Desi Back to Desh

Between airports, airplanes and transit lounges

Pakistan flood relief: Mosharraf Zaidi gives a voice to our thoughts: Where is the world in Pakistan?

How different are these kids from my kids, this family from my family, this room from my room.

Mosharraf Zaidi articulates what all of us are feeling right now in his Foreign Policy piece on Why doesn’t the world care about Pakistan. In his powerful words

“There’s a degree of truth to all these explanations. But the main reason that Pakistan isn’t receiving attention or aid proportionate to the devastation caused by these floods is because, well, it’s Pakistan. Given a catastrophe of such epic proportions in any normal country, the world would look first through a humanitarian lens. But Pakistan, of course, is not a normal country. When the victims are Haitian or Sri Lankan — hardly citizens of stable, well-government countries, themselves — Americans and Europeans are quick to open their hearts and wallets. But in this case, the humanity of Pakistan’s victims takes a backseat to the preconceived image that Westerners have of Pakistan as a country.”

“Pakistan is a country that no one quite gets completely, but apparently everybody knows enough about to be an expert. If you’re a nuclear proliferation expert, suddenly you’re an expert on Pakistan. If you’re terrorism expert, ditto: expert on Pakistan. India expert?┬áPakistan, too then. Of South Asian origin of any kind at a think-tank, university, or newspaper? Expert on Pakistan. Angry that your parents sent you to the wrong madrassa when you were young? Expert on Pakistan.”

A country that has been familiar with the plight of refugee camps since the start of the first Afghan war of 1978, we have seen our fair share of misery of displaced people and natural disasters. The earth quake, the Swat and Waziristan IDP crisis and now the floods. Children waiting for their time to use water, men fighting over food for their families.

Mosharraf calls it a case of “Pakistan Fatigue”. The world is tired of helping us out every alternate year and as before the burden of feeding Pakistani families in need, the burden of doing the heavy lifting to help each other out is on us. Don’t trust the headlines about the dollars of aid and the sophisticated politics behind the headlines; take and give away whatever you can to whoever is trying to arrange a relief effort. Clear out your closet, clean up your wallet, skip hosting that Iftar, your budget for new clothes for the three days of Eid, or your plan for the lavish feast on the first day of Shawal. This is the month of giving, so give. That family in Nowshera is really not that different from our families at home.