us .. being honest is condition Mr Sue
Janjuah Jan 18, 2013 12:46pm
sounds very much indian diplomatic question........
Saeed Ahmad Jan 17, 2013 12:06pm
While governments play dirty "strategic" game, people to people contact is the only way ahead. Isolation is no option in today's world.
Kashif Jan 17, 2013 11:32am
Something good to know. After all, all is not lost between two nations.
anwar Jan 17, 2013 01:22pm
we are not against the people of America rather we oppose the government foreign policy which is harsh .
Teresa Lister Jan 18, 2013 05:30pm
It is a great honor to be included on this list although there are many others much more worthy. For my part I feel that each Pakistani student and individual who has come to America has contributed to the better understandings between the people of Pakistan and the United States. I always tell them that although we cannot change the entire world we can change our corner in it. The students who have come on the Fulbright Scholarship (and many other scholarships) contribute greatly to the understanding between our cultures by sharing their lives and perspectives. Because of this program I have had the pleasure of getting to know many Pakistani
Ahmed Jan 17, 2013 01:31pm
Well, I am sure there are many other good things happening and it's just a matter to give things a positive perspective and momentum. Unfortunately media play more negative than positive and need to change - ??am I being negative myself here??
Soonh Jan 17, 2013 09:25pm
God bless them all specially teresa lister who took care of me when I was in United States, she lved me just like my mom Love her happy to see her name.
Waqas Jan 17, 2013 09:12pm
Its not an irony, its called common sense: US has maintained careful business and diplomatic relations with both the countries, as it suits a common interest.
Dr.Ashraf Jan 17, 2013 08:52pm
Thank you the "Best Ten" for having a soft heart for Pakistan & its wonderful people. Hats off your valuable assistance and unconditional love for Pakistan & its people.
abbastoronto Jan 17, 2013 08:33pm
Dr. Cameron Munter, the just retired US Ambassador to Pakistan, was perhaps the most Pakistan Friendly US top diplomat in history. He was ably assisted by his wife Dr. Marilyn Wyatt. Progressive patriots, Munter and Wyatt spent a good 2 years re-building bridges that were blown over by people like Osama BL and Davis. Many of their activities are posted on the youtube. Dr. Munter stated that he plans to write an analytical book on Pakistan soon. Over the last 45 years here in US/Canada, I have found Americans to be closest to Pakistanis in psyche. Dr. Munter too stated that he found Pakistanis to be straight shooters, e.g. just like people in Iowa. We do not hold grudges. The troubled US/Pak relationship will not only endure, but strengthen as both countries reformulate their internal social contracts.
Kamran Mehmood Jan 18, 2013 10:32am
Issue is not with the people of cross nation, its about the dirty politics that plays a vital role to demolish the bridges....I hope we all can understand and work together for the betterment of each others.
Mustafa Jan 17, 2013 12:58pm
great people.................But I have heard their names for the first time
Md. Rahmatulah Jan 17, 2013 04:05pm
I alongwith my wife, visited America's few states viz. Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Mary Land and Washington D.C. before 9/11 incident. We found common american people very nice, polite and friendly. We hope the same feelings between people of both countries should come again.
Ethan Casey Jan 17, 2013 07:28pm
I'm humbled to have been included on this list - thank you! I want to be sure to mention two other wonderful Americans who should be on any such list: Boston-area super-Rotarian Rachel Williams, and Los Angeles musician Lanny Cordola. Pakistan has more friends than we know! I also want to endorse Mr. Kugelman's inclusion of Medea Benjamin because, while like him I'm not always comfortable with Code Pink's tactics or grandstanding, I greatly admire her and their leadership and courage in trying to draw more Americans' attention to the fact and effects of drone strikes in Pakistan.
Nina Jan 17, 2013 07:44pm
Another compulsive Pakistan hater. Just couldn't contain himself after reading something good about Pakistan. Shame on you.
Imran Jan 17, 2013 07:42pm
Nice to know about these efforts. However these efforts are dwarfed by the efforts undertaken by Americans of Pakistani origin for the betterment of relations and general development of their motherland.
Sandeep Singh Jan 17, 2013 07:41pm
Bcoz Mullah ki daud masjid tak
Sandeep Singh Jan 17, 2013 07:40pm
Harsh Like. Are they more harsh than Taliban?
Imran Jan 17, 2013 07:40pm
Are you talking about yourself?
smj Jan 17, 2013 01:47pm
Please include Anjelina Jolie & Brad Pitt in the list as well.
Ghazal Jan 17, 2013 01:58pm
And then there are Professor Christopher Candland from Wellesley University, who has spent the last few years traveling all over Pakistan in search of people to include in his book on philanthrophy in Pakistan. He has studied Edhi, Amjad Saqib of Akhuwat and several dozen others closely, even if it meant taking risks to his own person. His research has done much to inform Americans about the wisdom of Islam and the good work being done in Pakistan. Ghazal
Silajit Jan 17, 2013 06:27pm
Here are a few Indians who are also doing good things for Pakistan: a) Manmohan Singh is genuinely interested in building bridges with Pakistan and open up an era of friendship (like Vajpayee and I.K.Gujral.) Unfortunately for Manmohan Singh, he was surrounded by nay sayers who said they would change their opinion - all Pakistan had to do was show action against the 26/11 attackers. Manmohan Singh thought this would be easy enough but has since realized, there's a better chance of finding the cure for cancer. b) Raj Thackeray who outwardly may want Pakistani players to not play in India. But his party has taken a stand against Indians from other parts of India and hurt them and their businesses. I'm sure he gets a lot of cheers from Pakistan. c) Innumerable corrupt politicians without whom India would be economically stronger and less impoverished. Again I realize that many Pakistanis think a financially decent India is undesirable, so this must be good for Pakistan in some way. d) Boatloads of corrupt bureaucrats & government employees etc for the same reason as "c" Items c and d would run into tens of thousands. So why stop at ten for the US of A?
HNY2013 Jan 17, 2013 05:55pm
Population of USA last counted in - Jul 2011 was 311,591,917.
Ash Jan 17, 2013 12:07pm
Mike, If I do believe you for a minute then these type of good Samaritan are very few in numbers against the people who would like to wipe out the Pakistan from the map of the earth, however I do appreciate it their time and effort they are devoting to the people of Pakistan.
Md Imran Jan 18, 2013 03:11pm
Mr.Kugleman, what about Pakistanis contribution to America or rest of the world ? Us Pakistanis are among the most intelligent people in world, not to mention our sinceriety stems from our strong belief in Islam. Where would NASA or IBM or Google be without Pakistani engineers ? Where would the aeronautics industry be in Europe without us ? Above all, don't forget that some of the best doctors in west are Pakistanis, so the US and English healthcare industry would be nowhere without Pakistani doctors contribution.
Kashmiri Jan 17, 2013 01:58pm
@Kugelman, I think should recognise the Pakistan as a close friend. Their friendship started in cold. You can't ignore a country which have supported you all 60 yrs and has lost half of nation as well as people. Actually Pakistani people are fighting for your cause. It irony Americans still give more favour to India
Asim Jan 17, 2013 05:29pm
Without a doubt the people in the U.S. have the best of hearts and intentions. They also follow through with intense determination for a the right causes regardless of geographies. Our issue is with the politics not the citizenry. With that said, lets not undermine an entire nation given that the issues are not much different if we use the same lens to judge the Pakistani politics and politicians in who rob our own people without a second thought - offering nothing in return.
Anony Jan 17, 2013 05:21pm
Thank you to these 10 people for helping the people of Pakistan (and ofcourse the writer as well).
Oswald Saldanha Jan 18, 2013 04:30pm
Congratulations to " DAWN " for recognizing TEN " GOOD PEOPLE " who care about others. Citizens of ALL countries should endeavour to rise above petty politics and give good deeds it's due. The " DAWN " and ALL Pakistani newspapers, should set up a new feature in their City page, recognizing, encouraging and motivating Pakistani Volunteers, who are involved in similar social projects in Pakistan. Pakistani's young and old, should immerse themselves in local volunteer work, thus contibuting to their communities. Please do not leave everything to the government. A great example in Pakistan are the Ismaili, Christian and Parsi communities.
BRR Jan 17, 2013 03:33pm
300M Americans and you can find 10 - that should be no surprise. Several of these 10 are likely to be jews. They may not last 2 days in pakistan if people there find out they are jews. Not so surprisingly, most of these individuals are in healthcare or human development sector - shows the major form of engagement with Pakistan, rather Pakistan's deficiencies and needs. There is no Warren Buffett beat down the doors to invest, there is no Goldman Sachs pushing through the line to do some M&A. Interesting.
Tahir Jan 17, 2013 03:12pm
You left out Mansoor Ijaz. Oh! what a shame.