Forcing us to look inward

There is an impression that international donors are stingy because of the gov'ts lack of credibility. I disagree.


Ayesha Ijaz Khan August 19, 2010

Our opposition parties, in particular, and sections of our press, more generally, have tried to give the impression that international donors are stingy with Pakistan because of the government’s lack of credibility. I disagree and suggest that those arguing this position should read some of the comments to articles in the foreign press urging donors to aid Pakistan in its time of need. Even progressive publications like The Guardian and MSNBC’s site have plenty of comments suggesting that Pakistanis are terrorists so who cares if they drown.

It is this association with the Taliban’s image that has hurt Pakistan far more than the government’s credibility, for Pakistan is not the only developing country with corrupt leadership. There are ways around that if international donors are serious about helping out.  There is no compulsion of going through government channels. Aid can be sent directly to trusted Pakistani charities. Moreover, internationally-known NGOs, such as Oxfam or Medecins Sans Frontieres, working to collect funds for Pakistan’s flood victims are way behind in their targets. There should be no credibility issue here as these groups have excellent track records. It is simply that Pakistan has suffered from such bad press in connection to terrorism in recent years that the few opinion-makers and journalists who are writing about the need to help innocent Pakistanis are simply not being heeded.

On the other hand, some charities that have managed to collect sizeable funds are those that evoke feelings of sympathy among fellow Muslims, names like Islamic Relief. Saudi Arabia’s private telethon collected $110 million, which must be lauded as the largest private contribution from any country yet. However, other oil-rich Gulf countries, such as the UAE or Qatar, have given virtually nothing, while Kuwait has only offered about $5 million, which incidentally, is the same amount that India has offered. As a comparison, Kuwait gave $500 million when Hurricane Katrina struck, while Qatar gave $100 million.

This is however no time for holding on to ego. Pakistan must accept funds, no matter where they come from. Otherwise we would be wronging our own people. This is no time for attitude towards old enemies or sifting through agendas (whether right-wing or left-wing) of potential donors. The immediate need is to feed, provide shelter for and curb the spread of disease among the hundreds of thousands that have lost everything. The threat of recruitment by extremist forces among those displaced is also perhaps misplaced. In the immediate aftermath of this catastrophe, most flood victims are simply too concerned about the very basics of life to think about ideology. They may riot for lack of basic amenities but it is unlikely they will be lured into fundamentalism at this stage.

Later, when we are in a position to reconstruct, coordination will be the greatest challenge. The lacklustre response by the international community may present only one silver lining:  it will force us to look inward and tap indigenous resources. Haiti was promised much more than Pakistan by the world but very little of it actually materialised. Since we are not promised much to begin with, we need to look actively at Pakistani sources. This includes not just wealthy Pakistanis in the country but also those abroad who are willing to help, including those who may be dual or triple nationals, but see themselves primarily as Pakistani. The government needs to bolster its role as facilitator and help channelise these resources. Without involving itself in fund collection, it needs to nevertheless help identify those who can contribute large sums of money and encourage them to pick NGOs of their choice to work with. The media can help cover these efforts to maintain transparency.

Pakistani embassies abroad should be actively seeking out and preparing lists of large donors of Pakistani origin. There are some who can spare a million dollars each, others half a million, and perhaps many who can give a quarter of a million. These people need to be brought on board and partnered with various NGOs and government authorities to help rebuild.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2010.

COMMENTS (24)

Dr Qaisar Rashid | 11 years ago | Reply @Annop. It is interesting to find comments of the Indians at this forum. It is just General Musharraf that captivated you people. Do you know where is Edware Road, London? I used to visit that area to sip Kahva and taste Arabian dessert. Ah, Musharraf must be rueing the day he made possible March 9 (2007). Invite Musharraf to South Hall and provide him the company of Indians. Just don't plead for Musharraf, you will be making his case worse. In your argument, you are keep banking on the pre-2007 era. Kindly update yourself. You said "When the Civilian govt is in power, it has no powers!" Don't ask anyone. Ask Musharraf who was in power on March 9, 2007. He was ousted when he was in full control. The incumbent government is a legitimate and representative government -- a product of transparent elections in 2008. Kindly wipe off your fallacies. When the military reacted to the Kerry Lugar Bill, do you know much reaction from the civil society was surfaced against the military? You have no idea. The Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) was also condemned by the civil society. Nevertheless, the KLB was not opposed by the military for the reasons you mentioned. Kindly read the KLB and you will find the answer. The foreign policy of Pakistan is managed primarily by the foreign office. If the military gives its input, that is always welcome. The military does not take care of the domestic policies either. These are decided by the people of Pakistan, especially now. I tell you one thing, it is not the military, it is the people of Pakistan that do not like hegemonic deeds of the Indians. The military has to follow the inspiration and wishes of the Pakistanis only. If the people of Pakistan side with the people of Kashmir, what can the military do: they have to follow suit. In March 2009, do you know how the military followed the dictates of the people of Pakistan and facilitated restoration of the deposed judges? Now, in Pakistan, it is the will of the people that matters. Kindly keep on reading the Pakistani newspapers and you will find how the Pakistani society is evolving. Keep on visiting this site (of the Express Tribune) and exchanging comments. Now rest the case and let the writer of this article write on something else. The last word, just plan to have a cup of tea or dinner with me in Lahore.
Anoop | 11 years ago | Reply @Dr Qaisar Rashid, I think I understand where Neeraj is coming from. When the Civilian govt is in power, it has no powers! The Military takes care of the Foreign Policy. It is more hawkish when behind the background and we suffer as a result. But, when in it is in the forefront like in the times of Musharaff, it is less-hawkish and we know who to talk to and whose opinion really matters. It is no coincidence that India and Pakistan almost reached an agreement on Kashmir during the last days of Musharaff. This present set up is really bad for everyone. Civilian govt has no powers but is expected, wrongly by Paksitanis and the world to weild power and satisfy their needs. The military to maintain its primacy is hawkish on India. Look how the Military reacted to Kerry-Lugar bill, when Mumbai was attacked,etc. Dont you wonder why KLB was opposed? It challenged the primacy of the Military. It sought to deal with the Civilian govt regarding aid and made the right noises of delivering aid if Pakistan takes the right steps towards democracy, Civlian Supremacy and against all forms of Terrorists not just anti-Pakistan ones. So, India would prefer either of the 2- Military dictatorship or genuine Democracy in Pakistan. If the set up is something in between the 2 it hurts everyone- India, US and especially Pakistanis. Since, I dont think Pakistan is going to be democratic anytime soon I think Military dictatorship would suit India. Even Mullahs seem to want it. What do you see 10 years from now in Pakistan? I see the green of the Military in power. US wont care(after leaving Afghanistan), China wont care, Saudis will love it. There is a very high possibility that Military will come back to power. Infact it really is in power, but in the background. Not much will change. I ,as a fellow neighbour, am scared.
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