By Dr. Mujahid Ghazi
Pakistan after the Floods: Panel Discussion at Oakton Community College
The Peace and Social Justice Studies Program at Oakton Community College held a panel discussion on “Pakistan After The Floods” at their Des Plaines campus. A large number of students and the faculty attended the event. Karen and Kamran Noorani and this scribe were the speakers. Madhuri Deshmukh of English Literature Department and the director of the Peace and Social Justice Studies Program moderated the two sessions.
Kamran Noorani, who is visiting the US and belongs to the Rotary Club of Pakistan, gave the demographic details of the disaster. Karen Noorani highlighted the efforts of The Citizen’s Foundation of Pakistan in coping with the flood emergency and TCF’s long-term plans to help rehabilitate the educational loss of the children affected by this unfortunate situation. She also explained in detail the damage to the schools run by TCF in the flood-affected areas. She was substituting for her husband Danial Noorani, president TCF USA. Due to some medical emergency he was not able to attend the event.
This scribe gave a detailed report of my recent visit to Pakistan and the current situation mentioning the relief efforts being done and what is needed in the near future. Students and the faculty members took active part in the Q an A session after the presentations. Surprisingly, 50 % of the audience raised their hands when asked who does not know about the flood catastrophe in Pakistan. Questions were asked as to why the American and Western media was not keen to highlight the world’s most extensive disaster and why the world was not responding to the plight of the underprivileged flood affected people of Pakistan as keenly as it did for the Haiti and Tsunami catastrophes.
Water Ways, an Exhibition and Reception by Pakistan Global Initiative
Pakistan Global Initiative organized an exhibition and reception at the Walsh Gallery in Chicago. PGI and Pakistanfloods.org are projects of OPEN (Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America).
Dr. Asher Hassan of Naya Jeevan and Todd Shea of Shine Humanity were the speakers. Nabeela Rasheed welcomed the guests and introduced the speakers. She said that it was the inaugural reception of Pakistan Global Initiative also. She explained that the purpose of the initiative is to consolidate the efforts of various non-profit organizations and help them in their efforts for Pakistan. Todd Shea, who has been involved in relief work in Pakistan since the earthquake disaster, spoke about his organization’s relief efforts during the recent floods in Pakistan. He said that it is still a long way to go. Dr. Asher Hassan of Naya Jeevan also spoke on the same lines and talked about the physical and mental health issues in the post-flood period.
Talking to this scribe Ruma Samdani from OPEN explained that the purpose of the reception was to create awareness among the mainstream Americans and the media about the present crisis in Pakistan. She expressed dissatisfaction on how the American media was ignoring a calamity of a larger proportion than any of the recent global disasters.
Akif Malik, who founded Pakistanfloods.org told this scribe that it was important for the expatriate Pakistanis to consolidate their efforts and manage the relief efforts in a more organized manner. He said the initiative is meant to bring different organizations on one platform to prevent duplication and confusion.
Fundraising for Election Campaign of Governor Pat Quinn
A fundraising dinner was organized by Mubarak Mirjat at his residence to show support for Pat Quinn, Governor of Illinois.
A good number of community members attended the event. Speaking at the event Mubarak Mirjat welcomed the Governor and thanked him for the support and help he had provided to the Pakistani American community in his previous term. He also thanked Samreen Khan, Governor’s senior advisor, for her keen interest in acting as a liaison between the governor and the community.
Dr. Ali Naqi Syed introduced the governor and shed light on the initiatives his government had taken to strengthen the economy of the state. Dr. Murtaza Arain gave a brief account of his recent visit to Pakistan and shared his experience about his acquaintance with the governor as part of his advisory council.
Governor Pat Quinn thanked the Pakistani-American community for its support and explained a few of the initiatives his government had taken to support different ethnic communities and groups living in Illinois.
Federal Minister of Pakistan Nazar Muhammad Gondal Meets Pakistani American Community
The Consul General of Pakistan in the Midwest, Mr. Zaheer Pervez Khan, gave a reception in honor of Mr. Nazar Muhammad Gondal, visiting Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture, Govt. of Pakistan.
Speaking to a select audience of Pakistani Americans in Chicago, Mr. Gondal focused his speech on defending his party’s and government’s position on various issues recently raised by the media and opposition. He bashed the media and also blamed the non-profit organizations for the poor response the government is getting globally and locally in collecting funds for the relief efforts in Pakistan. He claimed that the non-profits are receiving 80 percent of all the relief funding going to Pakistan and the government is getting only 20%. He claimed that the people living abroad are not aware of the current situation and the help provided now is not effective enough. What is needed now is cash to buy food and help create shelter for the affected people. He also criticized the media for giving a negative publicity to the government and blamed it to be a reason for the poor support the government was getting from the community. He also claimed that in an emergency and crisis no one can reach the affected people because of the damaged infrastructure and it is the government which is the first one to arrive. He said it is not fair to separate the Army from the civilian government. He emphasized that the Army is also part of the government and acts on its directive. He said it is not right to say that it is the Army and not the government that is helping the affected people.
The Minister for Food and Agriculture failed to highlight the current food situation in the flood affected area. Responding to the question of this scribe later he claimed that government has enough reserves to feed the population except sugar. He also said Government has decided to provide free seeds and fertilizer to the affected farmers. He also mentioned that cash money is also provided through Benazir Income Support Program.