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 tragedy.
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 projects.
Develop stable and efficient working relations with mainstream community organizations ranging from charities to interfaith entities.
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 effort.
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 key issues.
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.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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