WASHINGTON: Pakistan reached out to the Pakistani-American community on Friday, urging them to help the rain and flood victims across the country, while community leaders asked people to “rise above party politics” during this natural calamity.

“I urge you to step forward to help communities in distress in Pakistan in this difficult hour, to relieve their suffering and meet their needs for shelter, food, healthcare and rehabilitation,” Pakistan’s US Ambassador Masood Khan said in an open letter to the community.

A statement issued by the ambassador’s office pointed out that to date, 66 districts in south Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan have been declared calamity hit. The rainfall in coming days is likely to wreak havoc in other areas as well.

Earlier on Friday, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government declared a rain emergency in several districts of the province with immediate effect after the Provincial Disaster Manage­m­ent Authority warned of “high to very high floods” in Swat River. Sindh and Balochistan are witnessing the heaviest rainfall this year since 1961, as the two provinces recorded until Thu­rsday 522 and 469 per cent more than the annual downpour, respectively.

No separate army account for flood relief donations, says ISPR

“There has been tragic loss of life and livestock as well as serious damage to the infrastructure and properties in Pakistan. Livelihoods have been disrupted; crops destroyed; and entire neighborhoods inundated. The magnitude of the calamity is too big; the losses enormous,” Ambassador Khan wrote.

He then appealed to the people to “send whatever amount you can afford to the Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2022 to help your Pakistani brothers and sisters.”

But community leaders warned that an appeal to donate to the Prime Minister’s Fund may not be very effective as an overwhelming majority in the Pakistani-American community supports Imran Khan. The leaders, however, urged the community to rise above party politics and focus on helping the flood victims.

Dr Khalid Abdullah, who heads the Washington chapter of an international organisation called Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), suggested focusing on immediate relief and on “increasing our capacity to deal with such disasters”.

“Monsoons are not new, nor are the floods. Such things have a regular pattern. By now, we should have been ready to absorb excessive water and even use it to our benefit,” he said.

The organisation he heads specialises in dealing with the effects of climate change and has won two Nobel Peace Prizes for its efforts.

Dr Talha Siddiqui, who is associated with the largest group of Pakistani physicians called APPNA, advised sending “money, tents and medicines”. He also alerted the authorities in Pakistan to prepare for the post-flood infectious diseases “that often do more damage than the flood itself”.

“Start fund-raising, send money directly to the NGOs you trust. Trust the embassy and support their efforts,” said Dr Siddiqui when asked how the community could help.

“No, this is no time for party politics,” said Johnny Bashir, who heads the Washington, Virginia chapter of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). He recalled that during the 2005 earthquake, the community in the greater Washington area sent two containers of goods to Pakistan. “And we are ready to do so again.”

Mr Bashir said he plans to hold “a meeting of all groups and factions” at Brookfield Plaza, Virginia, to “promote unity”.

Naveed Akhtar, PML-N’s chief organiser for Virginia, also emphasised the need for unity. “No party politics,” he said. “We should work as Pakistanis, putting aside politics. We should get together to see what is needed there.”

Mr Akhtar, however, recalled that during the 2005 earthquake, some people donated their old clothes, which had to be discarded. “Please do not use such occasions for getting rid of your old clothes,” he said.

Mr Akhtar too suggested working directly with NGOs in the field, but he also advised “using your friends’ relatives for directly distributing relief goods”.

“No, no, no party politics,” said Zia Hassan, a member of the Pakistani American Business Association. “We should get together. Do a fund-raising. All should be invited. It should be a community-based effort.”

‘No separate army account’

Meanwhile, the ISPR clarified that there is only one federal government account for flood relief donations, already announced by the government. “There is no separate account of Pakistan Army for flood relief donations. There are certain fake accounts being attributed to the army for flood relief donations. All such accounts are fake and public is requested to be aware of such fake appeals,” it added.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2022

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