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Press Releases 2010

American Pakistan Foundation Ready To Engage Pakistani Diaspora

Organization Promotes Sustainable Development In Pakistan

By Carrie Loewenthal Massey
Special CorrespondentZ

New York - With new leadership in place, the American Pakistan Foundation (APF) is set to mobilize the Pakistani-American community.

Dedicated to working with Pakistani Americans to build bridges between the United States and Pakistan and improve the lives of the people of Pakistan, APF announced June 3 the appointment of Awais Khan as its first president and chief executive officer.

Khan's business experience in the public and private sectors, as well as his age, 34, made him an ideal candidate for the position, said an APF board member. Khan has worked in the venture capital, investment banking, government and financial services sectors and has focused recently on innovation and commercialization of clean energy technologies, according to an APF statement.

"The organization requires people who have the ability to take on multiple responsibilities, to multitask, and take us from infancy to a flourishing enterprise," said Wahid Hamid, APF board member, in an interview with "Ideally, we were looking for somebody who would take us into the new generation ... and bridge to the older generation of the diaspora."

In a statement on the APF website, Khan said, "I am deeply honored and humbled to be selected for this position at such a critical juncture in Pakistan's history and in its relationship with the United States."Khan's first orders of business will include hiring a U.S.-based director of development to focus on fundraising and a Pakistan-based executive director to identify key partner organizations in Pakistan and begin to build those relationships. These relationships will help establish an open and transparent foundation for donors to be able to contribute to the most acute causes in Pakistan, according to Hamid.

"Our key mission is to be a trusted channel, and to be a trusted channel we need to provide transparency and metrics that show the money is being used well and [is] obtaining results," Hamid said.

Once it has filled the remaining executive positions, the organization can actively pursue its various missions. These goals include increasing U.S.-based corporations' and foundations' support of efforts to improve education, health care, infrastructure and entrepreneurship in Pakistan.

According to Hamid, partnerships between the public and private sectors can best ensure systematic, sustainable development, which so far has been difficult to achieve in Pakistan.

"We have found that people have picked certain important niches but few are doing [development work] in a scalable fashion," said Hamid.

For example, improving education becomes overly difficult when groups try to start from scratch, neglecting resources that may already exist, Hamid explained.

"The real ... potential lies in public-private partnerships and improving existing schools in Pakistan, as opposed to setting up new institutions," he said.

One of APF's greatest resources is the knowledge and skills of the Pakistani diaspora community living throughout the United States. The organization estimates that up to 700,000 Pakistani Americans live in the United States, with the largest populations concentrated in New York, Houston and Chicago, followed by Northern and Southern California.

It is a diaspora community rich with scholars, scientists, business leaders, artists, public servants and other contributors, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted in her remarks at APF's launch celebration in December 2009.

"[T]his is a network of some of the smartest, most successful people in the United States," Clinton said. "Each of you, and this organization now, is uniquely positioned to help ... by fostering greater understanding between our nations and by contributing in concrete ways to Pakistan's stability, social, and economic development."

APF will rely on the "concrete" contributions of expertise in addition to financial support. The organization plans to establish several advisory councils of experts, one in each of the group's key areas of focus to "help us identify the most acute needs in those areas and help us set up programs with our partners," Hamid said.

To reach a greater cross section of Pakistani Americans, APF, which is based in New York, will also set up regional trustee councils of community representatives.

"We want to be inclusive as well as tap into the energy, knowledge, technology and ideas these people bring to the table. We want to do this in a structured and systematic fashion," said Hamid.

Though still in the building and planning stages, APF has begun to formalize one of its first programs. The organization is partnering with the International Rescue Committee, a New York-based nongovernmental organization (NGO), to offer job training for youth in the Swat Valley area of Pakistan. These efforts aim to help rebuild one of the regions most severely affected by military campaigns against the Taliban.

As APF goes forward with its initiatives, the group hopes to expand the visibility of American development efforts in Pakistan to audiences beyond just the Pakistani-American community.

"We hope to bring [development in Pakistan] to the attention of philanthropists in the United States," said APF's acting executive director, Mahnaz Fancy, in an interview with "Right now, we're focusing on Pakistani Americans and foundations already working in Pakistan but if we can also share knowledge [with others] ... this would be a really important part of our agenda to bring Pakistan's development to a higher level," she added.

According to Clinton, APF has a solid foundation of Pakistani-American support on which to build.

"I have been deeply moved by the strength of the Pakistani-American community's commitment to Pakistan, how generous and creative you have been in finding ways to give back, whether by mobilizing local NGOs to respond to humanitarian crises or sending aid in the aftermath of natural disasters or calling on the Congress and the State Department to send more," Clinton said at the APF launch event.

Fancy sees APF as a vehicle with which to continue and accelerate this support of Pakistan.

"This is an exciting opportunity for us as Americans to use our networks, influence, knowledge and philanthropic dollars to help development in Pakistan," she said.