Even as the deadliest floods in living memory rage across Pakistan - affecting more people than the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the 2006 Asian tsunami, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined - tensions between India and Pakistan can still obstruct efforts to help those in need. With over 20 million people affected - more than the population of Australia or several European nations - and about a quarter of Pakistan under water, some people still find time to play politics.
When India generously offered $5 million to Pakistan, cyberspace and media pundits exploded with negative comments. From Pakistan came comments like: "Too little too late" and "Pakistan should not accept because of the bloodbath in Kashmir". From India came: "The PM should withdraw the offer if Pakistan doesn't immediately accept it", and "India should not offer aid to Pakistan because they sponsor terrorism".
It is to the credit of both governments that they did not succumb to this pressure.
Meanwhile, Indians at home and abroad, as well as others, are increasingly stepping up on a private level to help out with flood relief efforts in Pakistan.
VillagePastels' fundraiser, California: Writer Yasmeen Fatimah originally from India, has organised a fundraising event under the banner of VillagePastels on Sunday, August 29, 2-7 pm at The First Presbyterian Church (1140 Cowper Street, Palo Alto, CA) -- the church has offered the space for free. The event is being co-sponsored by several organisations, including Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, The Citizens Foundation-USA, Our Developing World, American Muslim Voice, PakUSOnline, and SARelief (www.sarelief.com). The involvement of non-South Asian organisations, says Yasmeen, "reflects a global, multi-faith community showing solidarity and support for the people of Pakistan facing a calamity of unimaginable proportion.
"The event aims "to bring together Indians and Pakistanis for a noble cause at a time of a humanitarian disaster. This is a way to rise above animosity and prejudices and go beyond borders."
Village Pastels is a San Jose based company that aims to support livelihood efforts by low-income individuals in India, and promote handcrafted eco-friendly products. Yasmeen wants to also eventually promote handiwork by artisans from other conflict-hit regions such as Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan. "Right now, all proceeds after deducting costs will be donated to organisations in Pakistan involved in relief work as well as long term rehabilitation and community building."
Joint India-Pakistan Forum for Relief -- Aman ke Badhte Qadam update (see also 'A peace march... and joint flood relief efforts): Civil society organisations and concerned citizens of India and Pakistan who met at the culmination of a peace march in Amritsar and in Lahore on Aug 14-15 have launched a Joint India-Pakistan Forum for Relief to help the affected people of Pakistan and Leh, India. All funds collected will be spent for the victims of the disasters in Pakistan and Leh.
"We will transfer the money, medicines to the affected people with the help of High Commission for Pakistan, New Delhi and Red Cross and to credible voluntary organisations with impeccable track record in Leh," writes Mazher Hussain of the Confederation of Voluntary Organisations (COVA) in Hyderabad, Deccan, one of the leaders of the peace march.
"Cheques / Demand drafts may be drawn in favour of COVA (Confederation of Voluntary Associations) payable at Hyderabad- India."
Contact Details: COVA, 20-4-10, Charminar, Hyderabad- A.P. India- 500002. Ph: +91- 40- 24572984, Fax: 24574527, Email email@example.com.
"All Indian contributors can avail tax exemption under Section 80 G. Receipts of donations and a Report of the relief provided, along with a statement of accounts will be provided to all the contributors. Your contribution will go a long way in relief and rehabilitation of the affected people. It will also enrich friendship and peace between the two countries."
He sent this appeal on behalf of several other prominent citizens of India -- Kuldip Nayar, Mahesh Bhatt, Kamla Bhasin, Mazher Hussain, Sandeep Pandey, Jatin Desai, Feroze Mithiborewala, Varsha V.V., P.V. Rajagopal, and Syeda Gulam Fatima. Pakistani signatories include Aitzaz Ahsan, Iqbal Haider, Karamat Ali, B.M. Kutty, Mohd. Tahseen, Samina Khan, Adam Malik, Sheema Kermani, Saeeda Diep and Qamar Hayat
Indian artists donate their works: Many Indian artists, including some big names, have jumped at the idea of donating their works to be raffled off against a ticket worth a certain amount (to be determined).
"We hope to raise 20 lakhs to be divided between Leh and Pakistan, thus making it a joint project of an artists' initiative working for both India and Pakistan," says Shireen Gandhy in Mumbai, whose brainchild this is. She expects to complete the collection by the middle or end of September.
Details of the project are yet to be announced, but Shireen feels the need "to show we are ONE at the end of all this. As an artist friend said, it's so important above all that this initiative is coming from BOMBAY."
Joint fundraising in the EU: Indian radio journalist Ujjwal Bhattacharya (who unhesitatingly sent a personal donation across for flood relief in Pakistan) in Germany and Pakistani television journalist Khalid Hameed Farooqi (Geo TV correspondent) in Brussels are working on a joint fundraiser for flood relief in Pakistan.
These are just a few of the initiatives taking place around the world that involve non-Pakistanis, particularly Indians, who are saddened by the tragedy that has hit Pakistan, and who have the heart to rise above politics to help out in whatever way they can. Watch this space.
- Beena Sarwar
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw