A Few Post Earthquake Challenges for Pakistan’s Civil Society
By Abdul Malik Mujahid
Pakistan's earthquake is already off the world's radar in terms of news headlines.
Pretty soon another disaster is likely to take attention away, as the earthquake
diverted attention away from America's string of hurricanes. If civil society
wants to be useful in helping the surviving victims, they must organize their
I, being a believer in the capacities of civil society, am a bit skeptical
of all governmental thinking processes and actions. Civil society represented
by the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) as well as religious and political
organizations must put their heads together to think of solutions. Saving people
from freezing to death is the immediate challenge.
While these groups may be thinking of strategies, unless they think smart
and present their plans to their donors fast enough, their assistance will be
like that of the governments: too little, too late.
Good, quick, out-of-the-box thinking will result in more funding. Muslims
in America have been generous. Chicago-based Muslim organizations alone have
received more than $2.5 million dollars for the earthquake victims in the last
one month. The actual numbers are likely to be far higher than that. If thoughtful
plans are presented instead of just images of disaster, Muslims in America and
their neighbors will match what the US government has offered so far.
A thinking agenda for the civil society:
Civil society were quick to respond to the Kashmir earthquake. Now they need
to think of long term. They can think better because they are street smart (most
of the time at least).
They can do the following now:
- Put their best minds to think together in Pakistan as well as in America.
Although the first phase of disaster relief will pass away soon, rebuilding
life will mean developing good plans now. There are many areas of thinking:
- Which types of inexpensive earthquake-resistant housing can immediately
be made available? There are several under a $1,000 unit models which
can be adopted.
- What can foreign governments do to guide political action in those
countries through overseas Pakistanis?
- What must the Pakistani government do?
- How can civil society be vigilant to avoid the corruption and wastage
of $2 billion committed to the Pakistan government for rehabilitation?
- How can we help rebuild local government?
- How can we help more than 30,000 amputees become productive citizens?
- Tent schools are few and may not last as winter catches up. What
types of homeschooling or alternate schools are possible?
- Civil Society Coordination Office: There needs to be
a large neutral office in Islamabad as well as tent offices in Muzaffarabad,
Balakot, Rawlakot and Bagh. These offices needs to be independent of the
government; equipped with a map defining their area of work; communication
equipment; as well as meeting space. The Islamabad office should help
them think and plan for their coordination before they attend government
meetings. The field offices in the four major disaster cities can be used
for daily lounging and exchanging notes.
- Collective buying: many Pakistani NGOs are trying
to buy the same items from the same market, which have forced up the prices
of several items, especially tents. Collective buying can reverse this
- Communication can bring people together for more efficiency and future
collaboration. A common e-list of all these organizations can be used
to inform and ask others about:
- What each organization is doing.
- What areas they are looking for cooperation from others.
- What are the best practices?
- Share inventory lists with each other to share access material
from one area and one organization to another. In some villages there
are mounds of clothing being used by survivors to provide warmth by
burning them, while other places desperately need clothing.
Can NGOs talk to each other?
As government in the Third World is withering away, civil society is filling
in the gap. In Pakistan, however, there is a major ideological divide between
the secular/leftist/westernized organizations and the religious/Islamic/nationalist
non-governmental ones. They have for some reason adopted an extremist mantra
of non-communication. This ideological extremism is hurting the cause of humanity
in Pakistan. Since I know and work with people on both sides of this divide,
I am amazed to hear that in some way they do admire each other's guts even if
only grudgingly. I think it is about time that they talked. They may end up
working with and influencing each other. I have found the first group to be
more cosmopolitan and better citizens of a global village but the second to
have a better rapport with the masses. In that way they can complement each
The world has moved away from ideological battles to dialogue. Instead of
the deep suspicion of each other's motives, they need to talk to and discover
each other's humanity. It is interesting to note that both of these groups look
for converts but forget that converts are won over through conversations and
Date Created: 11/28/05
Date/Time Last Modified: 11/28/2005 10:30:46 AM
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