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USAID chief says threatened in Pakistan, leaves

Last Updated: Sunday, August 29, 2010 - 00:24

Washington: Indian-American US aid chief Rajiv Shah has said that he had to leave a relief camp in flood-hit Pakistan in a hurry, after being threatened by extremist elements present there.

Shah was the topmost US official to visit Pakistan this week in the aftermath of the devastating flood that has engulfed more than one-fifth of the country affecting over 20 million people.

Talking to foreign journalists on his return from Pakistan, Shah, who is Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said the incident happened during his visit to a site in Sukur where the World Food Programme was distributing relief material and was talking to women standing in line.

"I really did want to listen to the people standing in line and learn about how we, together with our partners, can mount the most effective response on their behalf.”

“I had hoped to spend more time talking to the people in line," he said.

"But within a few minutes of being there, our Diplomatic Security detail informed me that there were some suspicious individuals in the area and we needed to leave.”

“So we tried to make as graceful and appropriate an exit as possible," Shah said.

"I understand, in this situation and perhaps in others, that TTP (Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan) and others have actually been threatening aid relief workers and international aid relief workers," he noted.

"I can`t tell you how disappointed and inappropriate that feels, when you`ve been there and you`ve talked to people who`ve literally lost everything and are just trying to survive.”

"The fact that suspicious individuals had been in this site, in part because they knew I was coming, and the day before, our security folks who had gone out there, of course, hadn`t seen any signs of them, is an indication.”

“These are open sites. People can get there. The whole point is to have people who are in urgent need come and get food," he said.

"It is deeply saddening that others would choose to use these environments to propagate themselves or to threaten international aid workers.”

“But, you know, I`m happy that I had a chance to talk to a few women. I would have liked to talk to more. I think the stories you learn from them really motivate and provide information that can help us do a better job. Our goal right now is just to make sure we`re feeding and saving as many people as possible," Shah said.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, August 29, 2010 - 00:24

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