British Columbians donating to Pakistan flood relief, but negative perceptions hampering efforts

The article was updated on August 25, 2010.

It shouldn’t have to be said, but apparently it does.

“There are many realities in Pakistan and many kinds of Pakistanis, just like in any other country,” Amal Rana, a Pakistani activist living in Vancouver, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “People need to understand that the majority of Pakistanis don’t believe in terrorism, that the majority of Pakistanis are peaceful.”

Since massive floods began to ravage swaths of her country of origin in late July, Rana and other Pakistani-Canadians have been working in the Lower Mainland to raise funds for those affected by the natural disaster. But, she said, negative perceptions of the country and its government are making things challenging.

Rana is on the board of directors for the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy and a member of the Pakistan Action Network, a Vancouver-based group that aims to promote democracy and social justice in Pakistan. She expressed concern that funding is being adversely affected by false images of Pakistan that characterize the South Asian nation as a failed state rife with Islamic extremism.

“Pakistan is perceived as not doing enough—by conservatives in the U.S. and the Canadian government and others—in terms of the war on terror,” she explained. “And is blamed, to some degree, for what’s happening in terms of the Taliban and the Afghan situation.”

But, Rana continued, the reality on the ground is very different. “There is a really successful civil society that is thriving, that is countering what the Taliban is doing,” she said.

While the amount of donations is slowly beginning to grow, what has so far been pledged remains a fraction of what Canadians gave to Haiti after an earthquake struck the island nation earlier this year.

According to a Globe and Mail report, one week after fundraising efforts for Pakistan’s flood victims began, Canadian charities had raised $200,000. One week after the Haiti earthquake, that number was $3.5 million. Factor in the number of people affected by the two natural disasters and the disparity is even more poignant. Pakistani prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has said that 20 million people have been affected by the floods. Haiti’s earthquake hit three million people.

Farrukh Alam, president of the Pakistan-Canada Association, also said that negative perceptions of Pakistan could be affecting donor efforts. But he emphasized that the differences in the nature of the two disasters is also likely impacting donations.

“With Haiti, the damage was assessed right away,” he explained. “We knew there were a lot of deaths, a lot of damage. But with this, really, people have tended not to grasp what we have here in Pakistan.”

Reached on his cellular phone on August 18 on the way to a radio station to talk about the floods, Alam described the enormity of the current tragedy in Pakistan as so huge that the need for aid is simply incomprehensible.

“A lot more is needed,” he said. “Actually, more than we can even imagine.”


Women carry aid distributed by the Pakistan Red Crescent in response to the August flooding. Canadian Red Cross photo.

However, Alam remained positive, noting that fundraising efforts within the province’s Pakistani and Muslim communities are going very well. He said that members of those groups had already donated an estimated $100,000. Then, in a follow-up interview on August 20, Alam said that an August 19 a fundraising effort hosted by Red 93.1 FM raised a further $180,000, and that a second push is scheduled to take place Thursday, August 26.

That endeavor is receiving the support of a number of radio stations, Alam said, including News1130, CBC Radio One, RJ1200, Sher-E-Punjab, and Red FM. Donations will go to the Canadian Red Cross.

The provincial government has also pledged $150,000 in aid for Pakistan’s flood victims. And on August 22, the federal government announced that it would match Canadians’ private donations to registered charities from August 2 through to September 12.

Further pledge drives are also in the works, Alam said. “So good things are happening.”

But he expressed concern about the relative lack of donations coming from Canadian citizens who do not identify themselves with Pakistani or Muslim communities.

“The problem is, the mainstream Canadian population has not come to aid,” Alam said. “We have tried and tried.”

Comments (16) Add New Comment
Google
Google 9/11 dancing in the streets. You will see a side of Pakistan which makes you want to help less. By and large they hate the west.

Where is Saudi Arbia and their aid?
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Travis Lupick
Thanks "Google". (Note sarcasm.) That's a central point of the article. That there is more than one side of Pakistan (a nation of over 170 million people, it's worth noting). On 9/11, some were dancing in the streets, some were lamenting the loss of other humans' lives.

Also, while I'm definitely no fan of Saudi Arabia (which is currently shopping for a doctors willing to paralyse a man via punitively damaging his spinal cord), the kingdom has pledged $105 million in aid to Pakistan.
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@Travis
9/11
"some" were dancing is the street is perhaps what you want to see, or what you define by the exact number shown in the video. The fact of the matter is those videos are a small window into a large reality. If you polled Pakistan the VAST majority would say they hate westerners. BTW did you know that i have Pakistan government has recently been proved to FUND Al-Qaede. Google that! :)

Here is what I say to them now....Allah aint so Akbar now is he?
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duncan
Why do they hate us? It's not our freedom.

As reported by BBC News, +14 million in need of help, and America's bombs never stopped. Read Suspected US missile strike 'kills 12 in NW Pakistan', dated August 14.
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Travis Lupick
To "@travis": I didn't need to Google Pakistanis dancing in the streets; I remember watching the video on CNN nine years ago. And I don't need to Google your reference to the Pakistani government funding al-Qaeda. Here's the link for that one.

Small correction: If we're thinking of the same story (The Afghan War Logs), it's the Taliban that Pakistan's ISI is funding, not al-Qaeda (though if evidence of money going to the latter was found, I would not be totally shocked). And none of this is anything new. The close ties between Pakistan's intelligence agencies and the Taliban have been known since long before 9/11. Read something by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll or Ahmed Rashid. The U.S. government was directly involved in the establishment of the connections and monetary support networks that we're talking about.

For the record, I definitely would not recommend anybody looking to help those affected by the floods give money to Pakistan's government. That's why the article links to the Canadian Red Cross.

I'll let you have the final say.
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@Travis
Pakistan built their brand...lets have the public opinion have their final say. i know where my 5% of gross earnings for donations are going this year..and it isn't anywhere near people who hate what I stand for.
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Richard Pearce
Well, I see at least one of the members of the OMB (Order of Muslim Bashers) has show up in an article that highlights the effects of the years of effort that he and his order have put into the matter.

That Pakistan has lost more soldiers and innocent civilians in its fight against the Taliban since 9/11 than the US and Canada combined matters nothing, given that they are trying a more nuanced approach than the 'kill them all' one that the OMB holds is the only tactic allowed.

That Pakistan has a greater rate of female participation in politics than the US or Canada, let alone Haiti, matters nothing, given that they are a Muslim majority country.

And the widespread corruption in Haiti was not a concern when it came to raising funds for them, for some reason.

A deluge of rainfall the likes of which has not been seen there for decades has overwhelmed the systems that a country dealing with a vast number of problems that the colonial system played a part in creating had in place to prevent this sort of flooding, a massive amount of crops have been lost or damaged (roughly the equivalent of the crops grown in all of Ontario, to give one a sense of scale), tens of thousands will sicken or die in the next few weeks if certain vital supplies do not reach them in sufficient quantities soon, and tens of millions of people worldwide who are struggling to survive on the bare minimum of food will face rising food prices for the next couple of years if the supplies to get new crops in the ground aren't in the hands of the affected farmers in 6 weeks.

The flood might be half way around the world, but the effects of not opening your wallets (as well as your hearts) now will show up in your grocery store next year.
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Richard Pearce
Oh, for those looking for a single site that contains things like updated information on who has donated how much (through official channels, a lot of the aid won't go through FTS tracked systems), expert opinion of how much of what is needed where and when (as well as the likely consequences of it NOT getting there in time), maps, and links to official sites of various agencies

http://www.pakresponse.info/index.php
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Jhayde
No one from Haiti flew planes into the twin towers....NO ONE from Haiti killed innocent westerners.... I don't care what Haiti does with my money, they could burn it for all I care...Pakistan will not see a dime of my hard earned cash...Let their Allah and al Qaeda & fellow Muslim brothers help them.
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Martin C
Before you start calling me names, please let me remind you that Pakistan bought earlier this year a brand spanking new fleet of 20 F-16, at 40 million $ apiece, plus maintenance and other fees. They will be used not to fight the Taliban in Waziristan, but to patrol Kashmir and the Indian border. And as we speak, Pakistan keeps on spending hundreds of millions stockpiling nukes. The tab for these lovely spendings will be picked up by the impoverished taxpayers, since the national government sponsors one of the world's biggest tax evasion program that allows the richest Pakistani to get away without paying their share. For example, billionaire and leader of opposition Nawaz Sharif hasn't paid taxes in 2005, 2006 & 2007.

I don't make this much money, but I donated as much as I could for the Haiti relief. However, as much as I feel for the fishermen who lost a fortune in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I did not donate my hard-earned money to citizens of the world's richest country. Likewise, I won't be donating to Pakistani, and neither will a lot of moslem people I know. Call me heartless, but why would I give a penny if even Nawaz Sharif feels too poor to help his own people?

It's easy to generalize and point the finger at those who didn't not donate money to Pakistan flood relief, but rather than being xenophobic Islam-bashing rednecks, could it be that most Canadians just feel the way I do?
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David mc
If England had a devastating flood as Pakistan has. would Pakistan come to our aid? I think you will find the answer would be no!! they wouldn't. The shops in pakistan have put the prices of foods and aids up instead of donating to there own. They just see a quick way of making a extra few quid. Whilst there goverment spend millions on war toys. I know there are a lot of good pakistans who I do feel sorry for. But the majority of pakistans hate the westerns even when they live in our countrys. They are a breed of people who only seem to care about them selfs. So let them look after them selfs and ask there own goverment to help them instead of waisting money on war toys. sorry but I WILL NOT BE DONATING
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Al DR
Pakistan, a vast majority of them are fundamentalists and they have a very simple agenda, making the world islamic. For most of the western world, they will come into our countries, use our laws that were made to protect us to propell their religious schemes while they play the 'moderate muslim' facade to the naive who think that it is all good to accomodate. If anyone in any western country were to go to most countries stated as Islamic (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,...) you will notice how the non muslims are discriminated upon in ever so subtle ways and out in the open as well.But we give them all the liberties that we enjoy when they come here and talk shit about us and our way of life. I think like France and Denmark, the rest of the west should realize the folly of allowing their nonsense to continue.
Flooding in Pakistan= less future or potential terrorists to worry about. I think its a sign that even allah is tired of their fanatic ways
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Val
I can't believe what I'm reading here! Where is the humanity. I am not Pakistani but spent many years growing up there. The people there are just like you and I. They are also SIGNIFICANTLY poorer than anyone here so don't have an ability to take care of themselves in the face of such a huge disaster. I dare say that any negative feelings about the west will be fueled by the lack of our response to such a massive disaster as this. How would you feel if the shoe was on the other foot and those who had the ability to help turned their backs to you???

Have a heart and save a life. People there will be very grateful, despite what you seem to think there....
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able seaman
@Richard Pearce OMB (Order of Muslim Brown-nosers)
Let me add to what Martin C has stated about modern fighters.
Was it Zia ul-Haq who said: "We [Pakistan] will eat grass, but we will have nuclear weapons."? And, of course, Pak also had to have the ballistic missile delivery systems. What did THAT all cost? About $50 billion?
What kind of flood prevention and mitigation schemes would that have bought? They made their bed and they're now lieing in it. Or should that be lying?
Yes, it's too bad for the innocent millions, which would include maybe millions who are not so innocent. Those who hate the west as evil infidels. WE are the other to them; and their koran and their imams teach them to plan for OUR demise.
Embrace islam, or submit as dhimmis (and pay into their 'protection racket'), or be beheaded. Read it! It's all there in their writings, 'holy' and unholy.
@Travis - Great free ads for that cretin Derek O'Keefe and his book. What has that got to do with a natural / govt. assisted disaster?
There are people in Afghanistan trying to murder Canadians on an hourly basis, and we and the US are supposed to drop everything and send helicopters? They are the forces' most necessary piece of equipment, because of the IEDs used by DO'K's Taliban friends. DO'K knows that, and so does TL. So
anyone who makes that suggestion must be certifiably insane.

"O’Keefe also noted that despite the ongoing humanitarian disaster, the Obama administration has continued to carry out unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan’s north."
O’Keefe didn't note that despite the Ongoing Humanitarian Disaster, the Taliban administration has continued to carry out manned clone attacks in Pakistan. And has threatened any kaffir aid workers. Good on you Taliban! Winning hearts and minds during an OHD.
How come THEY didn't suspend military operations in Afg & Pak, in order to help their fellow mohammedans?
Instead, they carry on killing them. Way to go!
But of course "We made them do it."
The mantra of the loony left and fellow Useful Idiots;
of which there is no shortage at GS
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"CUSTOMS HEALTH CARE SOCIETY"
Asif Mahmood Jah:
Me and my team is grateful to Al-mighty Allah who helped us in providing shelter to the shelter less flood affectees with the help of friends / donors / well wishers / philanthropists in Pakistan and Abroad. The project was started immediately after Eid-ul Fitr and we promised to provide shelter before Eid-ul-Azha. You will be glad to know that 200 houses under this project are near completion and most of the flood affectees under “Apna Ghar Project” will celebrate this EID in their newly built houses.

Visit:

http://asifjahfloodrelief.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1093760190
http://www.welfareclinic.com.pk/
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KiDDAA Magazine
Look whether you like or hate Pakistan, its irrelevant. The Muslim population is 1/6th of the world. Pakistan is in trouble especially the areas close to Afghanistan. But that being said most of its probems are caused by Saudi Arabia a US and Israeli ally. That initself is funny if not sad.
As for the people who suffer from floodings or earthquakes they have nothing to do with nuts. Charity is for anyone suffering whether it be in Canada, Haiti or elsewhere.
If you dont want to send money to someone who doesnt represent our values, than why were Canadians in Afghanistan? That initself cost billions. War is isnt stupid!
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