It is said that a friend in need is a friend indeed.
The tsunami struck in the morning and a Japanese team of doctors and
nurses were on their way to Indonesia and Thailand by that evening. The
same day, Australia's Foreign Minister promised to send seven million
dollars (increased to $30 million at the time of writing). India, itself a
tsunami victim, sent over a dozen helicopters the same evening. The
British, German and some other European governments followed suit. Canada
has donated more than $30 million and USA pledged $360 million.
But where on earth has the Ummah gone? The President of
Pakistan made a brief reference to the disaster in his recent speech and
the government declared support of $100,000. This, from the world's
seventh nuclear power, with missiles capable of reaching targets thousands
of miles away, for a disaster of this magnitude to neighbouring countries
that are also South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
members, from the current SAARC Chair. Surely, we can do better than this.
The least we could do is to send troops to rescue victims and help
But then, our response has always been pathetic. During
the Bam earthquake in Iran, it took our army medical team almost three
weeks to reach the place, although Bam is situated just across Balochistan
and the British with their sniffing dogs were there within 24 hours. When
will we stop playing `plot-plot' in our defence housing societies and wake
up to our responsibilities in the world community? Or is our job confined
to issuing identical condolence statements issued within minutes, drafted
by a section officer. Why does the media even report these statements. Or
is our job and for that matter the whole of ummah confined to simply
exporting jihad? And where are the tabligis - who should concentrate more
on the humanitarian aspects of life than the length of their pyjamas.
But why single out Pakistan, when the oil rich Arab
countries appear unmoved? Among the richest countries in the world, they
have donated relatively meagre amounts -- Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE have
together pledged $22 million.
It is at times like these that one cannot help saluting
Westerners. I was in North Carolina one Christmas Eve when a local
television channel on its six o'clock news showed a homeless family
shivering without adequate clothes. By ten o'clock, the same channel made
a fervent appeal to stop sending stuff for this family - the TV channel
already had two rooms full to the roof with warm clothing and food items
donated within four hours by local residents.
Whether Rwanda, Bosnia, Afghanistan or the tsunami, it
is only the West and Japan who respond. Our job is confined to raising
objections and demanding more. We hold out our begging bowl and are
willing to accept aid and grants from any country of the world to conduct
our immunisation programmes and to run our schools properly, but have the
nerve to conduct nuclear tests and undertake missile launches with our own
Bosnian women were being raped for months and the
entire Islamic world watched in silence. It was only the West that
eventually came to their rescue. Afghanistan bled for more than ten years
after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops while the West adopted a
hands-off policy, particularly after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. All
we could give Afghanistan was more land mines and sub-machine guns to
fight each other. We did not bother to build a single school, hospital or
bridge during the five years of Taliban rule.
The British public, in the past four days, has donated
25 million pounds to help the tsunami victims. The West has proven time
and again that it responds to human needs anywhere in the world regardless
of colour, nationality or religion. Our concern is confined to fellow
Muslims but most times even that is confined to simple condolence
messages; as for the rest, behead them because they are not going to
The writer is a freelance contributer.