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Proud to be a Pakistani ! - Printable Version

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- Pracs - 10-18-2005


<u><b>Pakistani-American elected Mayor in NJ</b></u>

<b>From Nadeem Manzoor Salahri</b>NEW YORK–Ali Chaudhry has sworn in as the first Pakistani-American Mayor of the town of Baskin Ridge in New Jersey State.
He has been active in local politics since 1988. Sahiwal-born left Pakistan in 1963 to study at London School of Economics and after completing his four-year course came to United States in 1967. He did his PhD in Michigan State and came to New Jersey in 1968.
He served the long distant AT&T Company for 30 years and retired in 1996. He entered politics in 1988 and was elected in the Board of Education of town Baskin Ridge in 1990. He has worked for the board of education long range projection enrollment plan. In five years, he was elected three times.
He contested the Township Council seat elections in November 2001, and despite the rise in hatred against Pakistanis after the September 11 attacks secured 59 per cent votes and won the Council seat till 2005.
The Council involves rotation amoung its winning Council members every two years and public choose five Council members to be elected as Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
He was elected Deputy Mayor for the year 2003, and selected Mayor for 2004. He relinquished his Deputy Mayor charge on December 31, 2003.

©The Nation Group of Publications Pvt Limited

"Allah does not change the state of people unless they change what is within themselves" Quran 1311

- Pracs - 10-18-2005

<u><b>We’re proud of you</b></u>
<b>By Dr Sumaira Z. Khan</b>
From the ruins and rubble left behind by the devastating Oct 8 earthquake has arisen a new spirit of fellow-feeling among fellow Pakistanis that the nation can be justly proud of. While the international community has rallied to the support of the quake victims with considerable aid, and the Pakistan Army kicked off the rescue and relief operations, it is the average Pakistanis’ response to the catastrophe that stands out as a heart-warming example of solidarity and self-help. Even before the true scale of the disaster was known, people from all walks of life had sprung into action, donating, mobilizing, volunteering and caring. They have offered the military men their hand to utilize them in the efforts to save lives and rebuild their houses.
On the forefront, of course, is the military that has deputed two more divisions in addition to already working around 10 thousands jawans. Around 3.3 million people spread over an area of 20,000 square km were worst affected by October 8 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks, said Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Shaukat Sultan. Briefing media persons on the relief and rescue operations being carried out in the quake devastated areas, he said, around 50,000 troops besides a large number of volunteers are engaged in the relief and rescue operations.
“We are trying to reach every place which is worst hit during the quake.” So far 25,000 deaths have been confirmed and the toll could increase further. There are 51,000 injured in the quake. Giving the breakup of the total affectees, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said, around 1.3 million people were affected in NWFP while two million in Azad Jammau and Kashmir. The towns and adjoining areas which have been badly affected included, Mansehra, Balakot, Batagram, Shinkiyari, Garhi Habibullah, in NWFP. The worst hit among these is Balakot. The cities of Azad Jammu and Kashmir are Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Rawalakot, Batika, Garhi Dopatta, Hattian, Chakkar, Harcha, and Harigate. He said so far 430 deaths of soldiers of Pakistan Army have been confirmed while over 700 were injured.
The relief and rescue efforts are in the full swing as Chaklala Airbase has been declared the focal point of rescue and relief activity. Army’s rescue teams are going beyond the towns and cities in order to reach the areas where no one had been able to go earlier.
Around 27 tonnes of ration, 15 tonnes of medicine, 9.9 tonnes of water, 9,270 blankets and 937 tents have been transported through helicopters to the affected areas. As far as by road transportation of relief goods is concerned so far 88 tonnes of ration, 5 tonnes of medicine, 14 tonnes water, 10223 blankets and 2919 tents have been supplied in the quake hit parts.
The choppers of Pakistan Army Aviation had immediately moved to Muzaffarabad on Saturday - the day of quake. “The choppers had left for Muzaffarabad within 20 minutes of the quake for relief and rescue,” Maj Gen. Shaukat Sultan told media men. Twelve helicopters flew for 48 hours and rescued 595 injured from Muzaffarabad.
The next day, 26 helicopters undertook 138 hours’ collective flights and carried 6.5 tonnes of relief goods and evacuated 165 injured. On the third day of quake, 30 helicopters took part in the operation and undertook 133 hours flight. They carried 6 tonnes of relief goods while rescued 480 injured. On the fourth day seven US choppers joined the fleet of existing 30 choppers and these undertook 65 hours flight and transported 27 tonnes of relief goods and rescued 497 injured. This was despite the bad weather hampered the relief efforts. On the fifth day, 45 choppers were taking part in the operation as the fleet has been enhanced after the joining of choppers from Germany and Afghanistan.
More choppers from the US are likely to join the existing fleet very soon to augment the relief and rescue operation. Media was told that 165 trucks and 20 buses had been requisitioned from the private sector to gear up the transportation of the relief goods to the affected areas.
Amidst the communication infrastructure totally wiped out, the credit goes to the mobile phone companies which played a pivotal role in advising the rescuers, aid workers where to converge and what to give - all in the form of simple text messages that guided people to various aid collection points. But most of all the credit goes to Pakistan Army’s Special Communication Organization (SCO), which offered a three-minute call free of cost to everyone at the quake-hit areas from Mansehra to Azad Kashmir, and connected the people to their near and dear ones across the country. The SCO is still working, besides the army jawans have succeeded in restoring telephone lines at a number of places.
One thing however was observed that the rescue and relief efforts were not coordinated. Without any doubt there are tens of organizations, including NGOs, local volunteers and political parties, but they are performing their duties individually and not collectively. This is creating administrative problems.
The chief coordinator of UK-based Islamic Relief NGO, Malik Jamil Ahmad Awan, who is involved in major relief effort in Muzaffarabad along with other organizations, suggested that so far the public response has been unprecedented but it needs to come under one administrative setup. He pointed out that the individual efforts would cause wastage of time, money, aid and relief or rescue efforts.
He noted that a number of aid agencies supplied food and relief items in bulk to some individuals and had the efforts been coordinated, such lapses should not have occurred because there could be many left to receive aid. He suggested that other than NGOs, private organizations and political parties should submit their relief goods and donations to the army high command at their base camps for further distribution under the military.
Two divisions of Pakistan Army, one each in Azad Kashmir and Mansehra, have been deployed to accelerate the pace of rescue and relief activities in the quake hit areas. Pakistan Army is undoubtedly do a great job in this hour of trial and tribulation. It’s not only engaged in rescue and relief operations, but is also working day and night to rebuild the infrastructure in the affected areas that has been destroyed due to the earthquake. The PAF has also scrambled to the national duty of delivering relief goods to the affected people to transport the injured to the hospitals for treatment. The armed forces of Pakistan, in fact deserve nation’s gratitude for responding to the call of the time at its difficult times.
While eulogizing efforts of Pakistan Army, volunteers, Opposition and non-governmental organization, I would like to urge upon the political leaders not to exploit the situation for their self interests. One has seen a heart-warming display of unity and spirit of sacrifice in the wake of the quake and the mass misery in the north. But the opposition now seems to be resuming its role as opposition as is evident from the speeches in the National Assembly. All what is going on is basically a humanitarian effort meant to save lives and lessen misery. The greater task is the rehabilitation of the homeless. Please put up army-bashing for some other time.
By the way the nation has got united. The spirit of 1965 war has returned. The same spirit was demonstrated at the time of Ojhri Camp blast in 1988. It means the nation’s passion for the country is there. They have only been fed up of political bickering. Let’s not play politics. Let’s do the right job. And why return to same bickering after tackling the earthquake tragedy. Why not learn lessons? God may not be going to forgive us for another time.

- Goodman - 10-18-2005

its the time of national emergency and there are burning questions being asked by western media and informed people within the country. I really dont want to say things that might be hurtful and painful. But nobody is to be praised incl. the army and the general except Allah. Crucial questions need answering. Lets wait.. before we run fast and fly high. lets do the crawling and taxing first

- Pracs - 10-18-2005

A lot of questions do need to be asked, but a lot of patting needs to be done too, to those ordinary people - the Pakistanis who are making a difference. No body here in their right mind would draw parallels between the General and Allah. Ofcourse all praises are for ALLAH.

- Goodman - 10-18-2005

I think most of the post is positioned to do the patting bit for the army. such a ....

- Pracs - 10-19-2005

Agreed on that, but what the post also shows is the will of the Pakistani people, don't get me wrong here I am not exactly a great fan of any dictator be it Army or other wise, nor do I endorse Khakis & Boots usurping power throught the back door and all that. Having said that Army or the armed forces is the only institution in this country that can amount to some thing, given their corruption on higher level and the BIG Brother role that they play in Pakistani politics and Economy.

I think I know what you are coming at, but perhaps we can in some way incolculate this Frankenstien into letting the others run the house. We definatley cannot put it to axe. Well that's another topic all together.


- Goodman - 10-21-2005

Pracs, I must say you can play wonders in the field of politics. Very good post. I love my country's army like you do, they are the best trained people on the face of the earth. But unfortunately, they are not trained in politics. They are good management but that's all they are - political decision making starts where managerial decision making ends.

If I could quote something from history.... When Huzrat Usman was killed and Hazrat Ali took charge. Two of the most suspected people were named for his murder. The management decision making necessitated the probe and justice, but instead Hazrat Ali made both persons the Governors of far flung areas and sent them away from centre. People screamed mad, they said both persons have possible blood at their hands and you are sending them as respectable governors, Hazrat Ali said well I have made a political decision and you are making a managerial decision. Pls. note its a precis and not the full length version of events.

Similarly, I think our army is best at management of their area, but not a political power to be reckoned in the country. Ask them if they know of any advantage of a democracy in any society and please add to my knowledge if they come up with a single valid argument.

This time we are dealing with kashmir, not with punjab or sind or East pakistan. So far management of the relief operations has been good but lets wait and see if the polical process ensue the same thrust.

- Pracs - 10-21-2005

Well I dont see myself as a politican at all, just a concerned citizen. The problem with Pakistan has been that we have let the Army in charge for too long. Unlike countries with Army struggles like Turkey and France (where the role of the Army was taken to be granted as a political entity), the army in Pakistan came from behind and took over et al the personal ambitions of Field Marshall Ayub Khan. You are right about the Management and Politics thing.

With Kashmir mainly in question, I reckon we do need quite a lot of management for now,,. yeah the politics of it will come on later and we will have to see how the Army (I dont expect the King's Party to play any role in that too)handles that ! That is the only reason I support the Army at this stage, not because I am an anti democracy thing. I believe in Democracy from the core of my heart, becuase if it wan'nt for one man vote, we would never have had Paksitan.

People stay passive and thereby support the Army because in the guise of politicans we have theives (chor and lotarae) and in the guise of Army we have thugs. And you very well know how people in our society look up to Thugs (since the days of JAGGA), in thugs people know what they have to part with (Jagga tax) you know your life and assets are now save. With theives you know nothing when they'll strike and if ever you'll come out alive of it. Paksitanis are just paying out Jagga tax for that piece of mind.

Just for the sake of argument, I see the only way out is for General Musharaf to enter main stream Politics after 2007 (after which I am sure he will have to resign). This has happened the World over with some level of success, Turkey and France just two examples.

- Goodman - 10-21-2005

you rightly mentioned France and Turkey. I think Turkey is nearer to our society as against France, lets talk about them a bit. Turkey's military role is defined in the constitution and chief of staff automatically leads the country. But they still remain within their constitutional role. Our military has no such role defined in the constitution and when they overthrow the very constitution that guarantees their own existence in terms of annual budget and protector of our national security, it becomes absurd. They throw out the very constitution which is the basis of their own existence. They talk about Turkey, they say well in Turkey mili. chief is head of state so why cant we have the same. When you look at Turkish army they are different to ours. They never ever step back from the front. They either die or fight, no surrender. Compare it with our two and a half wars and you will see the difference. Then if they have respect in the society one could understand. Today I think our military is the biggest business group in the country. They have bank, cement, fertilizers, housing societies and God knows what. We give them the money to spend on national security not that they start a business. They have their own audit depts. who never ever found a substantial wrongdoing in the whole of military. I think they are all angles.

Even if the General enters mainstream politics in 2007, what will we make of the army of generals put in charge of all major depts. of the country. We pay them so they are prepared to protect national security not to colonise our own country.

Finally I am very proud of my country but these things let me down.

- Pracs - 10-22-2005

I wouldn't dispute any of your claims on Turkey or the PA, unfortunatley PA is the only institution in the coutry that has some sort of semblance and discipline and professionalism, I compare them with the Civil services, democratic traditions, businesses. Well Journalism and Press have stepped up over the last few years but has to still go a long way.

As far as the wars are concerned and giving up is concerned, I will not blame the Army for that but the political head at each of the time (whether Civilian or Military).

Let's start with 1948 (when we agreed to the ceasefire despite the fact that another fortnight and the Indian Army would have marooned in the Kashmiri Winter- guilty Liaqut Ali Khan, or was he just naive thinking the UN could really help, as a student of history I see it his weak position within the Party and Government).

1965, technically its said that we started the war by crossing the line of control (however, I think since we never considered it as a border, we did nothing wrong). The only blunder on part of Ayub was going in too early,. the Kahsmiris were not ready in 65 to mount an insurgency, Ayub was just 15 years ahead of his time,. or perhaps it was his dream of becoming another Qasim or Ghaznavi! We didn't actually loose any thing on the techincal side, Ayub used the war in itself as a rallying point for the masses and lifted the spirit of the Army (who were not sure how they would play to an adversary thrice their size). As a result of the War the Army got to modernise its weaponary. So I'd say 65 was a no win no loose for either side. It was AYUB Who agreed to the ceasefire (Head of govt. not the Pakistan Army) ofcourse he had to pay the price by handing over his Government to another General.

1971,. again a military dictator called the shots in cahoots with Zulfikar Bhutto and other Landed gentry of West Pakistan and got themselves in the quagmire of the Fall of Dhaka ! I guess there is no question here about who called the shots. We lost more than a province in 1971 we lost most of Pakistan! who to blame ? not the army, the President of Pakistan, the leader of the opposition party in Minority and the Civil services - Land lord nexus.

1999 - Kargil, we are not sure who started what ? but we do know it was a civillian head os state who signed on the dotted line during his break fast in Washington !

So its not about the Army in its professional out fit, but the people who have been on top and made decisions becuase they knew they would never be brought to task, never brought to justice.

I feel the Turkey model is the most suited for us, it will atleast keep the Generals away and who better to put it together than one of their own. You must appreciate the fact that until the 8th ammendment the Army dare not remove a civilian government !

- Goodman - 10-22-2005

I think its about time that we conclude.

I note that you consider the failure of top brass and politican as being the main reason of shortcomings in the three wars. To some extent you still defend the role of army.

I go a step further
since 1958 army never allowed the civiian govt. to function so the failures on part of politician were orchestrated. i hope you remember the Hussain shaheed suharwadi's case by ayub govt.

so we agree to disagree. but atleast things are bit more tranparent on this forum.

- Pracs - 10-22-2005

Well, things ought to be transparent on the forum, I guess we have both made our points. I just feel that the whole of Army should'nt be grilled for the doings of the top brass. After all in the Army, you do follow orders and full stop. A majority of the middle level commissioned officers feel differently about their role in running the country.

I guess the topic is closed (about the Army)

- Pracs - 10-24-2005

<u><b>Spirit of ’65 & the parallels with today</b></u>

<b>By Ayaz Amir</b>
I GOT the headline of my piece last week seriously wrong. Instead of “Not quite our finest hour” as I had written, it should have been “Nation’s finest hour, alas not the government’s”. But I didn’t and for this I’ve received my share of kicks. That’s as it should be you do something wrong and you are punished for it.

There is a strong case for “retiring criticism” — as my cyber pal from afar, Bill Selman from Tulsa, Oklahoma — passionately suggests. There is a time for doing and a time for indulging in the blame or criticism game. This is a time for doing. And the Pakistani nation, as we all know, has risen magnificently to the occasion and helped with the relief effort. In fact private individuals were the first to be in the disaster-hit areas even as it was taking time for government and army to get out of their collective trance.

But if things are kept in perspective, the sharp media criticism that came the government’s way initially did its share of good. Far from dampening national morale, it proved a spur to action. The television pictures sent an electric shock throughout the country and Pakistanis — in their thousands, their millions — were quick to respond.

Bear in mind, please, that people out in the cold on the stricken mountainsides are not waiting breathlessly for what guys like me write. Media or rather press chattering is an exercise for the political or the newspaper-reading class which in this country of around 150 million does not exceed a million or, stretching it generously, a million and a half people.

This relatively minuscule class in an over-populated country should have stronger nerves than to feel that the national sense of compassion is somehow dishonoured or challenged if in a crisis official shortcomings are pointed out. Of course instead of sitting in our armchairs, we should all do more. But this shouldn’t mean the press abdicating its function of looking at things with a censorious, even jaundiced, eye.

Maulana Abdus Sattar Edhi does charity and he does it better than anyone else (I wish we had the sense to make him chief relief commissioner). The Jamaat-i-Islami’s relief arm, Al Khidmat, has distinguished itself in this disaster. Imran Khan does charity, so do many other people. As this greatest of testing times has amply demonstrated, there is no shortage of good Samaritans in Pakistan. In fact the best Samaritans have been the thousands upon thousands of everyday people who, mistrustful of governmental efficiency, set off on their own, with whatever they could gather, to the stricken areas.

The press should promote good causes. Of heroes and heroines it should sing. Those doing a good job of relief should have their efforts applauded. But it is equally true the press can’t deliver charity as well, say, as Edhi. To each his own. At its best, the job of the media is to report and analyze, thereby hopefully providing some compass for action.

This task need not nullify compassion. In fact, the two can march hand in hand. And please remember, merely verbal compassion, at which we journalists are rather good, does not reach cold-hit and wind-swept mountainsides.

Another thing to remember, painful though it is just as there is ‘donor fatigue’, there is also ‘compassion fatigue’. There are so many people who have made one trip to the disaster areas, somewhat fewer who have been there twice and, I suspect, fewer still who would have gone there a third time. This is not an observation on the human race, it is just human nature our inability to remain coiled in a state of tension or high endeavour for long periods of time.

This is where the spirit of ‘65 when Pakistan was at war with India and the entire nation rallied to the cause of national defence becomes relevant. The parallel between now and then is striking not only for what it says but for what it leaves unsaid. How long did that spirit last? The war itself was a 17-day affair. And as soon as it was over the people of Pakistan woke up to the reality that the nation hadn’t won the signal victory which Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s propaganda machine — led ably by his information secretary, Altaf Gauhar — had led it to believe.

It didn’t take long for euphoria to turn into disillusionment. The Tashkent agreement was no sellout — it merely reflected the no-win no-lose situation on the battlefield — but a nation fed on false expectations considered it a sellout, a feeling which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who soon fell out with his mentor, Ayub Khan, did his best to inflame.

The quake is a natural disaster, not a man-made battlefield. But the central problem remains the same how to keep the fires of national enthusiasm burning. Already, and this in just a matter of days, the destruction wrought by the quake has receded from BBC and CNN headlines. There are other stories to cover. But we for our part don’t have the luxury of disengagement. We have to live with the effects of this disaster for years to come. So, while writing soppy editorials and columns is useful, the more important thing is to ensure that the feeling of common nationhood aroused by this disaster doesn’t prove as short-lived as the spirit of ‘65.

This requires leadership and steps stirring enough to catch the popular imagination. A tent village near the Khan Research Laboratories, where we nourish some of our nuclear secrets, has been ruled out on security grounds. Understandable but then how about turning the vast acres of the Defence Housing Authority, starting from Rawalpindi and going all the way to Rewat, into a temporary housing colony for displaced Kashmiris and Hazarawals?

It is getting cold up there and there are not enough tents to go around. Well, if there are problems getting relief up the mountains, the mountains can come down to the plains. The country opened its arms to refugees from India in 1947 and to Afghans after the Soviet invasion. The Kashmiris are our brethren. We owe no less to them. Defence Housing Authority in Islamabad turned into a Kashmir village the spirit which led to the birth of Pakistan aroused all over again.

Our purported lawmakers — purported because real lawmaking is done somewhere else — can make an easy sacrifice by vacating the parliamentary lodges and turning them into temporary homes for children who have lost their parents.

The presidency is an empty place because the president prefers the security of Army House in Rawalpindi. Why not turn it, temporarily, into a rehabilitation home for the injured? Just these three steps and see the spirit of the nation touching the skies.

There must be an immediate ban on useless construction throughout the country, to begin with in Islamabad where a lot of money is spent on useless embellishments. There is a highway planned, work on which is soon set to start, between somewhere near Army House and the airport, to facilitate presidential travelling to and fro. Shouldn’t this idea be scrapped immediately and the money so saved (if memory serves, in excess of Rs 70 crore) diverted to Kashmir relief?

In this gravest of emergencies we also need to ask ourselves whether we need to spend about three billion dollars on F-16s. Do we need them? A retired colonel of the US air force who had served in Pakistan back in the sixties wrote to me recently saying “ need F-16s like you need a hole through your collective head”. It would be an act of sanity if this idea was given up and the saved money put at the service of the children of Kashmir and Hazara.

In the midst of this disaster nothing more, stands fully revealed than the futility of the Kashmir dispute. Let us stick to our theoretical positions whatever they are, but for heaven’s sake let us turn the Line of Control into a soft border and let’s get our troops out of Siachen. Why is India dragging its feet over this last issue?

Turning grief into strength is a wonderful sound bite but it is easier said than done. The people have shown their mettle. It is now for the leadership to ensure that this moment is not lost and the history of ‘65 not repeated.


- Pracs - 11-01-2005

<u><b>The best and the worst

<b>By Ayaz Amir</b>

GO see for yourselves, as I have done this past week, and you would repeat Dickens’s opening salvo in A Tale of Two Cities it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Only in our case it has been a tale of two countries the native half of Pakistan at its best, the instruments of Pakistani governance at their worst. The dichotomy couldn’t be starker nor the lines of this divide more clearly drawn across the very soul of Pakistan.

Pakistanis in the mass never had much faith or trust in their governments before. But whatever was left of this feeling lies buried with the other debris of this earthquake.

Why are Pakistanis in their thousands willing to travel all the way to Balakot or Muzaffarabad to deliver relief goods but reluctant to hand over anything to any government agency? Why are they willing to give to such organizations as Jamaat-ut-Dawaah, the Jamaat-i-Islami’s Al-Khidmat or the Edhi Foundation but not to the President’s Relief Fund? Because of this profound distrust which has only deepened after seeing the government’s response to this crisis.

From Hazara to Azad Kashmir voices arising from the deepest recesses of the heart will tell you how grateful they are to the people of Pakistan who came unbidden in their hour of need. I heard this in Balakot amidst the ruins and I heard this in Muzaffarabad. But as God is my witness in all this wide arc of disaster not one word, not a single one, did I hear in praise of the government or the army.

Having been in uniform myself, I say this with a heavy heart. Why have things come to this? In 1971 wherever we went people greeted us, waved at us, gave us food and offered help. Helping the army was considered a privilege and even when Dhaka fell and our eastern command laid down its arms, they didn’t blame us soldiers, they said we had been stabbed in the back. People held Yahya Khan and his coterie (and their serious tippling) responsible for the debacle, not the army as a whole. It all seems so long ago.

That the government was slow to respond is by now generally accepted. But that’s in the past and there’s no use crying over it. What is alarming, and quite difficult to understand is the government’s continuing failure to treat this disaster on a war footing. It is bigger, far bigger than the ‘65 war, bigger than 1971. But you wouldn’t guess this from the designer suits or relaxed countenances of Pakistani officialdom.

Balakot and Muzaffarabad may be overflowing with relief goods but much of it is not reaching the mountains which still remain cut off. The road from Balakot to Naran has yet to be opened and it’s not easy given the nature of the terrain. The road from Muzaffarabad to Ath Maqam (close to the Line of Control) has been cleared by army engineers for about 10 or 12 kilometres. The rest of it is still closed. Some trucks (including those of the UN’s World Food Programme) are carrying food as far as they can. For the rest, villagers have to trek across the mountains.

I asked some of the villagers carrying a single bag of flour on their shoulders how long it would take them to reach their villages. One said eight hours, another 16 hours. In Kashmir distance is measured not by kilometres but by the time it takes to reach your destination. Helicopters are the only alternative but there are not enough of them around. You see them flying to and fro but this is far from the Berlin airlift that this disaster actually requires. Our American friends for their part have still not been able to match action to words. They were the ones who could have given us the most helicopters but for some reason — no doubt associated with the ongoing mess of ‘the war on terror’ — have chosen not to.

Just in the past few days USAid and the Pakistan government have signed an agreement worth eight million dollars for the ‘capacity-enhancing’ of the national and provincial assemblies. We may need more helicopters but the US embassy has still has its heart set on some of its cherished priorities. Bemusing but there it is.

This crisis has demonstrated that the Punjab government is in a class of its own. Talking of which is there no way known to man to curb the publicity craze of its chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi? Not a day goes by without his public relations guys, surely the most successful PR outfit in the country, writing creative fiction for his greater glory.

When the earthquake struck he was in London and his concern for the victims was so great that instead of returning immediately to Pakistan, as lesser mortals might have done, he flew off straight to Washington where he stayed for a series of medical tests and a round of iftar dinners, his tour lasting 12 days, this when thousands and thousands were trapped in rubble or debris. If there was any higher justice in Pakistan he would be served with a gagging order.

Much the same is true of the rest of the civilian government. Anything by the name of government is not to be seen in the quake-hit areas. But newspapers are full of the exploits of Shaukat Aziz and his army of cabinet ministers. Seen against the backdrop of what has actually happened, this craze for publicity looks positively obscene. If these ministers are up to no good, they can at least spare the nation their antics.

But the question is if anything by the name of organized government is not visible in the disaster zone, what is? Well, we have received prompt help from abroad and this can be seen with the naked eye Saudi help, UAE military hospital, Qatar military hospital, field hospital from Iran, countless western NGOs, Helping Hands from the UK very active, WFP as I’ve already said, the French seen here and there, the US delivering supplies at Chaklala and, from what I hear, being amongst the most efficient in unloading the planes — the Americans coming equipped with their own forklifts and having enough soldiers not to need any help from the Pakistan authorities — tented villages from Turkey (brave, generous Turkey), the Chinese, doctors from Taiwan, doctors from Indonesia, a large medical contingent from Cuba, some world-class surgeons from Russia (at the Children’s Hospital in Islamabad I was told that the Russians were just marvellous — they arrived at the airport at four in the morning and insisted that they be taken straight to the operation theatre, working with so much commitment and singlemindedness that they seemed scarcely made of flesh and blood) and so many other countries that it’s hard to list all of them. To understand the full scope of this assistance, you have to see it with your own eyes.

And then the Pakistani nation which in the midst of this crisis seems to have rediscovered itself. Knowing the myriad rivers of corruption which run through everyday life in Pakistan, you wouldn’t have considered this possible but it has happened and it is unbelievable, a tide of assistance channelled to Balakot and Muzaffarabad by a river of people acting on blind impulse.

Much of this assistance was disorganized and chaotic but that perhaps is what was needed in those first few days when people in the stricken areas were just sitting out in the open, grateful for whatever they got. But now the relief effort is more organized. And guess who is in the forefront of this organizing? Islamist organizations such as Jamaat-ut-Daawah (the latest incarnation of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed’s famous Lashkar-i-Taiba), Al-Khidmat of course, Al Badr, Al Rasheed Trust, Al Mustafa Trust and the MQM. At the Muzaffarabad Press Club, its building all fallen, the highest praise was reserved for Jamaat-ut-Dawaah and the MQM.

Indeed the MQM’s relief camp, which is the base camp for its relief operations in Azad Kashmir, is set up just in front of the Press Club. I saw it and was moved by the way they were handling the relief effort, their volunteers going to the outlying areas, there giving chits to those in need, and, on the basis of those chits, handing out relief goods. There was a huge stock of medicines and food inside while doctors were attending to the sick. I was told that trucks carrying relief supplies were coming from Karachi every day. For the first time in my life (and I hope it is the last) I felt like saying, “Jiye Altaf”.

The Jamaat-ut-Dawaah’s camp to the north of the city, on a piece of sloping ground by the River Neelum, is a picture of precision and organization. Tents for the injured, about 40 tents for displaced persons, a mobile surgical unit in which when I arrived a team of Indonesian doctors was performing surgery, a mountain of relief goods, and again a very methodical system of relief distribution. Inside one of the tents was 9-year-old Akbar Jahan from village Padgam who had been rescued after lying trapped in a mudslide for 15 days. Withered and thin as a reed, she was complaining of pain in one of her arms, but was otherwise all right. Who says miracles don’t happen?

Dawaah volunteers were going to inaccessible areas and there assessing relief needs. Again on the basis of the chits they issued, the recipients could collect relief from the base camp. When I was out on the road to Ath Maqam and asked my vehicle to turn around because I found the precipice falling sharply to the Neelum River a bit too scary, I saw a band of young men in the distance marching briskly in our direction. With good walking boots on and carrying sleeping bags, they looked very tough and kept almost racing up the slope even as I asked them which organization they were from. “Jamaat-ut-Dawaah,” came the muffled answer. So they hadn’t been bluffing when they told me their boys went up into the mountains. I don’t much care for Hafiz Saeed’s theology, much too stark and cut-and-dried for my taste. But by God his boys are impressive.

Next to the Al Khidmat camp, again by the banks of the swift-flowing Neelum, I chanced upon another discovery, a very well-laid-out relief camp, guarded by boys from the Hizbul Mujahideen (the largest of the Kashmiri resistance outfits led by long-beard Maulvi Salahuddin), obviously rich with relief supplies, and doling out relief in a very organized manner. It turned out this was the base camp of the Sialkot-based Mutayab-ul-Islam Foundation. Again assistance was being given on the basis of chits handed out by Foundation volunteers trekking to cut-off villages. Each relief package contained flour, rice, ghee, etc, a new blanket, new (not second hand) winter jackets, (proper jackets that you wouldn’t be ashamed of wearing) and, better believe this, shoes according to size. I actually heard them asking what size of foot before providing the required size.

Tough-looking Farid Khan Tareen (the last person with whom I would like to get into a fistfight) said that the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry and individual Sialkot industrialists were sending these supplies by truck regularly and, Alhamdolillah, there was no danger of the supplies running short. More glory to the city of Sialkot.

This is the Hamas phenomenon happening in Pakistan, organized authority (in the case of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, in our case, the organs of government) able to do very little, while the burden of social work (in this case relief work) is taken up by Islamist organizations. What this portends, I don’t know.

Can anyone please explain this? The total number of patients after the quake in both civil and military hospitals in Abbottabad, Mansehra, Balakot and Muzaffarabad, at any one time, was never more than 8,000-10,000. And yet most of these patients were being fed and provided beds and beddings not by the government, not by the army but by foreign and local charity. In Mansehra District Headquarters Hospital, the first large tents were set up by some French organization (I couldn’t get the name), beds were provided by Al Khidmat, food by the citizens of Mansehra while the first batch of outside surgeons, led by Dr Ayub Tanoli, came from the Jinnah Post-graduate Medical Centre, Karachi.

Staff there was full of praise for these doctors, indeed saying that when doom lay around them, they kept the hospital going. Lest I forget, I was told there were three Hindu doctors among the Karachi team.

In the Ayub Medical College in Abbottabad where patients were lying outside in tents because the building had been declared unsafe, tents and medicine had been provided, I am sure among others, by Helping Hands (UK). Sitting at the tented distribution centre were volunteers from Sargodha.

The private Jamila Shaheen Hospital in Abbottabad was full of quake victims (130-140). Looking after them was a team of young Pakistan-origin doctors from the UK. I tried putting a few questions to them but they had no time to talk and went about their business in what seemed like a mad rush. I was told they worked from eight in the morning until well past midnight. For iftar they took only a single date and a packet of fruit juice so as to remain alert in the operating theatre.

The fathers of three young kids — Abdul Wali from Kanar Sharif, Kala Dhaka, Kulsoom from Alai, Batagram, Daanish from Sangar, Balakot — told me that doctors at the Military Hospital, Abbottabad, and Ayub Medical College had advised various amputations but they refused and instead came here. The team of UK doctors operated on all of them and saved their hands, feet, etc. Daanish, especially, was operated on for seven hours at a stretch and his hand was saved.

I was told that a few days back a Dr Nadeem had come from Karachi and a Dr Craig from the UK. About Craig I was told that he cleaned floors and bathrooms himself.

Is any of this important? Perhaps it is. While I was writing this column I placed a call to the office of Director-General, Surgery, at the Combined Military Hospital, Rawalpindi, and also at the private clinic of CEO of all Allied Hospitals in Rawalpindi and Principal Rawalpindi Medical College, saying I wanted a private appointment with the doctors. At both places I was given appointments. I was overcome by shame. Here are doctors coming to help us from all over our world and here our renowned doctors, on the state’s payroll, can’t leave their private practices aside even during this grave hour when calamity has struck the nation.

No one will believe a word about government credibility unless, immediately, an announcement is made cancelling (1) the F-16 deal which we don’t need and at this juncture certainly can’t afford; (2) the new GHQ being built in Islamabad which again we don’t need; and (3) the New Murree Project being pushed by Pervaiz Elahi, a project which will ruin forever what remains of the splendour of the Murree Hills. This earthquake has cut mountains in half, it has sent entire villages into the valleys and rivers below, but has been unable to cause even a minor dent in the hearts of some people.

But as I say, the best and the worst lie close together. As we left Muzaffarabad, there was a sight to warm the ****les of even a withered heart. Directing traffic at a tunnel through which only a single line of vehicles could pass was, at one end, Qamar, student of class nine, and, at the other, young Munir, all of ten years. They were doing it beautifully and when I stopped to enquire, Munir, looking up at me, said, “Uncle, the military police were doing duty all day and now they have just gone for a few minutes to take iftar.” Dabbing my eyes with a handkerchief, I patted them on the head and getting into my car sped away into the darkness.


- Pracs - 11-17-2005

<u><b>PIA creates world commercial aviation history

<b>KARACHI</b> Pakistan Inter-national Airlines (PIA) has created world commercial aviation history by flying newly-manufactured Boeing 777 LR (Long Range)-- the first airline in the world to fly it from Hong Kong to Heathrow -- the wrong way around the globe.

According to a press release on Thursday, flying from Hong Kong it went overhead Japan, then across the Pacific Ocean flying over Hawaii to overhead San Francisco, then onwards across North American continent to overhead New York, flying still farther across the Atlantic Ocean to land at Heathrow Airport, London, non-stop and in one giant leap lasting slightly less than 24 hours.

The trip which broke 18 minutes flight time record of Airbus 340 and also Boeing's 747-400's record from London to Sydney, flew 12,600 miles or more than half circumference of the globe.

Flying at 83 Mach or 17 Mach less than the speed of sound, the 35 persons onboard, including eight ****pit crew members, witnessed two sunrises and even had scheduled sleep timings in the bunkers onboard. Among five Boeing pilots were Capt Susana Darcy, Boeing 777 Test Pilot and Capt Frank Santoni, representing the Boeing Company.

Along with five Boeing pilots, Commander Asif Reza, senior vice president flight operations PIA, was in command and assisted by Captain Mohammed Ilyas Malik, designated as check pilot Boeing 777 in PIA, to fly the aircraft as Boeing's "Launch Customer", pending delivery of this very first plane to PIA, registered in Pakistan AP-BGY.

A Singapore Airline pilot was also on board, as the Singapore Airline is evaluating buying this airplane after PIA.

The event was reminiscent of another such record breaking flight by PIA nearly four decades earlier, when commander Abdullah Baig, the most famous pilot of PIA flying newly manufactured Boeing 720, eased into a jet stream during cruise with consummate skill to break the London-Karachi flight time record. staff report

"Failure is a word unknown to me" - M A Jinnah