the Editor: Akhtar
October 28, 2005
A Race against
Oh, I am very weary,
Though tears no longer flow;
My eyes are tired of weeping,
My heart is sick of woe.
- Anne Bronte
Death stalks the northern parts
of Pakistan. The idyllic surroundings of Muzaffarabad,
Balakot and Mansehra, home to many a simpleton Jude
and Tess of Hardy’s pastoral world, have been
struck by a 7.6 earthquake and reduced to rubble.
The loss of life has been on a colossal scale. More
than 80,000 have already died. And the death count
is likely to mount as wintry temperatures drop below
the freezing point. Shaken and distraught, Pakistanis
inhabiting Kashmir and the NWFP find themselves
precariously perched. Scantily dressed kids, weary
old men and women, and middle aged common folk scamper
for shelter in tents and improvised dwellings. Exposed
to intense cold their survival is seriously at risk.
They could freeze to death if speedy rescue is denied.
It is a race against time.
The United Nations Secretary General has sounded
the alarm bell. The situation is getting worse by
the day. The second phase of the disaster –
which could be marked by death by freezing –
could be worse than the first. More than 3.5 million
people have been rendered homeless by the earthquake
and their survival is a pressing concern. The world
has to act with expedition. Snowfall and accompanying
chilly winds in the next few days would spell death
and destruction for the Kashmiris and the affected
people of the NWFP.
The catastrophe has forced NATO and UNCHR to mount
the first-ever joint operation to ferry aid from
the UN agency’s warehouse in Iskenderum to
the quake-stricken area. Secretary General Kofi
Annan has asked member countries of the United Nations
to raise $400 million for the immediate rescue of
the quake victims.
The October 8 earthquake has not only jolted the
northern areas of Pakistan but the entire country.
From Karachi to Torkham Pakistanis have responded
spiritedly. From all parts of the country rescue
teams and volunteers have converged on the quake
scene with relief goods. Each passing day furnished
fresh proof a nation visibly seized of the mounting
challenge and charged with the urge to rescue fellow
Overseas Pakistanis have also proved equal to the
task and have contributed generously to the relief
effort in cash and kind. Pakistani Americans are
no exception. Glued to TV sets, teary-eyed community
members witness images of the destruction and the
plight of their kith and kin. They responded to
the challenge with spontaneity and whole-heartedness.
Several medical teams have dashed to the ravaged
areas to set up emergency hospitals.
The rescue task is elephantine. Rehabilitation of
the affected people and reconstruction is estimated
to cost $5 billion. Each one of us has to contribute
to this effort. The relief operations must sustain
their momentum. Pakistanis – within and without
– have to heed the stirring call:
Ham zinda qaum haen
Paidna qaum haen
Ham sab ki hae pehchan
Hum sab ka Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan
Hum sab ka Pakistan