Muslims Weekly, News Report, Jehangir Khattak
Oct 13, 2005, NEW YORK – Saddened and moved by the shocking horrors of the massive earthquake that wiped out completely or partially several cities, towns, villages and hamlets in northern Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, the Pakistani and Muslim community across North America has swung into action by launching major fundraising campaigns.
Major American Muslim organizations have announced to cut big checks to provide relief to the millions of their brethren in the foothills of Himalayas. Important Islamic groups have pledged to raise well over $12 million in the coming days and weeks. The total tally of fundraising is expected to rise substantially as figures from many parts of the country and the funds raised at local levels are yet to come.
The death and destruction in the region is staggering. Pakistani media reports say the number of dead could surpass the 50,000 mark as the rescue teams reach small villages and towns in the inaccessible mountains. Over 100,000 are believed to have been injured while more than 2.5 million have been displaced. Pakistan government officials say that in many parts of northern Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, an entire generation has simply vanished. The huge death toll has left the American Muslim community at large and the Pakistani and Kashmiri community in particular, shocked, saddened and in deep anxiety.
In New York, many Kashmiris say they have lost several of their next of kin. Prominent among those who have lost their close ones include Raja Muzaffar, a known leader of the Kashmiri community, Raja Inayat, Haleem Khan, Professor! Maqsood Jafri, and many others.
A pall of gloom and anguish has engulfed the New York Kashmiri and Pakistani community which has responded to the catastrophe with unprecedented enthusiasm.
Already, several local community organizations have started organizing fundraising events to aid the victims. The Islamic Circle of North America’s (ICNA) Relief has announced a donation of one million dollars for the victims while the Islamic Relief has pledged a donation of $10 million. Islamic Relief officials said they had raised $100,000 dollars in the first 24 hours of the call. Islamic Relief has three full-time offices in Islamabad, Neelum Valley, and Muzaffarabad, near areas hardest hit by the disaster.
ICNA Relief field representative Ikram Hussain has already reached Pakistan to coordinate the relief efforts on behalf of ICNA Relief/Helping Hand in earthquake affected areas. “So far we have financed the establishment of relief camps in Abbotabad, Mansehra and Swat. A regional office in Peshawar by our sister NGO is coordinating all the relief activities in the NWF Province in Pakistan. We have financed three tent villages for Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Rawalakot districts thru our sister NGO in Azad Kashmir area,” ICNA said in a statement.
Similarly, Society for International Help, another U.S.-based charity group that is affiliated with Pakistan-based Shifa Foundation and Tameer-e-Millat Foundation, has launched another appeal and says that it received an overwhelming response. “We received $60,000 in donations in just 72 hours,” said Dr. Zaheer Ahmad, chairman of the Shifa Foundation and Tameer Millat Foundation.
Similarly, Pakistani doctors’ largest organization in North America also has launched a nationwide fundraising campaign. For better coordination and greater results, the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent in North America (APPNA) has joined hands with the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) and both the organizations will jointly raise fund for the victims.
“So far we have established two base camps at Muzaffarabad (in Azad Kashmir) and Abbottabad (in NWF Province of Pakistan). Our volunteers are already on the ground and are reaching out to the affectees,” Dr Saeed Akhtar, who has been appointed as coordinator for the joint relief effort of APPNA and IMANA, told Muslims Weekly from Lubbock, Texas, over telephone. According to Akhtar, as of Tuesday, October 11, 2005, the two organizations had jointly raised over $200,000 dollars.
He said several doctors from APPNA and IMANA had volunteered their services for the help of the affected people. He said a team of 10 doctors will volunteer their services for two weeks in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. He said an advance party comprising APPNA’s president elect Dr. Paracha, Akhtar and Dr Pervez Malik would be leaving for Pakistan this weekend while the first batch of volunteer doctors would leave for Pakistan the week after. “After that ten doctors will go to Pakistan every week to keep the rotation going,” said Akhtar, who is also Director Transplant Surgery and Urology at the Shifa International Hospital Islamabad. He said APPNA and IMANA had sent medicines and other relief goods worth more than $50,000 to the affected regions.
In New York, the Pakistani American community launched a spirited effort of its own to raise funds at the local level. Several Pakistani and Kashmiri community organizations have announced fundraising dinners over the next few days. The Pakistan embassy and Consulates in New York, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles have opened special counters to facilitate expeditious processing of visa applications of all those who lost their next of kin in the disaster and want to visit Pakistan. The Pakistan embassy has also opened the President’s Relief Fund account in the National Bank of Pakistan branches in Washington, New York and Bank of America in Los Angeles. More information in this regard can be obtained by visiting http://www.pakistanconsulateny.org
“It is our duty to help our brothers and sisters in distress by making the maximum possible donations,” said Pakistan’s Consul General Haroon Shaukat at a fundraising event organized by Pakistan News Writers Forum at a local restaurant in Queens, New York. He said every possible effort would be made to help all those who wished to visit Pakistan at the earliest. More than $12,000 were raised at the event that was organized by Urdu weekly Pakistan News publisher Mujeeb Lodhi. Dua or prayers was also offered for those who lost their lives in the disaster.
Another fundraising event was held at a restaurant in Manhattan. It was organized by Kashmir Mission, New York, a Kashmiri community organization. It was largely attended by the Kashmiri community. In all $46,500 were raised at this fundraiser. “We have set forth our goal to raise $250,000 in next few weeks. These funds will be made available after careful evaluation of the situation in different parts of Kashmir,” the Mission said in a statement after the fundraising dinner. Kashmir Mission has also pledged to completely re-build a school in Muzaffarabad on self-financed basis.
The dinner was fully paid for by Capt. Shaheen Butt, owner of Kashmir Restaurant and Director of Kashmir Mission. “We also pledge that every single dollar raised for this cause will be spent in Kashmir. A committee will be formed to visit Kashmir in the near future at their own personal expenses to support relief efforts,” the statement went on to say. Donations can be made to the Mission by calling Captain Shaheen Butt at 212.365.0072 or Malik Nadeem Abid at 917.513.0904.
The local mosques and Islamic Center have also joined in by doing random fundraising after each prayers. The Jamaica Muslim Center, located in Jamaica, Queens, has raised $50,000 in the last two days after Taraveeh prayers (special prayers offered by Muslims during the month of Ramadhan after Isha prayers). The Muslim Center of New York, Flushing, has also announced to donate $50,000. Several Islamic Centers across the tri-state New York area have announced similar efforts.
New York’s Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center has set up a disaster relief fund. “Imam Al-Khoi Center appeals to the human conscience for generous donation to help the victims and earn mighty rewards from the Almighty SWT in this Blessed Month,” said Muhsin M.R. Alidina, Programs Coordinator, in a statement. Donations can be made online at www.al-khoei.org or by mail through cash, checks or credit card.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the main Islamic civil rights and advocacy group, called on American Muslims and other people of conscience to help the quake victims.
“Just as Americans came together to help the victims of recent Gulf Coast hurricanes, we must do whatever we can to help those suffering from natural disasters in other parts of the world,” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said in a press release posted on the group’s Web site.
He said those wishing to help should direct contributions to the Muslim Hurricane Relief Task Force (MHRTF ), a group formed by U.S. Islamic charities after Hurricane Katrina struck the southern U.S. coast in August.
Article Courtesy: New America Media