Zubair Qureshi Islamabad
President Dr Arif Alvi has conferred the civil award of Hilal-e-Pakistan upon Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, in recognition of her outstanding services to Pakistan, highlighting the magnitude of recent devastation due to floods, being an ardent supporter of US assistance to Pakistan in recent floods.
The award is given to her for her efforts to expand the scope of bilateral ties geared to improving lives and livelihoods of people in both countries, and her support and commitment towards a strong and effective Pakistan Congressional Caucus.
Later, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and members of her delegation including Congressman Thomas Suozzi, Congressman Al Green, and Ambassador of the US to Pakistan, Mr Donald Blome, , called on the president and thanked him for bestowing the award. The president congratulated the Congresswoman and thanked her for her outstanding leadership of the Pakistan Congressional Caucus and its keen interest in strengthening Pakistan-US ties.
He also expressed his gratitude to her for visiting Pakistan at a critical moment and expressing solidarity with the flood victims and appreciated her concern for flood victims.
While briefing the delegation on the devastation caused by climate-change-induced floods, the president said that according to initial estimates US$10 billion were required to rehabilitate flood victims and reconstruct the lost infrastructure. He urged the USA delegation to extend its helping hand to mobilize the USA and international community’s help to alleviate the sufferings of the flood victims for the reconstruction of lost infrastructure. “Pakistan alone cannot shoulder the responsibility of rehabilitating the flood victims due to the enormity and scale of devastation especially when it is faced with acute economic and financial difficulties”, he said.
The president added that the super floods had ravaged many parts of Pakistan, including KP, Balochistan, Sindh, and Southern Punjab where standing crops and physical infrastructure had been wiped out, livelihoods of the people had been lost and women, children and the elderly had been especially affected.
The president said that Pakistan attached great importance to its relationship with the USA and hoped that with the visit of the Congresswoman and the accompanying delegation, the existing friendly relations between the two countries would be further strengthened, especially the people-to-people engagements and parliamentary exchanges between the two countries.
The president said that there was great potential between the two countries to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in the fields of trade, business and investment and transfer of technology in essential sectors, including agriculture.
He said that Pakistan had a vast land mass but due to low yield and lack of use of modern technology in agriculture, the yield of different agri-products was very low. “The yield of agri-product can be enhanced substantially and barren land can be brought under cultivation with the help of USA expertise and manpower to provide food security to Pakistan”, he added.
The president said that Pakistan would seek the USA’s assistance, expertise and skills in bringing women, who made up almost 50% of its population, into the financial and economic mainstream, and providing quality education to them.
He added that Pakistan would also seek the US assistance in controlling and wiping out stunning and malnutrition, which affected over 38% of the children in Pakistan. He said that both countries could enter into bilateral cooperation for imparting quality skills to the youth bulge of Pakistan and turn them into IT professionals to meet the growing demand locally and internationally.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Chairperson of the US Congressional Pakistan Caucus, showed her deep concern over the devastation caused by the super flood in Pakistan and promised that she would take up the matter with the US administration to provide further assistance to Pakistan in terms of material, equipment, and technical assistance to support the efforts to bring relief to the hardest-flood hit areas of Pakistan.
She said that the US had committed US$ 30 million for urgently needed humanitarian assistance, and it had already provided over US$ 1.1 million in grants and project support to ensure direct assistance to those communities who had been most impacted and to help in preventing future floods.
She said that the Pakistani diaspora in the US was fully mobilized to collect donations for the flood affectees in Pakistan.
The Congresswoman said that the United States would continue to monitor the crisis in close coordination with local partners and Pakistani authorities to assess the impact of the floods to prioritize urgently needed food support, safe water, sanitation and hygiene improvements, financial help, and shelter assistance to help save lives and reduce suffering among the most vulnerable affected communities.
Congressman Al Green and Congressman Thomas Suozzi also expressed their deep concern over the devastations caused by climate-induced-super-flood, expressed solidarity with the flood victims, and condoled the death of flood victims.