TORONTO : Mankind is faced with one of the greatest and toughest challenges of the history---To save the lives of over three million people, mostly facing certain death if not provided immediate attention and help. They escaped the quake but death in the shape of extremely harsh winter, injuries and diseases is approaching and surrounding them fast. Most of them are very poor and helpless. Death is continuing to take a heavy toll with one person dying every minute, despite best efforts of all those trying to help.

The tragedy is unimaginable and indescribable, far greater than Tsunami and already declared by the United Nations as one of the worst nightmares and natural disasters, which will continue to haunt the mankind for centuries. Sensing the gravity of the situation and the extreme and immediate danger to human lives, the UN and people of Pakistan are repeatedly appealing for urgent help.  

This is not the time to think but act. Every second is extremely valuable for the bodies and souls there. Everyone is required to come forward to do something and also use his influence to help in any way. This is what the conscious demands and humanity needs at this crucial time.

The unbearable stench of the thousands of badly decomposed, crushed and unrecognizable bodies, still under the debris, is such that even the closest near and dear ones dare not go near them. Salute to the army and rescue teams for taking care of them. 

We must keep making the Wake-Up Calls as the situation is rapidly worsening every second.   Relief and rescue operations are needed on a massive scale and on emergency basis. The helpless and battered people are looking towards us for help---shelter, food, clothing and medicines. Remember, tragedies can engulf anyone and at any time. Those affected could never have thought and dreamt of what happened to them. In a moment, everything was destroyed. Nobody could do anything. This is all natureís game.

Apart from government and people aid, banking and business circles are being asked to give large shares. They have the capacity to do this. Nothing is much or sufficient, keeping in view the great need. The donations in the shape of cash and kind, particularly cash, must keep flowing non-stop and fast.

Media must keep informing the people of the latest and worsening situation. This is extremely important. Media can play a tremendous role in helping the people. It has helped collect millions of dollars. The reconstruction cost alone could reach over at least $5 billions. So cash is the number one priority for meeting the expenses and needs.

I participated in a radio telethon organized by Shahid Hashmi of Canpak Chamber of Commerce. The other participants included Aftab Rizvi, Hameeduddin, Dr Taghi Abedi, Dr Shahnaz Dar, Nazimuddin Nazim, Arifa Muzaffar, Jim Karygiannis, MP, and Frank Klees, MPP. The public response was such that in 45 minutes over $16,000 was collected. I was also writing the names, numbers and amount and that too very fast but could not keep pace with the number of pledges being made. Even after expiry of our radio time pledge calls continued coming in for about 30 minutes.

Finally, we had to stop receiving the calls. It made us very happy that people are realizing and donating generously and responding to all the appeals made by individuals and organizations. Frankly speaking, I never expected such a great response from the community members.

The Canadian Government has increased the relief aid from $20 million to $57 million. With matching funds, the figure would go much higher. Prime Minister Paul Martinís responded promptly and positively. Ghalib Iqbal, Consul General of Pakistan in Toronto , thanked the Canadian government and the people for the help and assistance given in this hour of need. He termed the overall response as excellent.

The Ontario Government too gave $1million and is being repeatedly pressured by the public and parliamentarians to increase the figure. Some confusion, ICNA officials claimed that the Ontario Government has given $6 million more and that this was announced by Mike Colle, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, at a meeting organized by them on October 10, 2005. There is still no confirmation and mention of this amount by the Ontario Government. The figure still remains at $1million.

Unfortunately, some political parties in Pakistan are playing dirty game. They are collecting the relief goods including food, tents, clothes and money but not sending them to the needy people. This they are doing to give a bad name to President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and pull them down. While the people are suffering and dying, they are busy in negative action and propaganda against the government for their vested interests. This is the worst criminal approach witnessed at this crucial time.

This is the time to help the government help the needy instead of indulging in dirty tricks, severe criticism and condemnation. Such is the character of some of our political leaders and parties. They have been exposed and must be rejected. The government and people of Pakistan alone can never meet the challenge, they need worldwide help and this is for sure and even recognized by the United Nations.

The exploiters, black marketers, opportunists and conspirators must never be allowed to succeed in their nefarious designs. The people must rise and foil their attempts. Even dead are not spared. The Poor cannot buy shrouds because they are being sold at double prices. Many such unwanted and shocking things including smuggling of children are happenings and need to be effectively checked both by the government and the people. The people must come forward and extend all out help to the government.

The Consulate General of Pakistan in Toronto has announced that the ICRC 

has established a to provide information to             

Pakistanis abroad about their families in the affected areas.