Two US Congress members visiting Pakistan from today

Our Correspondent
Sunday, Sep 04, 2022

ISLAMABAD: In a very welcome move, Sunday sees the arrival of two US Congress members in Islamabad to express solidarity as flooding continues and a third of the country is submerged in water.

US Congress members Sheila Jackson Lee and Tom Swazi left the US on Saturday, but there was no official announcement from either the US Embassy or the Foreign Office with officials citing “security reasons “. This has been the practice in the past as well and is not unusual. Sheila Jackson is the Chair of the Pakistan Caucus. Another US official arriving on September 7, for a three-day visit, is Derek Chollet, the Counsellor of the US Department of State, where he serves at the rank of Under Secretary as a senior policy adviser to the Secretary of State on a wide range of issues and conducts special diplomatic assignments as directed by the Secretary. While the flood-hit areas the US Congress members will visit have not been revealed, The News understands that a visit to Sindh is on the cards, as well as meetings with senior political leaders and government officials in Islamabad.

Before leaving the US, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee also wrote to President Biden, requesting immediate provision of assistance including material, equipment, and technical assistance to support efforts to bring relief to the hardest-hit areas of Pakistan.

The arrival of the US Congress members will also generate interest from the Western media to highlight the catastrophe that Pakistan is facing and to bring home the reality of how Pakistan is paying the price in climate change for no fault of its own.

Addressing a press conference ahead of their departure for Islamabad, the media reported that Sheila Jackson said that they will take all possible steps to help the flood victims. Tahir Javed, a Pakistani-origin Democrat leader was also present, who said that after an assessment of the damage that floods have caused, he would be pushing the government for an increase in the amount of aid already announced.

Sheila Jackson told the media that after visiting the flood-damaged areas she and Tim Swazi will take all possible steps to help the flood victims.

Earlier taking to Twitter, the US lawmaker said, “the flooding devastation in Pakistan is catastrophic with over 30 million people impacted. It’s urgent that the United States offers to help with possible airlifts of food and necessities to isolated and starving people.” “We can’t wait, more people will die. As chair of the Pakistan caucus, the Caucus will work with our colleagues to push for major continuing aid. Now is the time for relief,” Jackson added.

According to the US Embassy here, Washington in addition to the USD 30 million in urgently needed humanitarian assistance, has also provided over USD 1.1 million in grants and project support earlier this month to ensure direct assistance reaches those communities most impacted and to help mitigate and prevent the effects of future floods.

CENTCOM has also announced that it is sending an assessment team to Islamabad to determine what potential support the Department of Defence (DoD) can provide to USAID as part of the United States’ assistance to the flooding crisis in Pakistan.

Jamila Achakzai adds: Meanwhile, days after the UK announced an additional £15 million to help affected communities, British High Commissioner Christian Turner visited flood-hit villages in Nowshera where a UK charity Islamic Relief is providing lifesaving aid to those affected. This money will be spent on urgent life-saving support and go towards water and sanitation, shelter and home repairs, and primary healthcare, especially for women and girls.

Accompanied by Islamic Relief Worldwide’s CEO Waseem Ahmad and Islamic Relief Pakistan’s Country Director Asif Sherazi, the High Commissioner witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of the climate catastrophe. Expressing solidarity with the people at the camp, the British High Commissioner reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to Pakistan and observed the challenges faced by the community along with efforts to support those affected.