“Its really surprising to see that the Muslim world is not showing any enthusiasm for a country where we see people sacrificing their lives in the name of the Muslim Ummah from any corner of the world,” opined a surprised western diplomat, just to trigger a comparison of the aid pouring in from across the world for Pakistani flood victims. Quoting charts from this newspaper, one of them said that out of $460 million needed for flood victims, as assessed by UN agencies for relief efforts, just over $100 million had reached the various UN organs while the government of Pakistan had collected only $25 million (mostly in-kind) from various countries. “
Via Daily Times Link
Monday, August 16, 2010
DIPLOMATIC BUBBLES: Disaster tourism amidst concern for Muslim Ummah —By Saeed Minhas
ISLAMABAD: The worst floods in the living memory of Pakistan remained an obvious topic of concern for the diplomatic corps in Islamabad throughout the week as Europeans and especially UN officials questioned the response of the Muslim world to a mammoth disaster wreaking havoc in the second-most populated Muslim country of the world.
Few gatherings of foreign emissaries rallied around the unending phases of floods happening in across the country, devastating over 15 million people and destroying over two million acres of standing crops while washing away millions of homes and state structures in over 70 – 37 directly and the rest due to the influx of displaced people – flood-affected districts.
“Its really surprising to see that the Muslim world is not showing any enthusiasm for a country where we see people sacrificing their lives in the name of the Muslim Ummah from any corner of the world,” opined a surprised western diplomat, just to trigger a comparison of the aid pouring in from across the world for Pakistani flood victims. Quoting charts from this newspaper, one of them said that out of $460 million needed for flood victims, as assessed by UN agencies for relief efforts, just over $100 million had reached the various UN organs while the government of Pakistan had collected only $25 million (mostly in-kind) from various countries.
One can easily find an amazing contrast in these charts that the majority of the aid, regardless of being in the form of pledges or actually being disbursed, is coming from the western world. Only a handful of Muslim countries, with the exception of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) that is yet to utter a single word of sympathy, have contributed directly (mostly in-kind) to any of the government of Pakistan’s relief appeals.
Countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt and their oil-controlling giant Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has contributed only a couple of hundred million dollars altogether, and that too through the Red Crescent or other International organisations for in-kind donations. Despite knowing that over 65 helicopters, 19 of which come from the US alone, are working around the clock, none of these oil-rich countries have even asked to foot the oil bill or donate oil for these humanitarian sorties. An hour of a helicopter flight costs an estimated Rs 100,000 in fuel expenses alone, and so far as per the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) figures, over 200 hours of flight operations have been carried out throughout Pakistan.
Another diplomat chipped in by saying that all these ‘brothers’ seem to be good enough for political and strategic guarantees but nothing more for Pakistan. Despite there being a double-digit unemployment rate and zero or negative growth in many of the Western countries including the US and UK, most of the aid, both in cash and in-kind was flowing in from Western countries, he said. The response to the unprecedented floods has been lacklustre so far, not only from locals but also from the international community. Figures collected from various organisations show that though the impact of these floods is larger than the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Pakistani and 2010 Haiti earthquakes combined, yet the donations or pledges from all sides is less than 25 percent of what each of the above-mentioned disasters received during their respective relief efforts.
A friend from the Mediterranean belt said, “perhaps the international and even Pakistani media has given more attention to the Cameron remarks, President Zardari’s ill-timed visits and corruption prevailing in Pakistan, then to the human catastrophe.” The diplomat from UK, however, said that it hardly matters what is happening in political circles; it is irrelevant that Prime Minister Cameron agreed to meet President Zardari only after getting the assurance that his Indian statement would not be mentioned in the meeting or how Saeeda Warsi managed the meeting at the last minute. What matters now is to find out ways to help these poor people lying out there at the mercy of raging waters, the diplomat added.
A former Pakistani diplomat said that although it remains a fact that the Muslim block is failing in response and the US is leading all relief efforts, yet there is a major cause of concern creeping in with regard to these developments. He appreciated that after the initial days, relief efforts by the US and other UN agencies were diversified and instead of focusing only on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the northern areas, they began operations in Punjab, Sindh and partially in Balochistan, and yet the presence of more than 300 US marines is being talked about in certain circles. At no point in time, he said, the strategic games are put to rest by the right-winged politicians and therefore, once the water recedes, both the Pakistani government and US authorities might find themselves entangled in a clarification phase.
The diplomats were of the unanimous opinion that though the donors’ fatigue factor was a valid one, it also remains a fact that the donors are not finding any credible data from any single official source.
The concern was well taken by all around the table, and most of the diplomats were of the view that despite the ongoing disaster-tourism and disaster politicking, what needed to be focused on in the aftermath of these floods is management and governance.