Pakistani Official: "Huge" Suffering after Flood

Two months after monsoon floods inundated much of Pakistan, the situation there is only getting worse. Nearly two million homes are damaged or destroyed, and UNICEF says 105,000 children under 5 years old could die from malnutrition.

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CBS News Anchor Katie Couric spoke with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Monday about the humanitarian crisis in his country.

(Scroll down to watch the interview)

Couric: Your country is still reeling from devastating floods. The Acumen Fund, which is a non-profit organization in the United States, recently visited the area and came back with some very moving, tragic images. Can you describe the level of human suffering there?

Qureshi: It's huge. We've never had a natural disaster of this magnitude before. The area the size of the United Kingdom is underwater. Twenty million people in Pakistan have been affected by these floods. Shelterless. Billions of dollars worth of standing crops have been lost. Livestock. So it's a very serious situation we're dealing with.

Couric: The United States alone this weekend pledged $345 million in civilian aid and another $55 million in military assistance. Does that go very far with the people of Pakistan? Because there's a significant amount of anti-American sentiment in your country.

Qureshi: The qualitative difference has come under this administration. They have tripled the economic assistance to Pakistan. It is helping because for the first time this money will be spent where? Education, health, poverty alleviation. Now, when people see American money helping their lives, that is what will change the public opinion of Pakistan.

Couric: I was recently in eastern Afghanistan, and a major complaint is that insurgents return, cross the Pakistani border, retrain, regroup, rearm and then come back into Afghanistan.

Special Section | Afghanistan: The Road Ahead

Qureshi: It's a two-way traffic. There has to be a strategy to check them once they cross the border.

Couric: But Pakistan has some major responsibility here.

Qureshi: We are fulfilling our responsibilities, but we need international help.

Couric: A recent poll in this country found that 24 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Islam. Thirty-nine percent have an unfavorable opinion. Why is that, in your view?

Qureshi: I think many in the west, many in the United States, are not fully aware of the message of Islam. Islam is a message of peace not violence.

Couric: Have extremists then co-opted the narrative to such a point that that is not how people feel about Muslims?

Qureshi: In every society there are extremists. To give you an example: One American pastor. Look the way he captured the attention of the world, and what was he trying to do? Burn the Quran. Fortunately that horrific incident did not take place. But, God forbid, if it had what would I deduce? Did he reflect American values, or was it an individual act of an extremist? There can be a fringe extremist element in this society, and you have to be cognizant of them.

More on Pakistan Flood

100,000 Starving Kids in Pakistan Face Death
Pictures: Hungry Children in Pakistan
Pakistan Promised Millions in Flood Aid
Pakistan Floods Begin to Recede, Misery Remains
UN: 1 Million More Displaced by Pakistan Floods
Pakistani Taliban Hint at Attacks on Aid Workers
U.S.: Pakistan Vows to Keep Fighting Insurgents
U.S. Warns Pakistan: Don't Misuse Flood Aid Cash

  • Katie Couric

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