“Whatever you guys are doing, it’s working,” Hiba Suleman’s uncle told her. #BringBabarHome – a hashtag campaign started by Hiba and her friends to urge authorities not to give up the search for her father Babar Suleman – is causing stirs in the mainstream and social media.
Babar and his son, Haris, were flying a single engine aircraft, which crashed near Pago Pago Island on Wednesday for reasons not known yet. They were flying the world in 30 days to raise $1 million for The Citizens Foundation, a Pakistani charity that provides schools for underprivileged children. Haris’s body was recovered a few hours after the incident but US Coast Guard and federal authorities have been carrying out the search for Babar.
However, a typical survival search lasts for 72 hours, which technically was due to end on Friday. So far, there is no news as to whether the search has been called off or extended.
But Babar’s family and friends are requesting for the search to continue. “As we were waiting for any news about my father, my friends and family realised that these searches typically last for 72 hours. We then decided to start this hashtag and social media campaign to ask for anyone’s help in continuing the search – even for another few days,” Hiba told The Express Tribune. About her satisfaction with the search, she said, “I know the authorities are working very hard to look for my dad.”
But the search for Babar is a challenge. “The Pago Pago Island is more of a remote lagoon so access is difficult. It’s a four-hour flight from Honolulu, Hawaii and they can only search during the daytime,” Haris and Hiba’s cousin, Maryam, explained. “They have found debris of the wreckage some 900 feet below sea level, which shows the challenge in this search and how it should not be abandoned so soon.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen – everything is so uncertain right now. One thing I can tell you though is that all your tireless efforts have not gone unnoticed,” Hiba posted on the Facebook page of #BringBabarHome. And she’s right. American media giants NBC and Washington Post have also started using the hashtag. The hashtag has reached over two million people and it has been used over four million times.
“It is really having an impact. Even people who don’t know the family are really involved and supportive,” said Maryam.
Most importantly, Hiba’s family and friends are not just raising awareness about the problem through their campaign, but they have also provided solutions. “We have given a list of contingency plans and options for the way forward to the government and authorities concerned as we know that they need more resources. One option is to hire a private agency to take over the search,” Hiba explained.
This campaign is not just about the search, but it’s about the cause and a remembrance of this truly heartbreaking story. “They were doing something for Pakistan and we just want people to keep supporting the cause which was very close to your heart.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2014.