Earthquake Relief in Pakistan
By Saghir Aslam

For one and a half months I lived with the earthquake victims - burying bodies - some without coffins - witnessing amputations and watching people cope with life without limbs. Sadly I saw people trying to sleep under the stars in freezing temperature with no tents, no blankets and most of the times empty stomach. I saw babies cry for food and watched their helpless mothers’ tears flow. I heard a grownup man cry in agony for his relatives who had been buried alive.
It was an experience that will be embedded in my mind forever - as long as I live. I could not hold back my tears as I saw the innocent faces suffering and I couldn’t help them at that moment.
Our typical day during Ramadan started immediately after Suhur and Fajr prayer and after Ramadan we would leave our Head Office at 4am and return around midnight. The next day we would make necessary preparations and our second team would depart early in the morning.
We traveled in trucks and Suzuki vans depending upon the conditions and the peculiar needs of the day. We rented the transport instead of buying the expensive trucks and the Suzuki vans.
It was truly a great blessing from Allah S.T and great news that Saba Trust warehouse had received two full forty foot containers just before the earthquake struck. The available supplies gave Saba Trust team the opportunity to pack up the trucks with the necessary items and move quickly in rescue of the earthquake victims.
Saba Trust team moved fast within hours. They had bought medicine, coffins, food, tents and other necessities and loaded the trucks with the Trust’s warehouse supplies of blankets, comforters, sheets and warm clothes to reach before sunset on the first day when the earthquake struck to assist and comfort the victims.
Many people were astonished and literally shocked to see that the Saba Trust team had arrived so quickly with so many of the needed items.
Saba Trust Mujahideen worked late hours to help as many people as they could. Once the truck was completely emptied they headed back to the warehouse to pick up another load which the team at the warehouse had already prepared for them.
Soon Br. Saghir Aslam arrived and immediately after his arrival he met Junaid Swati, Colonel Mushtaq and others with whom Saba Trust have had a working relationships. The Trust has been providing clothes to Diya Trust and 100 plus other organizations for distribution in remote villages. Diya Trust is headed by Junaid Swati. Saba Trust had earlier set up computer labs in some remote villages for Diya Trust and many other organizations. I called Dr. Nasim Ashraf who is an old friend and now the Chairman of N.C.H.D and aFederal Minister to get an update and guidance from him. All the above people mentioned were extremely helpful. Their inputs, ideas, suggestions made our job easier and more productive. All thanks to God the Almighty.

The old working relationship and cooperation surely comes in handy.
The next morning Colonel Mustaq, Junaid Swati and Saghir Aslam followed by Saba Trust team truck left the Head Office immediately after Suhur and Fajar prayer. Once they passed Abbotabad it was extremely cold and they had to stop and buy hats and warm scarves.
It took them over seven hours to reach the first stop which was Gulmera on the mountainous village of about 50 families which had been completely devastated. Below the mountain people were found buried alive from the mountain slide. After that we went to another village where the jeeps could not run and so we walked for the two-hour trek and visited Baffa Khularai. It was getting very late but Battal was on our plan.. So we proceeded to Battal. It was another astonishing moment to see the people trying to sleep in the freezing cold without any tents, blankets or any warm clothing. This was the longest day that we had but thanks to God the Almighty Malik was there to share the driving.

Entire Saba Trust team takes a day off for planning
The Saba Trust team took a day off to analyze, assess and come up with a plan on how the Trust could help and serve the earthquake victims. As the area is large and so are the losses, human and property losses are beyond belief and Saba Trust had limited resources. The team spent the entire day considering different options. They debated on different options. Saba Trust team wrote down pros and cons of each plan. After serious consideration and consultation with our entire team and also taking into account what we learned so far from the local people and our one the site experience we came up with a resolution at the end of the day.

Saba Trust will work in remote villages
Once this decision was made we went back to work according to the laid out rough plan that we had come up with the help of the local people. We still were not sure how much area we would be able to cover. But we were sure that the Saba Trust team will work hard to reach remote villages, for example Kala Decka which takes approximately nine (9) hours from our Head Office to reach. We had one of ourSaba Trust member go out there and confirm that they had not received any help at all.
Let me share only one other area with you called Mahandri which is even harder to reach. Kala Dacka we could take a ferry or hire a jeep. But to reach Mahandri the Saba Trust team had to walk 10 hours through other villages which was on the top of the mountain. Thanks to Allah S.T. that Saba Trust team decided to go to Mahandri as people there really needed aid and it was freezing up there and the homes were in shamble, people had no supplies and no food. Saba team went back and brought supplies to the base then hired mules (donkeys) and local people to get the supplies to the top of the mountain. This was repeated with the local paid people’s help and good old mules; they did a great job. One of Saba Trust Mujahideen went all the way up to the mountain and slept there overnight and discussed with them what else could the Saba Trust team do. Naturally they all were delighted and prayed for Saba Trust. (To be continued)



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.