Learning from Afghan
Brothers and Sister
By Hazem Kira
Members of the Pak-Afghan group
who met in California
Newark, CA: Strategic Resource
Management, which is still a relatively new concept for
crisis management, among other things, necessitates development
of knowledge-based solutions. Timely acquisition of indispensable
knowledge is an art, but using that information judiciously
is a matter of national responsibility.
In his recent piece in weekly Nation (USA), Tariq Ali, a
British political thinker of Pakistani origin, has hit the
nail on the head by pointing out that “Edward Durrell
Stone, one of the architects who built Islamabad in the
late 1960s, was unhappy with the site because of the geological
fault line and the weak soil. Overruled by the military
dictator of the day, he advised that no structure higher
than three stories ever be built. He was ignored.”
Let’s hope that as the Pakistani civil society scrambles
to assemble all the necessary information and technology,
the (accountable-to-no-one) military junta will not, once
again, ignore the expert advice and thus compound the national
Arguably, the great Chinese philosopher Confucius was putting
all of us on notice when he wrote: “He who learns
but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not
learn is in great danger.” Learning from those who
know more is a must.
As other Pak-American groups are, admirably, busy with the
collection of money, materials and medicines, the Pakistan
American Democratic Forum (PADF) is working with various
experience-rich communities to help build a quake relief
knowledge base. “Globalization,” says PADF Chair
Dr. Agha Saeed, has made global synthesis of knowledge possible.
We can help Pakistan by actualizing this possibility”.
Waheed A. Momand, president of the Afghan Coalition, who
has been involved in the relief effort and has attended
several meetings of the Pakistan American Democratic Forum
(PADF), recently offered these views during an interview.
The main focus of his advice, detailed below, is on organization
building, coalition forming skills enhancement and strategic
planning. This cross-pollination of ideas opens a new phase
of comparing notes, sharing information, and pooling resources.
The project management plan in 21 points follows.
Build a core group – 10 to 15 - people who can address
any new difficulty or opportunity. The task of the core
group will be threefold: define the overall situation in
terms of solvable problems, develop clear solutions, and
organize specific projects.
The core group will have the primary responsibility for
procuring necessary resources and finding additional volunteers.
Members of the core will also take responsibility for different
tasks pertaining to one or more projects.
Furthermore, they will build a second circle of volunteers
– 80 to 100 people -- who will provide support for
different projects and help implement group plans.
Project initiation should incorporate field research, brainstorming,
conceptual design, design audit, full plan and implementation.
The second circle of activist will also help connect the
organization with various sections of the community by organizing
local outreach including neighborhood meetings, seminar,
vigils, rallies, and similar activities.
Form strong working partnership with different existing
Pakistani-American groups and organization to pursue large
Develop stable and efficient working relations with mainstream
community organizations ranging from charities to interfaith
Form a Pakistani Resource Center which will connect large
number of Pakistani-American professionals for purpose of
coordinated relief and reconstruction efforts. The goal
should be to have a continuous flow of professional support
on the ground for the completion of specific projects. Members
should be willing to donate at least six weeks working the
quake impacted areas of Pakistan. Such participation is
premised on the existence of carefully developed projects
in the quake-affected areas.
The Pakistan Resource Center should develop a close working
relationship with the Federal Relief Commission and other
relevant government departments to ensure well-coordinated
use of human and material resources. This will pre-suppose.
Develop effective community and media outreach strategies
both directly and through partners or friendly organizations.
Streamline meaningful and consequential activities such
as cloth collection drive and awareness activities to keep
the community informed, involved and active.
Organize partnership with groups like Assist International,
a well known US-Based organization involved in colleting
medical supplies and equipment.
Engage the community media in keeping the community members
informed and involved with ongoing relief projects. At least
25 percent of the core members should be involved with this
When returning from a tour of duty in Pakistan, these professional
should bring back photos, videos, slides and other testimonials
to give other community members a sense of what is going
on and what else needs to be done.
Maintain an active website and try to link it with all partners
and friendly organizations.
Develop an e-mail database and send out regular updates.
Develop a monthly or quarterly newsletter to cover and clarify
Encourage a team of youth to initiate a TV show on a public
channel. This team will be your window to the community.
At a later stage it could even be aired on a commercial
channel to reach a larger audience.
Set up a reliable source and channel of information in the
quake-affected areas of Pakistan.