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Open Space

After two years: Earthquake and Humanitarian services

Syed Muzammil Hussain

Human society is a composition of men, women and children. All are dependent as they have to assist others and get assistance from others to live on this planet. Generally it is understood that people help each other during times of joys however actual test of sympathy takes places at the time of miseries and disasters. A friend is need is a friend indeed is a better reflection of this reality.

Earthquake of October 08, 2005 was a symbol of sympathy and assistance to others in their miseries and sorrows. The government agencies were unable to face the problem which was so much huge in its nature that no single government or any agency was able to over come it. It was people participation at very large scale which enabled the government and its all wings to bear that heavy burden.

A survey was conducted in earth quake hit areas of Azad Kashmir and NWFP which revealed that the tragedy created a sense of unity and sympathy among masses not only in Pakistan or the Muslim world but these sentiments were felt all over the world. It is a general perception in our society that we see conspiracy hidden behind each humanitarian activity.

This is not true in its nature because all humanitarian activities do not fall in the category of conspiracy theory which is pre occupying our minds.

For example we always condemn UN for its double standards towards Muslims under US pressure. This mind set should be changed as various UN specialized bodies like UNICEF, WHO, WFP, UNHCR and others are serving humanity tremendously. Presently we are condemning western media for publication of sacrilegious caricatures against the dignity of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Really elements behind these caricatures have tried to sabotage harmony and good working relationship between the western societies and the Muslim world especially Pakistan which was emerged soon after the earth quake of October 8, 2005.

Individuals inside and outside Pakistan were quite instrumental during whole relief activities as they proved that they are able to overcome any eventuality and disaster. During early weeks of earthquake a number of individuals especially house wives presented all belongings of their houses. For example in many instances women and children presented their sarees and neckties which were of no use for earthquake affectees’, however it depicted, reflected and symbolized their sympathy and love for people in trouble.

Americans are proud of their being number one in charity giving nations of the world, however an American think tank openly admitted that Pakistanis were far ahead of Americans in charity collection at their own and its distribution. The American think tank added that Pakistanis were at top of the nations in relief activities, but keeping in view the

population, size of the country and per capita income, Pakistanis were termed sixth in the grading of charity giving nations of the world. (see Dawn Review 1st to 7th December 2005).

A number of Pakistanis and Kashmiris are residing overseas. They contributed a lot in hour of misery. They collected millions of rupees in cash, clothes, medicines and other house hold items and distributed without any discrimination.

This was just a glance at individuals and now we have to look upon at collective activities of foreign and national philanthropist and relief organizations and personalities. It will be preferable to start with Edhi Foundation which has become a symbol of relief in Pakistan and abroad. Adding to this, there was a number of Cuban doctors and medical staff who helped people day and night. They were so much sincere in their activities as they always

preferred to visit villages and provide door to door treatment to ailing human beings. All other organizations involved in relief activities must be acknowledged and appreciated. They were Turkish, Iranians, Saudis, Kuwaitis, Bahrainis, Libyans, EU countries, US organizations, Mercy International of Malaysia, ARC, WHO,WFP, UNICEF, UNHCR, Aga Khan Foundation, Sungi Foundation, Omar Foundation, Eqbal Ahmed Foundation, Aurat Foundation, Shirkat Gah Foundation, Kashmir Education Foundation, Focus International, Inter lop, Care International, Canadian International Development Agency, Citizen Foundation, Anatolian Development Foundation, Turkey, Heks Switzerland, GOAL, Save the Children, Medicines Sans Frontiers, Oxfam, Adra, IOM, World League Against Poverty, Peace Wind Japan, NATO, SOS, Action Aid and KNHTD of Thailand.

Other socio- Political and religious personalities and organizations who contributed for earthquake victims included Grand Ayatullah Ali Sistani, Najaf-e-Ashraf , Iraq,Yasin Malik, Sri Nagar, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan,Muttihidda Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League,Pakistan Tehrik –e- Insaf, Pakistan Peoples'Party, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, Jammu Kashmir Peoples'Party, Al Rashid Trust, Al- Mustafa Trust,Al Rehmat Trust, Al Akhtar Trust, Hussaini Relief, Minhajul Quran, Jamiat-e- Ahl-e Hadith, Jamia-e- Ahl-Bait, Jabir Bin Hayyan Trust, Ummah Welfare Trust, Khaksar Movement, Masoom Welfare Trust, Muslim Hands, Muslim Global Relief, The Message, Idara-e- Khidmat-e- Insania,Anjuman- e-Fazlia, Al Suffa Foundation, Ziaul Ummat Foundation,Young Blood Daska, Islamic Relief, Islamic Help, Helping Hands, Helper Foundation(Bagh), AlFalah Trust, Azim Maan Foundation, Amir Begum Trust, Gulzar Safia Begum Memorial Trust, Maqsood Welfare Foundation, Anam Foundation, Mughal

Foundation, Sahara Welfare Trust, Khubaib Foundation, Tablighi Jamaat, Dawat-e – Islami, Jamaat-ud- dawah, Anjuman-e- Talaba-e- Islam, Islami Jamiat-e- Talaba, Tehrik-e- Islami, all universities, colleges and schools. All newspapers, all TV channels, all press clubs and countless other organizations have contributed tremendously. A big number of educational institutions were badly affected due to earthquake.

Some universities, colleges and schools responded positively and announced admissions for thousands of students. For example Mohiuddin Islamic University of Azad Kashmir has provided all boarding/lodging and related facilities for over five thousand students for

a period of ten years. The International Islamic University, Islamabad also decided to exempt affected students from fee in its all existing programmes.

Siddique Public School Rawalpindi, Saba Trust, Islamabad, Read Foundation and other organizations are also following these footsteps.

Some critics are raising objections over way and style of relief activities of the Pakistan Army. They must recognize the role of the army in first month of disaster and afterwards. It was the army who revived life in affected areas, maintained law and order situation and helped in distributing cash assistance to the affectees. The federal Relief Commissioner and Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Authority both were working under serving generals and contributed a lot. It should be widely acknowledged.

Now earthquake areas are entering a new phase of rehabilitation. Here comes again the role of NGOs as well as government agencies. They should continue their activities till the return of last affectee to his or her house. The NGOs (social or political) should respect the dignity of affectees while conducting their operations. There were some quarrels among rival organizations, which was of no use because they need help and not quarrels. They also do not want sectarianism in their territories.

This was just a brief overview of relief activities in Azad Kashmir and NWFP in writer's personal capacity.

(Syed Muzammil Husssain is a Islamabad based freelance columnist and Social Worker. He can be reached at smuzamilhussain@gmail.com)

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