About the Author: Alberto Rodriguez serves as Spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.
U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter and his wife, Dr. Marilyn Wyatt, held an open and candid conversation Tuesday, January 25 with 29 university students from underserved areas of Pakistan and covered issues such as U.S.-Pakistan relations, efforts to combat terrorism, and U.S. civilian assistance. The conversation will be broadcast on PTV on Thursday, January 27 at 8:05 p.m. local time and again Friday at 1:05 p.m., in English with Urdu subtitles.
This American-style "town hall" was part of a series of efforts by Ambassador Munter and Dr. Wyatt to meet Pakistanis from different walks of life and discuss their concerns and aspirations. The participants were among 1,400 students to have received university scholarships under the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Merit- and Needs-based Scholarship Program, managed by the Higher Education Commission.
One student told the Ambassador that "since joining the war against terrorism, Pakistan has lost thousands of people" and asked if U.S. assistance is "really enough to compensate our losses?""That's a tough question, and a good one," Ambassador Munter responded. "There are people from outside who are in your country who are taking advantage of the famous hospitality of Pakistan to attack innocent people. We want this war to end, and I know you do as well."
Dr. Wyatt outlined some of the U.S. efforts to rebuild areas of the country affected by conflict and floods, such as the $36 million program to rebuild schools and water supply systems in Malakand, a $55 million program to improve infrastructure in South Waziristan, and a $62 million program for post-flood agricultural recovery.
Dr. Wyatt also asked the students about their hopes and dreams. Many female students said they wanted to balance the personal and professional to lead happy family lives while pursuing meaningful employment. Meanwhile, several of the young men expressed ambitions to own their own businesses or help build capacity of government institutions.
"We really believe in you," Ambassador Munter said at the conclusion of the conversation. "You have this kind of energy and this kind of commitment. It's going to be a really great future if we can work together to help make these opportunities come true."