Gurpreet Singh: Pakistani flood victims are not terrorists
The slow response to the flood crisis in Pakistan is partly being attributed to its reputation of being an epicentre of terrorism.
While 1,600 people have died in the floods, which are considered the worst in the history of Pakistan, millions are affected by the fury of nature.
Despite the UN's appeal for help, many political observers believe that the muted reaction is either due to donor fatigue or a prejudice against the Pakistani spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, for its continued support for terrorists.
The Haitian earthquake early this year exhausted donors.
In addition, recent revelations on Wikileaks exposed connections between the ISI and Islamic extremists, which have also influenced many in the West and elsewhere.
The anti-Pakistan bias among a section of people of Indian origin, in particular, is preventing some from coming to the rescue of the innocent flood victims.
Because the ISI is blamed for sponsoring terrorist violence in India, some of Indian descent are reluctant to donate money.
This is despite the fact that the Indian government has given $5 million in aid to Pakistan.
Even though India has continued to accuse Pakistan of supporting terrorism in its territory for years, its government decided to help a "hostile neighbour" in its hour of need.
Only recently, the two countries had broken off ties following a terror attack in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, in November 2008.
The Indian government alleged that the attackers originated in Pakistan.
Our radio station in Surrey, which goes by the name Radio India, received some hostile e-mails and phone calls from a few Indo-Canadians, who asked us not to help Pakistanis.
I myself received one call from a person who said that helping Pakistanis would be like helping the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
I had to tell him that not all Pakistanis are terrorists and that the flood victims cannot be punished for the misdeeds of a handful of extremists in that country.
Undeterred by such calls, our radio station decided to go ahead raise funds like other Punjabi radio stations in the Lower Mainland.
To our surprise, a large number of Indo-Canadians, including Hindus and Sikhs, not only opened their hearts, but also their purses when we started the radiothon on August 25.
Many of them showed up at our radio station with amounts ranging from $10 to $5,000, while others called in to make pledges and credit-card payments.
The donations kept pouring in until late evening.
The representatives of at least three Sikh temples and one Hindu temple in Greater Vancouver each donated $500 for the noble cause.
Apparently, the Indo-Canadian community has resisted fundamentalist forces, who are opposed to any attempt to create people-to-people contact on both sides of the border.
Since Pakistan is the birth place of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, Sikhs in particular feel connected with Pakistan at an emotional level.Also, elderly Sikhs had to leave behind their ancestral lands and homes in West Punjab, which is now in Pakistan, when India was divided on religious lines in 1947.
The Punjabi language also connects them culturally and socially with the Punjabi Muslims on the other side of the border.
The ISI has tried in the past to create disturbances in Indian Punjab by supporting Sikh separatists, but the mishandling of the domestic problems of Punjab by the Indian establishment was also responsible for violence and terrorism.
Having said that, how is it justified to neglect the plight of the flood victims for the wrongdoings of the ISI?
Apparently, the tragedy has come with a silver lining that can help the two neighbouring countries build bridges once again.
India and Pakistan have already fought two wars. They should learn to live in harmony like the U.S. and Canada, and together fight against the environmental challenges that face the world due to global warming.
Gurpreet Singh is Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings.