Devastating Floods Cause Great Need In Pakistan

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Heavy rain is again soaking victims living in makeshift camps, adding to the urgency of a massive international relief effort under way in Pakistan. U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson tells Steve Inskeep that Pakistan is in need of money and relief supplies.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Next, we've called the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, who's been assigned to the country since 2007. Ambassador, welcome to the program.

Ambassador ANNE W. PATTERSON (U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan): Oh, thank you, Mr. Inskeep. I'm glad to be here.

INSKEEP: And you can call me Steve, of course. What do the Pakistanis need most from the outside?

Ms. PATTERSON: Well, they need mostly money and relief supplies. We have been -the United States has been the most generous donor so far, but other countries are beginning to step up to the plate and provide cash which can be used by local disaster authorities and international organizations and NGOs.

INSKEEP: Ambassador Patterson, I'm reminded of the earthquake in Pakistan a few years ago in a number of ways, and here's one. Once again, in this disaster, there are stories of Islamic charities and perhaps some charities associated with, in some way, with militant groups, providing aid in disaster areas. Is there something of a competition here, an ideological competition, to aid disaster survivors?

Ms. PATTERSON: Well, I don't think so, Steve. What we saw in the crisis in Swat and certainly what we heard in the earthquake, these reports turned out to be quite exaggerated. Of course, many legitimate charities are, of course, Islamic, and they do a very good job in rural communities. But in the Punjab alone, there are 60 NGOs, reputable and well established NGOs, that are working to deliver relief supplies to the people. So I don't think there is really much of a competition here with extremist organizations.

INSKEEP: Have you ever been involved in a disaster of this magnitude? There's talk of 20 million people, perhaps, who are displaced.

Ms. PATTERSON: No, I never have. And I think one of the truly striking elements of this is going to be the long-term economic impact of this disaster. Crops have been ruined, gas fields are shut in, power plants are flooded. So the long term reconstruction cost is going to be very substantial.

INSKEEP: And doesn't this come at a time when Pakistan already faced severe economic trouble?

Ms. PATTERSON: Yes, certainly, Pakistan has been caught up in the worldwide recession and had lots of economic problems before this tragic flood, many of them resulting from the ongoing insurgency that has been taking place in the country for several years. So, yes, it's a disaster of really broad proportions. And it's affected, unlike some of the other disasters here, it's affected most of the economic base of the country, with the exception of Karachi.

INSKEEP: You mentioned the insurgency in Pakistan. Is there a way that that crisis is affected by the flood crisis, that the one disaster affects the other?

Ms. PATTERSON: Actually, Steve, no one's quite sure about that yet. What we've certainly seen, though, that the terrorist attacks against officials have been continuing. So the insurgents certainly have not let up. There have been some very high-profile attacks in parts of the country in recent days, so I would not think from what we've seen so far that this is going to have an effect on the insurgency.

INSKEEP: Who do you think is winning the war in Pakistan right now?

Ms. PATTERSON: You mean from the standpoint of the insurgency? The government is winning the war on insurgency, because what we've seen over the past few years has been a massive change in public perception about the insurgency. And in Ahmadi(ph), that's not surprising, because the atrocities committed in Swat, the attacks against high profile public figures, the attacks against military bases and police stations and the incredible number of attacks against ordinary, unarmed politicians, I think, have really changed public opinion here dramatically.

INSKEEP: Do you think the situation is better now in Pakistan than it was three years ago when you arrived?

Ms. PATTERSON: Oh, absolutely, no question about it. I think the situation has improved, certainly in terms of economic indicators. The recession, and the economy: no, it's probably not better. But in terms of the perception and public opinion and the attitude toward the insurgency, and keep in mind, too, the very important fact: We have a democratic government here in Pakistan which is elected by the people, and that's a - quite a dramatic change from three years ago.

INSKEEP: Although that government is deeply unpopular at the moment, you feel it's still a sign of progress that it's there?

Ms. PATTERSON: I feel that, yes, the democratic government is still better than the alternatives, without question.

INSKEEP: Ambassador, thanks very much.

Ms. PATTERSON: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Anne Patterson is the United Sates ambassador to Pakistan.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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