Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said rather disappointingly in his hometown of Multan recently that 80 per cent of the flood aid would come through the NGOs and not his government and that of this the NGOs would misuse at least half. He further said that this would instead be spent on bullet-proof cars and luxury expenses, as if those who work in the NGOs were ministers.
The prime minister claimed that had aid come through the government, it would have contributed something from its own resources and would have spent all of it for relief and rehabilitation of flood survivors. The remarks against the NGOs constitute an extremely serious allegation, especially since the head of the government made it. And he did it against those who have been bailing not only him but his predecessors as well by helping the people of Pakistan be it in a flood, earthquake, the IDP crisis or drought.
The NGOs that the prime minister is referring to are in fact non-profit organisations (NPOs). They are humanitarian organisations, charity groups, and relief providers both local and international who in majority of the cases have missionary zeal and volunteerism. These are the groups who put their lives in danger, and despite repeated attacks on their staff members and offices in the recent past they have continued to serve the people of Pakistan. Unlike the so-called “people’s representatives”, their staffers don’t distance themselves from the masses, hence they don’t use bullet-proof vehicles. In their budgets they cannot charge more than 20 per cent on personnel costs and have to be mindful of delivering in a cost-effective manner. Unlike our ministers (existing and former) they don’t use these funds to pay the golf club membership of their cronies. And neither do they spend funds meant for export promotion on buying expensive cell phones. I would suggest that kitchen cabinet of the current government be sent on an immersion course, a real-life training where they should work with these organisations in providing relief during various emergency situation to get a feel of the ‘luxury lives’ that these relief providers have.
It would be good if the government leadership and its imported economic wizards were to try and understand why people have blind faith in organisations such as the Edhi Foundation, the Shaukat Khanum Trust, the Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz Foundation, and the Rural Support Programmes and so on. They should also try to figure out why international humanitarian organisations such as Oxfam, Actionaid, Muslim Hands, Islamic Relief, Mercy Corps, Church World Services, Catholic Relief and so on are able to generate and mobilise funds. All of these national and international organisations have established their credibility. They are accountable to their donors. People trust them and they provide relief without discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, colour and nationality. They work on selfless basis and don’t try to inundate others to save their properties. The irony is that many of those who work in these NGOs have played an active role for restoration of democracy and in the reinstating of the judiciary.
The prime minister should be told — preferably by the NDMA— the difference between consulting firms and non- profit organisations. He should be told that those who work for flood relief and rescue are the former and not the latter. The prime minister should apologise to the representatives of NGOs for his remarks and his government should hold a meeting to learn just how and why the NGOs were able to mobilise 80 per cent of the funds coming for flood relief.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2010.