PITTSTON — When he’s not caring for area residents’ pets, a local veterinarian is hobnobbing with prime ministers and high-ranking politicos, living a life of an international diplomat and helping foster economic growth and better understanding between two nations.
It all started 33 years ago when Dr. Inayat Kathio was a young veterinarian living in Pakistan and there was a dearth in available protein sources for pets and livestock. Through a United Nations program, he traveled to the United States to learn all there was to know about poultry farming and brought back that knowledge to his native country.
“At that time, Pakistan had zero export of poultry and was deficient. Now, they export millions of chicks every year and … more than 5 million people are engaged in the poultry industry. And that’s only one person’s impact, thanks to America,” Kathio said while puffing on his pipe and relaxing on a patio chair outside his Pittston veterinary clinic last week.
“And that is a good deed of America that is not seen in the media, what they have done for Pakistan,” he continued. “We should be very thankful to America for all the technology that has been given to us through the United Nations.”
While Kathio, 60, of Yatesville, continues to monitor Pakistan’s poultry program as a consultant to the United Nations, he is now a permanent resident and citizen of the United States and owns and operates the Pittston Animal Hospital and Wilkes-Barre Animal Hospital as well as seven charitable animal clinics in Pakistan. He keeps his native country updated on the latest livestock and veterinary advances as well.
But his role in the international community has expanded significantly over the years.
An honorary consular
As an honorary consular of Pakistan — a title that comes complete with an ID card from the U.S. Department of State that notes he also enjoys diplomatic immunity — Kathio represents Pakistan’s head-of-state in America and may be called upon to assist Pakistanis visiting from abroad.
Honorary consuls are also responsible for protecting the sending country’s interests in the host country, and work with local leaders to keep open diplomatic relations between countries. They also promote and foster mutually beneficial relations between both countries.
Kathio said he recently hosted diplomats from Pakistan’s Foreign Department, having met them in New York City three weeks ago. He was in Washington last Monday when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was there for his first-ever meetings with President Barack Obama and other top government officials.
Kathio has been working with delegates of Pakistan, including the Minister of Power and Energy, and officials in Washington, D.C., to find efficient and cheaper ways of addressing Pakistan’s deficit in energy, mostly in electricity and gas.
He has also been meeting with a state senator to discuss exporting Pennsylvania energy products to Pakistan, a project still in its infancy, he said, declining to name the senator.
Kathio said the United States has been assisting Pakistan in development ever since the country came into existence. “America has been very good friends with Pakistan. However, we have had convergence and divergence.”
Long history of cooperation
During the Cold War, Pakistan was a major role player in helping topple the former Soviet Union, Kathio said. But, he said, relations between Pakistan and the U.S. have been strained since a CIA operative shot two people in Pakistan and American soldiers killed 34 Pakistani soldiers in a friendly fire incident.
But relations have been improving, he said.
“For my part, I have been meeting with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and also with Sen. Bob Casey when he was a subcommittee chairman, and now as he is on the Agriculture Committee. Both have been extraordinarily kind, cooperative and understanding,” Kathio said.
Casey called Kathio a distinguished leader in the field of veterinary medicine and in philanthropy.
“His assignment as Honorary Consul General of Pakistan affords us the opportunity to discuss a range of issues in the bilateral relationship, including counterterrorism and economic development. I appreciate his efforts to create business and cultural ties between Pennsylvanians and Pakistanis,” Casey said.
About a month ago, Kathio met with and thanked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and several other senators for engaging in discussion on the country’s relationships with Pakistan. He notes that Pakistan has also been helpful to the United States, providing active military support in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan has lost thousands of soldiers fighting terrorism,” he said.
Kathio hopes his presenting lectures at Wilkes University help clear up some misunderstanding, which he says is present “on both sides, mostly among radicals on both sides. The majority of the people in Pakistan are peaceful, they are loving and caring. They hold a high respect for America.”
Kathio believes a majority of Americans feel positively towards the Pakistani people, “but some policymakers see things differently. They look at Pakistan through a different prism.”
Fighting the war on terror
Kathio acknowledged that Pakistan has been blamed for sheltering Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Bin Laden was killed by a U.S. Navy SEAL team in 2011 in a private compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“America had all the technology and intelligence, they can monitor the footprints of the terrorists and they were not able to locate Osama bin Laden. And Pakistan military still needs to improve their intelligence through technology. We’re still behind. So it would have been very difficult for Pakistan to locate Osama bin Laden,” Kathio said.
“My personal conversation with generals and military staff was that they had absolutely no knowledge about him because we wanted to get rid of him much more than anybody else. Pakistan wanted to get rid of him because it was an evil. We suffered more, we lost thousands and thousands of lives because of his terrorism network,” he said.
Kathio also noted that Pakistan had handed over top Taliban and Jihadist leaders to America. And, he said, Pakistan’s military, the ISI, had pointed out prior to bin Laden’s death that there was a major Middle Eastern figure living in the compound where bin Laden was found, and that there was some kind of terrorist activity there.
Kathio said one of his “biggest achievements” for both countries during his recent appointment was providing data to the U.S. Senate about improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that were killing American soldiers.
“Pakistan was being blamed for it. I gathered the data and I informed that Pakistan had the least amount of ammonium nitrate compared to the surrounding region. I also pointed out to the Senate that the triggering devices, there wasn’t any temple in Pakistan in which they were manufacturing triggering devices,” Kathio said.
Promoting trade with Pa.
Currently, Kathio is in communications with state officials in Harrisburg “to try to promote Pennsylvania trade to Pakistan, which right now is almost non-existent. So I’m working to improve the Pennsylvania economy by promoting Pennsylvania goods to Pakistan,” he said.
At the same time, Kathio is working to bring Pakistan’s commodities, such as cotton products including sheets, sweaters and shirts, to the American market and working with policymakers to reduce the tariff on them. He said it’s unfair that the tariff Pakistan pays is 8 percent higher than the one Bangladesh pays.
Kathio noted that Pennsylvania’s Gross Domestic Product is $550 billion, much higher than Pakistan’s $225 billion. Yet Pakistan’s population at 180 million dwarfs Pennsylvania’s, which is about 13 million.
“Since there’s a heavy population, foreign investment in Pakistan is highly profitable,” Kathio said.
“So if anyone in Pennsylvania has a desire to go to Pakistan, I can make a smoother transition through commerce and diplomatic channels. I would love to see some people from Pennsylvania come to Pakistan and invest,” he said.