Van Nys, CA: Pakistani American Leadership Center (PAL-C) Founding Director Pervaiz Lodhie arranged a meeting between Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and fourteen Pakistani American businessmen and women, professionals and philanthropists from Southern California who are engaged on the ground in Pakistan. Congressman Berman who sponsored H.R. 1886 entitled "The PEACE Act of 2009," which will triple US economic assistance to Pakistan, actively engaged the group in a productive discussion at his district office in Van Nys, California covering the following subjects:
1. The importance of primary and secondary education, basic literacy training, and low-cost basic healthcare and preventative medicine as part of any US assistance package for Pakistan.
2. The failure and historic inability of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to deliver effective assistance to the people of Pakistan.
3. The importance of utilizing, funding and scaling up existing Pakistani American NGOs already working effectively in Pakistan.
4. The extremely negative impact conditioning assistance will have on the goodwill provided by a significant long-term assistance package like the PEACE Act of 2009.
5. The acute need to provide immediate sufficient assistance to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Congressman Berman pledged to work closely with the PAL-C DC office on creating additional funding for the IDPs in the Emergency Supplemental Bill for 2009.
Additionally, two participants flew in from Washington, DC: The fourteen-strong group of Pakistani Americans was led by PAL-C Founding Director Mr. Pervaiz Lodhie and included the following prominent participants from Southern California:
1. Pervaiz Lodhie , Founder/President, LEDtronics, Inc.,
2. Salim Adaya , Chairperson, I D S Real Estate Group,
3. Muhammad Adaya , I D S Real Estate Group,
4. Najeeb Ghauri, Chairman/CEO, Netsol Technologies,
5. Dr. Sattar Abbasi , Professor Clinical Medicine, UCLA,
6. Jamal Khawaja , Director, JFK Import & Export Inc.,
7. Dr. Salman Naqvi , MD, FCCP. Chief of Staff, Kindred Hospital Westminister OC,
8. Adnan Khan , President, CIDP Inc.,
9. Fiza Shah , Founder/CEO, Development in Literacy,
10. Ghazala Khan , Principal, GK & Associates,
11. Shezad Rokerya , Chairman, The Interlink Group,
12. Salman Ahmed , UN Goodwill Ambassador, Artist/Musician,
13. Taha Gaya , Executive Director, Pakistani American Leadership Center (PAL-C), and
14. Jim Moody , Chairman AFHD/NCHD, Former US Congressman
During the meeting Chairman Berman acknowledged that with regards to Pakistan, the US has "made too many mistakes," and that his bill, the PEACE Act of 2009, was "intended to be a statement of how strengthening Pakistan is in America's interest" and hoped that his bill would "reflect a long-term commitment to that goal."
As for the conditions on the security assistance in the PEACE Act of 2009, Chairman Berman acknowledged that the US "can't force Pakistan to do anything," and that he was working to ensure that any conditions were minimal and written in the most flexible way. Specifically on the conditions requiring Pakistan to grant the US direct access to Dr A.Q. Khan, Chairman Berman noted that "there has already been a great deal of information exchanged," and that any new interview "is not going to produce new information anyway."
Chairman Berman agreed with the group's assessment of the inability of USAID to effectively deliver assistance in Pakistan noting that "USAID has lost a lot of its original capacity" and expressed a strong interest in receiving more information on successful Pakistani American NGOs working in Pakistan.
Finally, and perhaps surprisingly, Chairman Berman agreed that there has been a lopsided US focus on the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, and recognized that India's intelligence agency, the RAW, has also played and continues to play a destabilizing role in the region. Chairman Berman particularly singled out "Indian intelligence involvement in Baluchistan" as a cause for concern.
Overall, the meeting was viewed by both Chairman Berman and the Pakistani American group as highly productive with both sides fully engaging with each other. Both Chairman Berman and the group agreed that this was the beginning of a much longer dialogue and partnership between the Congressman and the Southern California Pakistani American community and plans are already underway for a follow-up meeting to discuss the issues in greater detail.
PAL-C looks forward to continuing to facilitate these types of meetings between the Pakistani American community nationwide and our elected representatives, particularly those like Chairman Berman that sit on Congressional Committees exercising massive influence on the Pakistani American community and on the US-Pakistan relationship.