Pakistan has been hit by the worst ever floods in its history. As a result, thousands have been killed and countless numbers have been affected. Today we are joined by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss how the international community should help Pakistan.
Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for joining us today. Let me start by asking this question: What your people are telling from Pakistan – how much is the damage that the floods have caused in Pakistan?SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well first let me express my deepest concern and sympathy for all of the people who have been directly affected, who have lost loved ones, who have been injured, who have lost homes, property, cattle, whose towns and villages have been devastated over the course of this terrible flooding. And let me express my concern as well to all of Pakistan, because of course this covers such a broad area that it will impact the entire country.
I think that it’s difficult yet to determine the exact amount of damage and the need for relief and reconstruction. We know as you just said that this is one of the greatest natural disasters in Pakistan’s history and in the history of recorded time that goes back a very long time, because of the many millions of people who are affected. 17 to 20 million are the estimates we’ve heard, 8 million who have been directly displaced.
So the response that we are working to provide along with the government and the people of Pakistan is aimed at the emergency, and we will continue to do as much as we can. But we also have to look at what will be needed to reconstruct lives and property. The United States is very proud to be Pakistan’s partner in standing up against this humanitarian disaster. We are rushing food and other aid. We have probably spent around $90 to $100 million so far.
Later at the United Nations today I will join Foreign Minister Qureshi, Secretary General Ban, and other world leaders to call for much, much more and announce that the United States’s commitment will increase.QUESTION:
You talk about a response to this crisis. What we have seen this time, the response of the international community was very slow towards this crisis in Pakistan. What do you think, what was the reason? Is there any crisis of confidence, or people don’t have idea what devastation has been caused by this flood?SECRETARY CLINTON:
I think it’s more the second point. I believe that first of all much of the destruction has happened in very inaccessible places, in the mountains and nearby. I think that the flooding has continued, so there hasn’t been a point at which people can stop and take stock. I believe that the enormity of the natural disaster and the fact that the monsoons haven’t yet ceased and that there may be more to come has put everyone a little on edge trying to figure out what to do and when to do it. I mean if you rush aid into one place and start rebuilding and then it’s washed out next week, you will have wasted money and unfortunately not fulfilled your purpose.
I can only speak for the United States. I mean we wanted to do as much as we could early in the emergency, but we’re going to have to wait to assess what do we do now once the waters have receded and we can take stock of the damage. I mean I’ve been following this very closely and looking at photographs as they have come in. People have rushed to try to repair bridges, only to see a few hours later the bridge wiped away.
So I think that the enormity of this is such that everyone from the Pakistani people to the Pakistani Government to the international community is trying to rush in emergency help and then we will, with the process starting in the United Nations today, begin to evaluate how much more Pakistan is going to need.
I’ve ordered a complete review of all of the aid that we’ve provided. I was just in Pakistan as you know last month announcing some very important projects to bring water and electricity to people throughout the country. I announced we could perhaps repair and modernize power plants. The power plants may be gone. So I think all of us are struck by the scale of this destruction and we’re really working hard to help people now but also prepare for the future.QUESTION:
You talk about this relief and rescue. Are you satisfied with the way relief and rescue is being done in Pakistan at this moment?SECRETARY CLINTON:
I’m never satisfied with relief and rescue. I saw what happens in my own country. We will never forget Katrina and we have far more resources than Pakistan has and yet it took a long time to figure out what the extent of it was and to mobilize the resources and to put them in the right place.
In Haiti, we kept pushing, pushing, pushing post-earthquake, get more, get more, get more. I’m never satisfied. I think that when we’re struck by these terrible natural disasters, we all want to do something, but very often it’s hard to know what to do and how to do it until a little time passes and people can get better organized.
So we are doing everything we can with helicopters. I think more than 20 American helicopters, 800,000 deliveries of food and other supplies. We’re doing everything we can. And increasingly, more people are getting involved and we’re working closely with both the Pakistani military and the Pakistani Government.QUESTION:
You talk about Pakistani military. There’s a lot being said about that since Pakistan military is taking the lead in this rescue and relief operation. And there’s a concern that it will divert their attention from the war on terror. So do you think because of that situation and because more and more army is involved in the relief and rescue operation, these floods can have any effect on the war against terror?SECRETARY CLINTON:
First of all, I think the army is doing what it must, which is to try to protect the lives and the property of Pakistani people. And they are working very hard to mobilize resources to do that. But isn’t it a tragic commentary that while this terrible natural disaster is happening, there are still terrorist attacks going on? I mean, have they no shame? Have they no human caring or sympathy for their fellow Pakistanis that they would continue to assassinate people and blow up targets while millions are fleeing for their lives with their children on their backs? I don’t even know how to respond to that.
So I think that the Pakistani military is doing what it must do. It is doing everything in its power to help the people of Pakistan.
And it’s just tragic that this threat of terrorism which now the Pakistani intelligence and military services say is the number one threat to Pakistan continue. I applaud what the military is doing, but it’s very unfortunate that there can’t be a cessation of these terrible terrorist attacks and an end to this assault on the people and Government of Pakistan.QUESTION:
Since this crisis seems to be beyond the capacity of Pakistani Government, and there are reports that all these banned organizations, they are there to provide relief to the people, is there any concern that these banned organizations, they will gain the force in that region?SECRETARY CLINTON:
I don’t think so. I mean, very often, these reports are overstated and when time passes, you look back and find out that it was not as reported. But in this case, I think that there is a great urgency that the government is trying to bring to bear in confronting this natural disaster, which is truly unprecedented.
And it’s sort of the right of anyone in a democracy, which thank goodness Pakistan is - especially with a free press - to criticize one’s government. I know that. I have been in government and I have received a lot of incoming criticism. And government can always do better. Government must do better.
But at this point in time, the people and institutions of Pakistan must pull together. There’s a time to be critical and pointing fingers and trying to score political points, and then there’s a time to put that to one side and save lives and rebuild Pakistan. And that’s what I hope is happening.QUESTION:
Any dates, any plans of President Obama and you going together to Pakistan in the near future?SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, we don’t usually travel together because we have a lot of world to cover, but I think you know how committed we both are to Pakistan, both on a personal level and of course through our governmental responsibilities. And I am sure I will be back in Pakistan and I’m sure at some point the President will also find time.QUESTION:
During this crisis, Indian foreign minister also called Pakistani foreign minister and they offered some symbolic help. And yesterday, Foreign Minister Qureshi was telling that he conveyed that to the authorities in Pakistan. How would you say to – what would be your comment on that?SECRETARY CLINTON:
My comment is I think it’s a very good sign. I think that India’s offer, and I hope Pakistan’s acceptance, demonstrates that despite years of misunderstanding and conflicts and threats and difficulties, in the face of a natural disaster of this significance, the people of India and Pakistan can come together.
We saw that, for example, in a very serious earthquake in Turkey some years ago, about 10 years ago. Greece, which has had longstanding problems with Turkey and vice versa, came to the aid of Turkey.
I am an optimist. I believe that there isn’t any problem between two peoples that cannot be overcome by good faith and by effort. And of course, I would love to see the problems between Pakistan and India attacked in a peaceful way by the governments and institutions of both countries and that they would be resolved, because I think it is in the interests of both, particularly the interest of Pakistan.QUESTION:
And lastly, how was the wedding?SECRETARY CLINTON:
It was wonderful. It was absolutely wonderful. We are still floating on air. It was just a great blessing for my husband and I to see our daughter so happy.QUESTION:
Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for talking to us.SECRETARY CLINTON:
Thank you very much.