Sunday, August 22, 2010

US Mission Pakistan in the spotlight once more as flooding disaster unfolds

Just five years ago, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Pakistan, the United States Government committed a total of  $510 million in relief and reconstruction efforts in that country.  And the US Embassy in Islamabad was at the center of that operation under the leadership of then Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

The US Mission in Pakistan has never been too far away from the spotlight, of course.  This is a country with growing terrorist incidents in all its largest cities (Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar), not to mention repeated attacks on the US posts in Karachi and Peshawar in the last several years. Also, in the lead up to the Kerry-Lugar vote and in the firestorm that followed the signing of the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 which provides $7.5 billion assistance to Pakistan, opinions and conspiracy theories buzz the interwebs.  I understand that only funds for the first year has been appropriated so far, but that has not dim the controversy over the expanded assistance, staffing and accountability that comes with the bill.  

In the last few weeks as the superflood disaster unfolds, the US Mission in Pakistan is in a sharper spotlight once more. And even as it tackles the relief efforts in the disaster areas, it also has to contend with what has been called "misinformation" at the highest level of the Pakistani government. Just recently, Pakistan Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari alleged that "health relief operations are not possible in the flood affected areas of Jacobabad, because the Air Base is with the United States."      

The US Embassy in Islamabad was quick to release its Correction for the Record calling the allegations "completely false.  "Shahbaz Air Base in Jacobabad is a Pakistan Air Force Base, commanded and operated by PAF forces. The base is home to Pakistan's newest F-16 Block 52s, which arrived this summer. PAF personnel maintain high security standards there to ensure that the technologically advanced aircraft can be securely maintained and operated from the base."

That's probably not the end of it.  And that's why US Mission Pakistan has 22 authorized public diplomacy officers.

Welfare and Whereabouts

As always, in disasters such as this, the consular section is focused on the welfare and whereabouts of American citizens in Pakistan or American-Pakistanis' relatives in the affected areas. Below are contact numbers:

Consular officials at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad are providing assistance and support to American citizens - and especially Pakistani-Americans - concerned about the welfare and whereabouts of relatives who may be among those displaced. U.S. Embassy Consular officials are coordinating with Pakistani government agencies as well as international and non-governmental organizations to obtain, update, and disseminate up-to-date information about the situation to all concerned American citizens who contact them.

Contact information for American citizens concerned about relatives who may be Internally Displaced Persons:

  • Day Phone: +92-51-208-2186 and +92-51-208-2116. If calling from the U.S., dial 011 first.  (This phone number is not for visa information.)
  • E-mail:
U.S. Hotline: If you are in the U.S., the Overseas Citizen Services hotline number is 1-888-407-4747

US Diplomats in Pakistan Flood Relief |
US Embassy Islamabad:

Photo from US Embassy Islamabad/Facebook
Lt. Gen. John R. Allen(right), the acting commander of CENTCOM, and U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, talk with soldiers of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Falcon’s Pakistan relief unit, TF Raptor, Aug. 5, at Ghazi, Pakistan.

Photo from Salmaan Taseer/Flickr under CC Commons
Governor of the Punjab Salmaan Taseer receives Senator John Kerry and President Zardari at Multan Airport and briefs them on the flood situation in South Punjab. Pakistan's Ambassador to the US Hussein Haqqani and the US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson are also present. They then fly over the flood-affected areas and stop at an army relief camp in Jampur.

US Consulate General Karachi:

The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi represents the USG in Sindh and Balochistan provinces in Pakistan. In Sindh province, 190,413 houses were damaged and 2,269,846 have been affected by the disaster. In Balochistan province, 19,619 houses were damaged and 312,774 have been affected by the floods (UN/OCHA numbers).

We should perhaps point out that ConGen Karachi's s point person for public affairs is no other than Dr. Elizabeth Colton. Is it simply an accident that the CG in Karachi seems to be "showing the flag" and is "seen" more than the US ambassador?   I've searched for more ambo photos but really, Islamabad seems stingy when it comes to these types of photos, both in its website and its Facebook page

Photo from US ConGen Karachi/Facebook
August 6: William J. Martin, Consul General of U.S. Consulate Karachi, Pakistan, speaks to U.S. Sailors and Marines during a Pakistani media visit aboard USS Peleliu (LHA 5) Aug 6, 2010, in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. Peleliu sent its first wave of supplies ashore Aug. 12, 2010, to establish a support element and communications hub for Navy and Marine Corps heavy lift aircraft.

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Dunlap
August 18: U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, commander of the Expeditionary Strike Group Five, and William J. Martin, left, Consul General, U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan, conduct interviews with members of the Pakistani media aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu in the North Arabian Sea, Aug. 18, 2010. The media embarked Peleliu to cover the platform responsible for providing helicopters to aid the Pakistani government with helicopter heavy lift capabilities in flooded regions of Pakistan.

Photo from US ConGen Karachi/Facebook
This week, Consul General William Martin visited the Keamari camp in Karachi for displaced victims of the flooding in Sindh province. After talking with some flood victims he gave a statement on the aid and relief efforts that continue to try and help flood victims throughout the country.

Photo from US ConGen Karachi/Facebook
Consul General William Martin’s press briefing at the Karachi airport cargo terminal about the newly arrived 530 rolls of heavy-duty waterproof and fire resistant plastic sheeting for use as temporary shelters from USAID for the flood victims of Sindh Province. The sheeting material will provide dry shelter for 46,800 people in Sindh province.

Photo from US ConGen Karachi/Facebook
Consul General William Martin recently visited flood affected areas of Balochistan and did an aerial surveillance via helicopter and held a press briefing. CG Martin was accompanied by the Minister of Finance, Asir Kurd Galu, and Minister of Revenue, Zmarak Khan Achakzai, along with other Consular staff.

US Consulate General Lahore

The US Consulate General in Lahore represents USG relations in the Punjab province, where 500,000 houses were reportedly damaged and 8,200,000 people were affected by the floods:

Photo from US ConGen Lahore/Facebook
U.S. Consulate General Lahore staff visited flood affected victims in Multan and did an overflight of flooded areas to conduct a needs assessment. The Consul General Carmela Conroy visited IDP relief camps and a school with staff from IRDO.

Photo from Salmaan Taseer/Flickr under CC Commons
20/08/10 - Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer meets with US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson at the Governor House to apprise her of the extent of infrastructure damage in Punjab due to extensive flooding and to identify the best areas for the US to help. US Consul General Carmela Conroy is also present

US Consulate General Peshawar

The US Consulate General in Peshawar represents the USG in the North West Frontier Province (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) where 175,935 houses were damaged and 4,365,909 people were affected by the floods. We are disappointed to see very limited information coming out of Peshawar.  We can only find a couple of publicly available photos of our top civilian representative in the district. Its website is a little more than a placeholder, with all press releases coming out of Islamabad and no new media presence. We don't know, however, if Ms. Rood and her staff have returned to Peshawar or are still temporarily posted at the embassy in Islamabad.

Photo from US ConGen Peshawar

is an OCHA map with overview on the affected areas by provinces as of August 18, 2010.

The International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) called this the "worst floods to hit Pakistan since 1929."   Also this:  "Some 70 per cent of the country has been affected; an area that equates to the size of the UK. In its fourth week of heavy monsoon flooding, Pakistan is now beginning to come to terms with a disaster that has robbed millions of people of homes, possessions and livelihoods. [...] Even as the government and humanitarian aid agencies remain entrenched in relief efforts, affected communities are preparing themselves for more rain as the monsoon conditions continue. The national Meteorological Department reports that 9,000 millimetres of rain fell in less than one week, an amount ten times that of the annual average."

How you can help:

You can provide help right now by making an online contribution to the State Department's Pakistan Relief Fund.   Text "Flood" to 27722 from your mobile phone to give $10, or by downloading this form and mailing it with your check.

You can also help by contributing to non-government and charity groups conducting relief operations in Pakistan. Check out Charity Navigator's list of charities providing relief in the country with their corresponding ratings. Be sure to read their tips to ensure that your donation reaches your intended good causes.

Text the word "SWAT" to telephone number 50555 using your cell phone.  The text will result in a donation of $10 to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Pakistan Flood Relief Effort. Every $10 helps provide tents and emergency aid to displaced families.

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