Forgotten in Japan: Thousands of Pakistanis that no one is reporting about
My father was in Japan. I had no idea if he was safe. The Embassy was vague and channels were busy with talk shows.
The newscaster’s voice was audible even before I entered the house after attending my morning classes.
"Earthquake in Japan"
"Magnitude of 8.9 on the Richter scale"
"Waves wash away the infrastructure of Sendai"
"Tsunami warning issued to other nations in the Pacific basin"
As I ran inside, the images and videos on TV showed one of the biggest calamities to hit the earth.
However for me, unlike most Pakistanis, the news wasn't easy to forget. It took a while to sink in.
My father was there.
"Is he safe?"
I grabbed the remote and switched the channel over to BBC and saw footage of the destruction of one of the most peaceful nations of the world. The lives of 10,000 Pakistanis present in Japan were in danger.
As the extent of the damage became clear, I could do little but watch footage of a deadly tsunami wash away house after house of the Japanese country side.
But what about my Dad? I tried calling, texting and emaling. No response.
In a desperate need to know more I turned to local channels.
Was the government planning a "search" program to help people find their loved ones?
Was it trying to show the plight of the families with Pakistani relatives in Japan?
Why did our news channels not report the collapse of communication circles in the earthquake hit regions?
Here are some answers:
Our media was broadcasting the the antics of the politicians at the Punjab Assembly.
1. It was fueling the recent "lotacracy" debate.
2. It was showing two-headed turtles in some nameless zoo in Slovakia.
3. It was showing discussions on the England versus Bangladesh match.
4. It was giving decent airtime to everything but except the Pakistanis who were stuck in Japan. People whose families were desperate to hear from them.
Thanks for nothing Pakistan Embassy
Today, you may ask what I’m harping about since Pakistani channels are discussing Japan. But my problem is that they are still not paying any attention to Pakistani people stranded there.
There was a statement from the Pakistan Embassy in Japan claiming all immigrants and Pakistanis were "khairyat se" (safe and sound), but only God knows how much truth there is in that.
Luckily, my father is okay. He is now on his way home. The embassy had not contacted my father, who is a businessman in Tokyo, in fact, my father himself called up to say that he survived the quake, and that the situation wasn’t as bad in Tokyo as it was in Sendai.
The media has the potential to reach out to millions and yet it remains petty unable to capture the true essence of situations. No one cares about piles of rubble, we care if our family members and country men are safe.
Google had launched its Person Finder Program. Through this, regular updates were being given and contact was being re-established with victims of the disaster with their friends and family.
It was not just for the Japanese, but for everyone worldwide. And it was free.
Why couldn't we come up with something even remotely helpful?