I am proud to have the opportunity to serve the common interests of the Pakistani and American people in my new position as the Mission Director of USAID in Pakistan.  For seventy years, the United States and Pakistan have worked together for the benefit of both our countries.  America is as committed to the relationship with Pakistan and its people today as it was when Pakistan gained independence 70 years ago and will be for many years to come.

From my short time already in the country, it is clear to me that Pakistan is a land with many opportunities.  Half of the population is under 25, which is a great asset.  With their growing minds, sense of adventure, and desire to succeed, young people are the most receptive to new skills, positive mind sets, and habits.  However, Pakistani youth need opportunities to increase their skills, find employment, and contribute to Pakistan’s socio-economic growth.  To address this need, USAID has worked with the Pakistan Higher Education Commission to award more than 18,000 in-country scholarships since 2009, providing Pakistani students opportunities to gain the skills needed to grow Pakistan’s economy.  USAID has also built or repaired more than 1,312 schools across Pakistan since 2011.  I am committed to continue USAID’s work in pursuit of this goal.

Pakistan also has its challenges, and I am committed to using my experience from more than 30 years of public service dedicated to improving the lives of people in 21 countries to lead USAID as we continue our partnership with the people and Government of Pakistan.  I look forward to working with the Government of Pakistan on reducing malnutrition.  Children need adequate nutrition to fully develop their bodies and mental capacities so they can perform in school and later on be productive members of the work force.  Already, USAID has trained and supported 49,000 small dairy farmers in best dairy farm practices and linked them to high-value milk buyers.  I intend to expand USAID’s work to improve nutrition for Pakistani children by building on a regional program I designed to benefit children in South Asia by fortifying wheat and edible oil.

I am also committed to continuing our partnership to develop Pakistan’s energy sector.  Energy fuels a nation’s economy but shortages impede economic growth and opportunity.  Pakistan has tremendous renewable energy potential that is low cost and quick to install.  Experts cite 2.9 million megawatts per year of clean energy potential from solar, wind, and hydropower.  USAID has worked with Pakistan to add more than 2,804 megawatts of electricity, benefitting nearly 33 million Pakistanis and spurring economic growth.  I look forward to learning more about Pakistan’s important energy sector and how the United States can help the Government of Pakistan to improve the environment for private sector investment.

While Pakistan is rich in natural resources and robust economic growth in some areas such as Punjab and Sindh, there are also areas that need urgent development support, such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan.  Since 2007, USAID has launched hundreds of projects to deliver basic services, reinforce citizens’ confidence in their government, and employ community members to build drinking water systems, flood and retaining walls and schools.  I intend to continue USAID’s work to improve service delivery in the FATA and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces to reduce the income inequality gap and to help build more resilient communities in those provinces.  

I am enthusiastic about helping Pakistan overcome these challenges to improve the lives of its people.  I am fully committed to continuing the fine work of my predecessor John Groarke, in directing USAID’s work on behalf of the American people in partnership with the Government of Pakistan.  America will continue its work to develop Pakistan’s key sectors of energy, economic growth, agriculture, governance, health, and education.

This year, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of relations between Pakistan and America, we can be proud of all we’ve done together and renew our commitment to build on those accomplishments.  Together, we will work toward strengthening communities and building a more prosperous and resilient Pakistan.

 

The writer is the USAID Mission Director for Pakistan.