Pakistanis all across the globe have been watching the news very closely the past week; in our house, it’s become an addiction. The floods and its consequential crises have been talked about, written about and depicted in a million ways, and each picture, word and broadcast repeats the same thing: that this is a catastrophe that is the first of its kind. Its effects have been reported to be worse than the tsunami, the 2005 earthquake and even all the 4 wars that Pakistan has had with India. It cannot be ignored, it cannot be sugar-coated, and it certainly cannot be taken lightly.
Within my own family, there is a sense of restlessness and urgency to help out those whose lives have been ruined by this calamity. My father, overcome with a zealousness to take matters into his own hands, has decided to visit the flood-afflicted areas next week. Accompanying him will be a band of close friends, each of whom are well-connected enough to ensure the availability of helicopters, armed escorts and tonnes of aid (for the victims) during the trip. Meeting various influential people in Dubai, including the Ambassador of Pakistan, my father has discussed precisely what the main aim of the trip should be and has decided today that they will be distributing 3 main items wherever they go: a large waterproof tent, a bundle of medicines, and an envelope of sufficient cash. This will be given out to each family that the group will come across, and the sum total has been rounded up to about 400 tents and over a hundred thousand dirhams overall.
I am extremely proud to be my father’s daughter, because he is a man with strong beliefs which compel him to action when necessary. Despite of the fact that it is Ramadan and he is a Diabetic, despite the fact that the terrain he will cross will be entirely unfamiliar and definitely dangerous, despite the fact that there is no certainty in what might or might not happen on this trip, my father is determined to do this. He, like many others, cannot sit patiently while dozens of foreign countries pledge their support for Pakistan and promise to send millions of dollars, most of which will never even reach the actual victims of the floods. Like many other hardened Pakistanis, my father has realised that the only true way to help someone is to do it yourself, rather than relying on external agencies. I want, more than anything, to accompany him but realistically, it does not seem possible. I may be an adult now with ideas and opinions of my own, most of which take my father my surprise, but ultimately, I am still his youngest daughter, whom he is extremely protective of.
Nonetheless, I am determined, just as he is, to not just sit back and watch as my whole country collapses. More than before, I believe NOW is teh time to help because it is only immediate aid and relief that actually reaches its true destination; any prolonged efforstat rebuilding and reconstruction often become compromised as those who oversee it succumb to the temptation of pocketing the money. In addition, not only is it important to help simply because the people of Pakistan need it, it’s vital to do so even in political terms. When the floods first started, the President of the country was tucked away at a palatial estate in London, not bothered enough by the state of his country and its citizens to cut his diplomatic trip short. The top honchos of the state, too, behaved much of the same way, except they were actually within the country. The catastrophe was not addressed at a national level immediately as it should have been, and even now, there is scepticism and doubt whether what the leaders of Pakistan promise to do will ever happen. In fact, hearing about the large sums of money that will soon come rolling in from other countries actually fills many people with dread because having leaders who embezzle has become all too typical for Pakistan; then again, with a man who’s more popularly referred to as ‘Mr 10%’ and has shoes thrown at him in public, what else can people really expect?
At sucha time when so many people are vulnerable and desperate for any sort of help, it is extremely easy for anyone with even a little bit of power to gain influence, and I am referring here to militant groups such as the Taliban. The fact that Pakistan’s actual ‘elected’ leaders have done nothing just makes it easier for its people to lose even the ounce of faith they had in the political system and turn to whatever can give them refuge. When you are stranded in 5 feet of water with a family, you don’t think of your morals or your ideals, what you think of is how to keep your baby from drowning, how to save your daughter or your wife from being raped and how to stay immune from diseases and have just a few morsels to eat; if this requires letting your son become a recruit for a militant agency, you won’t have such deep qualms about it if they actually promise to keep you safe and well-fed.
It is obvious that Pakistan is a country that is in dire need of help. I am not going to phrase together pleas or requests, because that has already been done repeatedly; moreover, anyone who’s seen even a single picture or video clip on the news about the extensive and endless damage and despair caused by the floods will be uncomfortably aware of Pakistan’s predicament. It needs help, it’s people need help, and yes, even its leaders need psychological help. Everyone should do their bit, whether its by donating necessary items, spreading the word, collecting funds or actually going to the affected areas to distribute medicine. At such a time, not a single person should be sitting idle. Not this time.