Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Pakistani Ambassador Disappointed by Ignorance

Recounting the devastating floods in Pakistan this summer, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, urged students gathered in the Mortara Center Monday to divert their attention to the ongoing disaster.

Haqqani said that the international response to last July’s floods in Pakistan has been abysmal.

“Pakistan has been unfortunate, and not only in terms of weather,” Haqqani said, beginning a sharp critique of both the media and the international donor community for mishandling the situation in


With sometimes surprising candor, Haqqani argued that the international response has been lacking because the floods caused few actual deaths.

He said that the total number of people affected by the floods, however, numbers 20 million – more than the number affected by the Haitian earthquake, Indian Ocean tsunami and 2005 earthquake in Pakistan combined. At one time, 20 percent of Pakistan was underwater, an area the size of the entire Eastern seaboard.

“There are times when our compassion overwhelms our cynicism, and there are times when our cynicism overwhelms our compassion,” he said. “But there is something worse than cynicism at work here.”

Haqqani said that few media outlets actually sent reporters to the affected area, providing minimal and sometimes inaccurate accounts of the floods.

“A story like a flood can really only be told by getting your feet wet – literally,” he said.

Those who did cover the floods, Haqqani said, focused more on the political aspects of the story than anything else.

“What about the human tragedy? What about the suffering?” he asked.

Haqqani, who has spoken at other local universities recently, said he hoped students would help bring greater attention to the issue and convince the private sector to start donating to Pakistan.

“What I expect for them is the raising of awareness,” he said.

orial Shah (SFS ’13), who coordinated the event, said that increasing general knowledge about the floods was her primary goal. Shah was in Pakistan during the summer when the flooding began, and she spent three weeks on the ground with a nonprofit organization helping to coordinate disaster relief.

When she returned to campus in the fall, Shah helped found the GU Pakistan Flood Relief Task Force. Shah said that she was initially disheartened by the number of students who did not know about the flooding.

While promoting yesterday’s event, however, Shah noticed a dramatic change. Only one person she talked to didn’t know about the disaster, and strangers even helped her put up posters and said they were interested.

“That was very encouraging to me,” Shah said. She was especially happy to see greater involvement from people who had no previous connections to South Asia.

For Nick Albanese (SFS ’14), Haqqani’s lecture served as a chance to learn more about a crisis that he admitted he had not followed closely.

“I didn’t really know much about the situation in Pakistan,” Albanese said, adding that he found Haqqani’s perspective on the media most interesting.

ary Nancy Walter (COL ’14) said she had discussed the floods with Pakistani friends but wanted to hear the ambassador’s perspective.

For Shah, who grew up in rural Pakistan, the biggest concern is that people will begin to forget about the floods.

“People don’t feel the urgency anymore,” she said. “But I still feel the urgency.”

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