TORONTO :  After the devastating earthquake in Pakistan , the struggle to save the survivors is becoming a real tough challenge.  Time is fast running out and the aid agencies are doing their best to reach maximum areas to rescue and protect the people. They are aware of the fact that they are losing the race but are still undeterred and fully determined to face the challenge bravely.  The whole world has joined now to help the people and Pakistan in this very difficult and testing time. May The Almighty give them success in their struggle. It is the time for true prayers and to seek forgiveness as well.

      The earthquake of 7.6 Richter scale has completely destroyed many areas of Pakistan . In mostly remote places almost the entire population has perished under the rubble. One whole generation has been lost. The worst affected regions are Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas of Pakistan. Most of the areas including hundreds of villages in the remote and difficult terrain locations are still inaccessible. It is near impossible to even reach there and save them now. Only the very fortunate ones would survive. We must accept the reality and struggle accordingly.  This tragedy is one of the worst in the history of not only Pakistan but the world.

      The mammoth death toll keeps rocketing as the relief work intensifies and crushed bodies are recovered. The official estimate is in thousands but the NGOs claim that the toll is very much high. The Edhi Foundation representative in Toronto , Mohammad Qasim Choksi, disclosed at the IMO Mosque that the latest figure, as communicated to him by Abdul Sattar Edhi, has already crossed over 100,000 and likely to reach over 300,000. This shows the gravity of the situation.

      PRIORITY: The priority right now is not of tracing, counting and burying the dead bodies, which are already badly decomposed and beyond burial, but to rescue the survivors and help the worst affected people including elderly, women and children. The most affected by this tragedy are children. The United Nations has appealed for at least $272 million to meet the immediate needs of the rescue and relief teams.

The amount needed for immediate and short term help could easily top at least $500 million figure. Long term plan is not a consideration right now, particularly when focus is on rescue of survivors and protection of people from hunger, diseases, severe weather. The most immediate need is to protect people from the claws and jaws of death.

DONATIONS IN CASH NEEDED: The tragedy has shocked the whole world. Donations in cash and kind are urgently and badly needed and pouring in from all corners of the world. Donation in cash is preferred and considered the best way to help them. The need is extremely great and requires greater and rapid response. Every second and cent counts and could help save many precious lives. Delay is definitely disastrous.

According to the UN official in Pakistan , this is one of the worst nightmares. Landslides caused by torrential rains are hampering relief efforts. Due to various other reasons including bad roads and blockades, the aid is not reaching the victims very fast. The overall aid operation is very impressive. He praised the Pakistani officials and NGOs for their tremendous efforts in the relief and rescue work. They are doing their best.

Over seventy helicopters are in service now in the affected area. What the people need urgently include right medicines for Hepatitis A, Pneumonia, Typhoid, antibiotics of second and third generation and equipment for small surgical procedures.

CANADA íS RESPONSE: Canadians like always reacted immediately and generously to the call for donations and help.  Prime Minister Paul Martin and other officials including Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew, International Cooperation Minister Aileen Carroll, Defence Minister Bill Graham met community leaders and assured them maximum help. $20 million were earmarked for the aid purpose. The Prime Minister announced matching fund of dollar for a dollar for two weeks for the donations collected by registered NGOs on the list of the government.

Jim Karygiannis, MP, like always acted swiftly and contributed tremendously in inviting attention of the government for a quick and generous response. He was also praised by Prime Minister Paul Martin for his efforts which produced positive results and put pressure on the government to increase the aid amount. Both Jim and Frank Klees, MPP, are veteran and very popular parliamentarians. They work very closely and sincerely with community people and leaders to help them and thatís why are highly respected in the community and their constituencies.

COMMUNITY LEADERS: Wajid Ali Khan, MP, was praised by Prime Minister Paul Martin for his tremendous efforts and role in helping the government in this connection. The PM made this remark in reply to a question during the Press Conference after meeting with Pakistani community leaders.   

Wajid is a fresh member of the parliament but by winning a place in the parliament has made the Pakistani and Muslim communities proud. The community leaders, however, are closely monitoring his attitude, approach and contribution based on the track record and hope that he would not disappoint or let them down. He will be judged by his contribution and role as a community leader.

They want to make sure that Wajid practically and sincerely serves the Pakistani and Muslim communities as well along with interest of the party. This way he can win trust and confidence of the people, like Jim Karygiannis, Frank Klees and many other non-community leaders.

Unfortunately, most of the community leaders when they get positions or achieve success become tin gods, start neglecting the community members and prove great disappointment. Instead of becoming a blessing they become a serious problem for the community. Thatís why the community becomes very cautious and does not trust them.     

 GHALIBíS APPEAL: Ghalib Iqbal, Consul General of Pakistan in Toronto and a very popular figure, also worked very closely with community leaders to generate maximum help for the earthquake victims. Under the banner of Canpak Chamber of Commerce, Shahid Hashmi in collaboration with Jim Karygiannis, MP, and Ghalib Iqbal organized a Press Conference at the Holiday Inn on October 9. Wajid Ali Khan, MP, and Michael, a member of the City Council, were also present on the stage. Almost all the national and local media and renowned community leaders were present on the occasion. It proved very successful. The response of the community was positive and very good.

  Jim Karygiannis conducted the proceedings and assured the leaders and journalists that Canadians would always remain in the forefront in helping the people

during the hour of crisis and disasters.

Ghalib Iqbal appealed for generous donations in cash and kind. He said the people of Pakistan badly need help and support as they alone cannot cope with problem of such magnitude. He appreciated the Canadian governmentís response and efforts in this connection and said he was fully satisfied and hopeful of maximum help. 

      He asked the people to donate in the Pakistan Presidentís Earthquake Relief Fund. The donations can be made at:

1.      Any branch of Royal Bank of Canada (A/C No. to be announced soon).

2.      Any branch of Bank of Montreal (A/C No. 3214-1002-807).

3.      Habib Canadian Bank (A/C No.113093). One branch in Mississauga at 918, Dundas Street East, Suite 1-B, Mississauga, ON., L4Y 4H9 and a booth at the Consulate General of Pakistan, Suite 402, 240-Duncan Mills Road, North York, ON., M3B 1Z4, Canada.

He said that the immediate disaster needs in the areas most affected by this natural

calamity are:

1.        Shelter (Tents, plastic sheets, blankets, mattresses).

2.        Food items (Pre-cooked tin food, high energy biscuits and survival rations).

3.        Medicines (antibiotic, typhoid medication, fracture related kits, first aid kits, surgical instruments and water purification tablets).

4.        Equipment (Electricity generators, water purification kits/small plants and disinfectant sprays).

      Wajid Ali Khan was happy that the government reacted immediately to the call. He said that the situation was very critical and the top most priority is to rescue survivors.

He stated that it is time to think as to what we can do as a community.

Michael, a member of the City Council, said that the Pakistani community is a very large community of Toronto and we are with them and would extend all possible help and support.

CENTRALIZED COLLECTION: Shahid Hashmi said that all the donations particularly Zakat and Fitra of any amount should be made in the Pakistan Presidentís Earthquake Relief Fund.  The donations should be made in cash and the collection centralized and pooled in one place. All the NGOs and individuals need to work with coordination to express and maintain unity and solidarity. Groupings would delay sending of the cash and kind and ultimately hamper relief efforts, he added.

  He said that we cannot do anything for those killed but at least can rescue and save those who survived. Priority should be given to saving lives of survivors who are shelter less and helpless.

 FUNDRAISING: Shahid Hashmi, a renowned social figure, remained very active in the donation campaigns and kept motivating many organizations and individuals and managed to help collect very good amount.  At a meeting with ICNA Canada officials, he shared the idea that fundraising be organized by all organizations at one place. All the money coming from the event should be deposited in the relief fund. The cost of the dinner should be borne by the organizations.

He said that the Canadian government should expedite the relief process to help save lives, particularly of seniors, women and children.

      During announcement of the $20 million aid, Jim Karygiannis gave two valuable suggestions to the ministers and officials present: 1) One time charity number should be allowed and 2) Fast track immigration process to help those affected by the devastating quake. Children who lost everything must be helped, supported and brought to Canada .

      COMMUNITY UNITED: Since the tragedy took place, so many community meetings have taken place for donations and help. Both the individuals and organizations have become very active and are working closely. This demonstration of unity is a good sign for the community. It is essential to set aside differences and work as a team to help the needy people.