BLOW TO HUMANITY
BY JAVED ZAHEER
TORONTO: The Asian Tsunami, which struck suddenly on
December 26, 2004, has already caused unimaginable tremendous loss. The
actual death toll and number of missing will never ever be known. The
cruel sea in its madness swallowed thousands in a flash, dodging even the
best and latest technology. The total of bodies and parts collected so far
has already crossed over 150,000 and nearing 200,000. The counting
continues. Over 70 per cent of those killed are Muslims. The Muslim World
must wake up and help the humanity in a generous way.
figures before us till January 4, 2005, according to BBC, are Indonesia
(over 100,000), Sri Lanka (over 30,000), India (including Andaman and
Nicobar) (over 10,000), Thailand (over 7,000 with half of them being
foreign tourists from 36 countries). The other countries battered and
affected are Somalia, Maldives, Seychelles, Bangladesh, Burma, Malaysia,
Tanzania and Kenya. This is indeed a very severe blow to the humanity. The
dangers ahead are more serious and extremely difficult to handle. Only a
purely humanitarian approach can help the victims, people and the affected
IMPORTANT PRIORITY: Billions of dollars of aid have been pledged and
millions have started to come in various shapes. The crises need to be
dealt in many ways and at many levels. It will take several years to
recover and reconstruct the battered areas, the UN says at least ten
years. It is not the time to think anything else except to help in any way
and every way all people affected by the crises and the grave situation.
If we dont act sincerely, practically and immediately, we will
not be able to save lives of millions of others, who are exposed to all
sorts of diseases and dangers and who are looking towards us for help.
They need help desperately.
of the grave problem is such that hundreds are already dying due to
non-availability of clean water, food, medicines and lack of reach and
attention, despite best efforts of the people and governments. One of the
most important priorities now is to stop the spread of fatal diseases
including typhoid, cholera and pneumonia.
The psychological trauma is also
playing havoc, affecting children the most.
Their fear, confusion and desperation are unimaginable. They have
seen enormous waves wash away their worlds. There have also been reports
of sexual abuse of children in the refugee camps. Trafficking has also
In India, relief agencies have
expressed apprehension that orphans are being split among relatives eager
to receive the money promised for Tsunami survivors.
In Sri Lanka, 40 per cent of the known dead are children. The
children face the additional threat of plastic landmines dislodge by the
tidal waves. In Aceh, Indonesia, the worst affected area in the region of
crisis, children are dying of pneumonia.
HOPEFUL: The state of mind of the parents is such that they still believe
that their kids are alive and the sea will return them one day. They
dont want to accept that their children are dead. Still hopeful, they
go to the shore to gaze at the sea.
is preparing a national programme to match orphans with grieving parents.
The UN estimates about 150,000 pregnant women in the Tsunami hit areas who
need immediate attention and help.
Island in India, bodies were not found strewn on the land as the sea
washed most of them away. Many of them were found buried in sand on
neighbouring islands. Only very few people were left on the island. Some
of the islands were completely submerged and no one survived there. The
Katchall Island, with over 3,000 people, simply vanished and was no longer
visible from the air.
lighthouse at Indira Point, Indias last seaport in the east, is
almost fully submerged. The sea has swallowed the area around it and no
one could have survived. The place is less than 200 km from Sumatra,
Indonesia, the first place to have been hit.
devastation in Car Nicobar, Indias largest airbase in the
archipelago, is complete. The airbase will have to be built from the
scratch. Over 100 airmen and officers and their families just perished.
The latest SU-30 fighters and bombers were to have been deployed from this
month as the front line of Indian air power in the South East Asia. Even
the villages around the airbase, on higher ground, have been destroyed.
Local Nicobarese tribesmen suffered the most. They have lost everything.
Entire settlements have been completely wiped out. Loss of human lives
could be imagined.
INSTALLATIONS: India refused foreign help. The people, particularly those
affected and need help badly and timely, severely criticized this decision
of the government. Another matter of serious concern is the nuclear
installations situated near the sea in the hit area. The question arising
and disturbing the people is how they could have escaped the cruel and
powerful enormous waves, which battered and shattered everything in its
government is trying to convince them that no harm has been caused and
there is nothing to fear, but this is not enough. Fears are real and a
serious threat to the people, who still remember the Chernobyl disaster
and its horrible consequences. Lets hope and pray that the fears
remain baseless and people safe.
GENEROUS: The Canadians are never behind in any such situation. They are
always very generous, concerned and on the front. The aid has been doubled
to $80 million, with more to come. Disaster Assistance Relief Team (DART)
put into action. Pledge made for long-term support for reconstruction.
3, 2005, Prime Minister Paul Martin visited the Cedarwood Primary School
in Toronto and met children who have families in the Tsunami hit areas.
He spent ninety minutes with them.
went to Delta Hotel, met community representatives and discussed various
issues with them. He was praised for taking the community representatives
into confidence and showing deep interest in the affected region.
after meeting the community leaders, he met media people and explained to
them about the steps being taken by the government in this connection. The
focus was mainly on Sri Lanka. It was felt that Indonesia, the worst hit
country, and other areas were being ignored.
said he contacted the President of Sri Lanka and discussed the situation
and help in this connection. The Canadian High Commission has been
instructed to make sure that the aid reaches the affected people. The
military too has assured us that the aid will reach the people in the
conflict zone. The situation will be closely monitored to ensure equitable
distribution without hindrances, he said.
delay caused in aid giving, he said the delay was caused due to the
massive devastation in the hit areas. It was difficult to reach there or
else we would have gone earlier. However, the situation was closely
studied, he added.
He said that
if compared with other countries we have done very well but there has to
be a quicker and effective way of helping.
attention was drawn as to why the countries were not alerted despite the
US having prior knowledge of the Asian Tsunami, he said now the world has
learnt a serious lesson and the system to alert against Tsunami has to be
put in place.
Canada taking special interest in Sri Lanka and United States in
Indonesia, it seemed that the regions were divided. It was felt that the
United States was trying to exploit the situation and show to the world
that it was not against Muslims and ready to help them. It was also felt
that the US would not like Canadians to join them in Indonesia or areas of
their interest. Thats why probably Canada was avoiding Indonesia.
However, Paul Martin has made it clear that for Canadians all are equal
and the issue would be tackled purely on humanitarian basis and
distribution on equality basis.
image of US has been badly tarnished in the Muslim World after invasion of
Iraq and Afghanistan and campaign against Muslims. Whatever the thinking,
opinions and comments may be, the US is playing a great role and needs to
Hashmi, Chairman, Canpak Chamber of Commerce, and myself were the only two
who represented the Pakistani community. Hameeduddin of Awaz was also
present. The absence of mainstream Pakistani media, as usual, was badly
felt. Shahid Hashmi asked Paul Martin the two most important questions
regarding delay in informing the affected countries despite prior
knowledge and role of Canada in the presence of United States in Indonesia
and how Canada can contribute in this worst affected part and other areas.
Paul Martin explained in detail Canadas role and policies.
Journalists including of City Pulse and Listen Up surrounded Shahid Hashmi afterwards and took his interview. He said he and his family cancelled the New Year celebration and contacted community members to come forward and extend all possible help. Hameeduddin was also interviewed. The interest of the community was made felt.