Muzaffarabad , Pakistan, Asharq Al-Awsat- Osama bin Laden will be caught just as the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was finally detained by US troops in Iraq , according to the US ambassador to Pakistan .
According to Ryan Crocker, his government has donated $ 510 million to the Pakistani government earmarked for the reconstruction of areas, which suffered from the October earthquake that hit the region.
Crocker spoke to Asharq al Awsat in fluent Arabic, which he learnt in Tunisia and Lebanon. The ambassador has also served in Kuwait, Qatar, and Egypt before being appointed as ambassador to Pakistan almost a year ago.
He admitted that Pakistan was a strong ally of the United States and denied that the motivation behind US aid aiming to help the survivors of the killer quake, which devastated the region and killed hundreds of thousands, was to improve the US’s reputation amongst Pakistanis. He stressed that his country’s troops were engaged in a humanitarian mission and were not involved in gathering information on wanted men in Kashmir, as has been reported.
Asharq al Awsat accompanied the ambassador as part of a small delegation of journalists from around the world to the mountainous region of Puthian, 30 km from Muzzafarabad, the capital of Pakistan- administered Kashmir to inaugurate a combination hospital complex, school and 117 family unit tent structures donated by Alaska Structures, a US company based in Washington State, to serve the region most affected by the quake.
During the half hour flight in a Chinook aircraft, the US ambassador spoke of the tragic consequences of the earthquake and the immense needs of the survivors to receive emergency relief and long-term reconstruction needs.
He said that this was his tenth visit to the disaster area and indicated that the situation required efforts be doubled to help those who have lost almost everything and are now living in tents next to their destroyed homes.
Asharq al Awsat witnessed young children receiving lessons in the open after the school in Khairbad was severely damaged in the quake.
The public-Private initiative was the result of a partnership among Alaska Structures, the Human Development Foundation of Pakistan, the Human Development Foundation of North America, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Survivors in the quake stricken region spoke endlessly of the day the earth shook and their terrible plight, suffering from minor aftershocks, fearing for their lives, and the advent of winter and the snow whereby everyone will have to leave their villages and go down to the valley.
Crocker indicated that the money donated to the government of Pakistan was a grant, which will contribute to the rebuilding of desolate areas.
He added that the government of General Pervez Musharraf was very able to adequately spend the international donations to help survivors of the earthquake. On his first visit to the earthquake stricken areas, he was convinced that “the long-term effects of this catastrophe are beyond what we could have ever imagined”. The assistance provided by Arab, Islamic, and foreign countries showed that “the international community cares about Pakistan as a friendly country”.
According to the ambassador, the earthquake killed more than 70, 000 Pakistanis and injured almost 70,000 more. It also left nearly 3 million people without their homes with an lack of tents to severe all the families and the worse is yet to come with the arrival of winter and snow.
Asked by Asharq al Awsat on the Pakistani reaction to US assistance, in the wake of its war on terror and the invasion of Afghanistan, he said, “You ask the Pakistani people yourself. We did not come here to improve our reputation by providing humanitarian assistance.”
Commenting on the whereabouts of bin Laden, the ambassador indicated, “We do not know where bin Laden is. But be certain one of thing which is that our friends the Pakistanis will arrest him one day as the deposed (Iraqi) President Saddam Hussein was.”
He denied that US troops took DNA samples from some of the victims of the quake in its search for al Qaeda members who might have died and indicated that the troops are engaged in a humanitarian mission and daily coordinate with the Pakistani authorities as it aimed to helped the worst affected and not gather information on militants in Kashmir.