Saudi Arabia was the first nation to respond to Pakistan’s flood aid appeal. It created a back-to-back air bridge that saw 30 cargo planes land in Pakistan.
Washington’s aid is politicized and arrogant; Riyadh’s aid is compassionate
By GULPARI NAZISH MEHSUD
Monday, 30 August 2010.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Saudi Arabia has quietly bypassed the United States as the single largest aid donor in real terms so far. Riyadh’s commitment to helping the victims of Pakistan’s devastating floods has crossed US$140 million.
The Saudis have also outdone themselves. The Saudi military and air force set up a back-to-back air bridge between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, sending thirty large cargo planes carrying hundreds of tons of relief goods. The air bridge continues to operate.
With more than $120 million sent in cash, the first 3-day international telethon to raise funds, and 30 major air relief shipments to land in Pakistan in what is the largest air bridge in support of flood victims, Saudi response was better than any other nation.
The only exceptions are UAE sending six helicopters when the United States initially provided only five, [later increased to 15]. After its initial reluctance, US surpassed any other donor by providing three large cargo planes in addition to ten more helicopters. Most of the pledged US aid money is, however, ‘recycled’ from earlier aid commitments to Pakistan and is not new. And, according to Ahmed Quraishi, Project Pakistan Senior Fellow at Project For Pakistan In 21st Century, an independent Islamabad-based think tank, US help is politicized, meant to shore up a pro-US govt. in Islamabad in the face of better performances by the Pakistani military and Pakistani charities in responding to the humanitarian disaster.
Mr. Quraishi told PakNationalists.com: “Despite frosty relations with the Zardari-Gilani government, Riyadh’s aid was massive but received little media attention in Pakistan. Unlike the US embassy’s clamor for publicity and attention, the Saudis and others worked quietly. At one point, the Saudi ambassador is reported to have told Pakistani reporters that the Pakistani media failed to highlight the fact that Riyadh was the first country to respond to Pakistani help request after the floods.”
Within the first week of the flooding that started on 29 July, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz ordered a massive kingdom-wide fundraising and aid collection campaign. Official aid collection camps were set up in all major Saudi cities. The Saudi royal family set an example when several princes donated $20 million on the first day, encouraging Saudi citizens to follow suit. More than $107 million were collected in the first three days.
Saudi Arabia established the largest air bridge to air lift relief supplies to Pakistan, sending more than 30 cargo planes so far to Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber-PK and Punjab. Saudi Arabia is the only country so far to have established such a large back-to-back air bridge to Pakistan.
The Saudi rescue team busy in Thatta.
Eight more planes have landed in Pakistan over the weekend carrying two field hospitals, complete with equipment and medical staff. The Saudi ambassador Abdul Aziz bin Ibrahim al-Ghadeer hardly visited his office in Islamabad in the past two weeks because of his constant field presence in Lahore, Multan, and Hyderabad, in addition to the Chaklala Air Force base in Rawalpindi, to receive Saudi cargo planes. On the recommendation of the Pakistani military, which suggested the hospitals focus on Sindh, one Saudi field hospital has already become operational in Thatta. The second field hospital will also probably be set up somewhere in Sindh considering the urgency there.
Two Saudi rescue teams, which Saudi Arabia has raised according to international levels of training and performance following repeated floods in some Saudi regions, have also arrived in Hyderabad where they are active in several parts of the Sindh province.
In neighboring Kuwait, the Kuwaiti government lifted a long standing ban on collecting donations in public. This exception was made on the orders of the Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed in deference to the emerging humanitarian disaster in Pakistan. Donation camps sprung up in large and small mosques and shopping malls across the emirate. Interestingly, the wealthy Kuwaiti business community outshone the government in donating to flood victims in Pakistan. One Kuwaiti logistics company, Agility, mobilized 1,000 of its workers for flood relief effort in Pakistan.
Fundraising efforts outside of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are important but were modest in their outcomes. A German telethon attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised $10 million. British donations came largely from the British Pakistani and British Muslim communities, with the British magazine The Economist showing skepticism at reports suggesting ordinary British citizens have shown any passion to donate to Pakistan. Turkey has donated $10 million, China a little more, while India came up with a symbolic $5 million, probably because smug Indian officials were sure Pakistan won’t accept the money anyway [Pakistan thanked India and accepted the money but asked New Delhi to send through UN]. Iran has sent relief supplies and most other countries have also gave preference to relief goods because of lack of trust in the Pakistani government and politicians’ credibility or ability to utilize aid money properly.
One of the most endearing aspects of donations coming to Pakistan from the Gulf is individual donations from politicians and businessmen, which are enough to put the wealthy Pakistani politicians to shame.
On the first day of a nationwide Saudi campaign to raise funds for the victims of floods in Pakistan on Monday, 17 Aug. 2010:
- King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdelaziz Al Saud, donated US$5.3 million from his private money to Pakistan flood victims
- Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdelzziz Al Saud gave away US$2.7 million from his private money
- Interior Minister Nayef bin Abdelaziz Al Saud gave away two million Saudi riyals
- Governor of Tabouk donated one million Saudi Riyals
- Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdelaziz Al Saud gave ten million Saudi riyals
- Businessman Eesa bin Mohammad al Eesa, president of the Samba Financial Group, donated two million Saudi riyals
Separately, and in addition to his $2.7 million in aid, the Saudi Crown Prince has also dispatched one hundred tons of dates from his private farmland to Pakistan.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Saudi public’s response to the massive Saudi aid appeal has been amazing. Women were seen donating jewellery to makeshift fundraising camps in Jeddah and Riyadh.
A Saudi commentator left this comment on the website of the Arabic-language Saudi newspaper, Okaz: “What the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, may Allah protect him, has given to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is something that all the five permanent nations at UNSC and all the Arab countries could not have given. His Majesty’s stand with Pakistan will never be forgotten.”
Comments posted at the online editions of Saudi newspapers showed how deeply the Saudis are moved by the tragedy in Pakistan. “Pakistanis deserve our help,” wrote one Saudi. “They are our brothers.”
Iran has committed over 400 tons of relief goods so far as of 14 August 2010 out of which 180 tons have already been delivered by the Iranian transport aircrafts. These goods include tents, floorings, clothes, canned food, bread and medical supplies. Iranian Red Crescent society has also been on the ground along with Pakistan Red Crescent society as part of its ongoing relief operation inside Pakistan reaching out to more than 100,000 flood victims. In addition to the Iranian government help Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani has announced that one third of collected Khums will be donated to Pakistan for humanitarian assistance. Iran’s chamber of commerce also donated US $1 million to the flood victims.
Grand Ayatollah Nasir-Makarem Shirazi
And on 17 August, senior Iranian cleric Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem-Shirazi [left] met the Pakistani ambassador in Tehran and announced donating $50,000 to the victims of flood-stricken Pakistan in response to Pakistan’s call for more relief aid.
‘KUWAIT IS WITH YOU’
On 21 August, Kuwaiti government launched a nationwide fundraiser called ‘Kuwait Is With You’, in a message to Pakistanis devastated by the floods.
Kuwait’s official and private donations have crossed $20 million, half of them coming from the government. But most of the aid won’t reach the Pakistani government. The noisy Kuwaiti media, while expressing solidarity with Pakistan, has also seen several write-ups questioning the credibility of the Pakistani government. Some criticized the Pakistani government for ‘collusion’ with Washington in hounding credible Pakistani charities in the name of fighting so-called terror.
The emirate launched a national fundraiser for Pakistan on 23 August, collecting so far close to $10 million from the public.
Kuwait had banned charity fundraisers for the most part of the decade. But on the 23rd, the government lifted the ban to make way for a nationwide fundraiser for Pakistan, which began grandly at the Grand Mosque of the state, where close to 1,000 worshippers donated generously for Pakistan.
Equally impressive is the contribution from the Kuwaiti business community:
- Mohammad Hmoud Al-Shaya Company, which owns a series of upscale designer clothing and jewellery outlets across the Gulf, donated $500,000 to Pakistan
- Kuwait Finance House has dispatched $2 million to Pakistan
- General Secretariat of Awqaf has donated $1.5 million
- The Joint Kuwaiti Committee for Relief, a local charity, has donated $1.5 million
- The sons of the late Abdullah al-Mutawa, a businessman, have donated $100,000 to Pakistan
- E-Q8 Petrochemicals has donated $100,000
- The employees of the Bank of Bubiyan started an internal fundraiser for Pakistan
Dalal al-Mudaf, a senior officer at the Kuwait Investment Company, with offices in the Gulf, London and New York, has kicked off an internal company fundraiser for Pakistan as of today, Monday 30 August. In a statement, she quoted a saying by the Prophet [PBUH], ‘A Muslim for a Muslim is like a wall, pulling one another’.
Tariq al Sultan
Agility, one of the largest logistics companies in the region with operations in Pakistan, has mobilized its 1,000 workers here to get involved in relief work. According to Tariq al-Sultan [right], Chairman of Agility worldwide, the company has offered its entire commercial warehouses full of foodstuffs and the space along with cooling facilities in Multan for use by United Nations in Punjab. In Peshawar, the company has donated several air-conditioned containers to transport food items to flood victims. And in Sukkur, the company has put its entire fleet of trucks in the service of food and aid distribution effort across Sindh. The company has also distributed urgent food items and medicines to 5,000 families in Sindh, and the employees of Agility worldwide have donated their one-day salary to Pakistan.
In another step of indirect support to Pakistan, one of the young members of the Kuwaiti parliament, Mr. Mohammed Hayef al-Huwaila, held a press conference at the parliament building last week and drew the attention of the Arab public opinion to massive human rights violations in Indian occupied Kashmir. He called on the Kuwaiti government to condemn Indian atrocities.