I walk inside the gate of Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD) to find a modest white building facing me. The structure is old but acceptable and there are people buzzing about the premises. The entrance is lined with scores of cartons most of which are carefully labelled with tags such as ‘Tinned Food’ ‘Boys Clothing 7-8 yrs’ and so on. A little further on I come across an entire area dedicated to boxes from Vestergard-Frandsen, which presumably contain LifeStraws. I finally locate a dimly lit staircase that leads me to a large hall where I wait for the press conference to begin.
Pakistan Association in Dubai aims to unite Pakistanis in Dubai and has been around since the 1960’s. Here one can meet and interact with other Pakistanis in Dubai, attend events organised by the club and avail the benefits it offers. When the floods struck all parts of Pakistan, affecting 20 million people and leaving 300,000 homeless, the Pakistani community in Dubai rose to the occasion magnificently.
Donations in cash and kind were received from all parts from the UAE from Pakistanis as well as from people of other nationalities. Riaz Farooq, the President of the association informed that the PAD has already sent 53 containers of goods worth 17 million Dirhams (which include food items, water, clothing etc) of which 41 were air consignments, to Pakistan. Due to the internal logistic issues, sadly, only 21 of them have been released to the affected people. Not only that, the Pakistan Association of Dubai raised a sum of 2.1 million Dirhams in cash to provide immediate relief to the flood victims.
The group secretary Rizwan Fancy and some of the members travelled to the affected areas to distribute the goods. “We wanted to make sure the aid reaches the right people,” he said. The volunteers from PAD also set up a ‘camp-city’ in the Makli area in Sindh. The 200 tents set up in the area accommodated about 2,200 people, all of whom were provided food, water and basic healthcare. As we now enter the second phase of rehabilitation, the president of the club insisted that donor fatigue must not set in, and that we must as a nation, help the people return to their homes and villages.
For logistic support in Pakistan the PAD has relied on the Al-Khidmat Foundation, a Pakistan-based NGO. With a network of over 24,000 volunteers nationwide, Al-Khidmat claims to be one the largest NGO’s in the country. Naimatullah Khan, the head of the Al-Khidmat Foundation and ex-Nazim of Karachi addressed the audience, enlightening the journos with the NGO’s efforts in the flood-relief. He appealed to the expats in the UAE to donate generously to the cause. He also outlined the costs for different projects that donors can sponsor, such as building of houses (AED 5,000), repairing of schools (AED 8,000) and mosques (AED8,000), and building hospitals (AED 150,000).
As I make my way back towards the gate later in the evening, I spot some boys practising cricket in the nets located in the Association grounds, just behind the main building. A Pakistani fast-bowler-to-be is hurtling towards the stumps to deliver a ball to a determined young man who ably ducks a ferocious bouncer. I watch their game for a bit as I see something I hadn’t spotted before: Signs around the premises, and on the gate saying “WE DO NOT ACCEPT OLD CLOTHES FOR FLOOD AFFECTEES”
Rizwan Fancy later informs me that the PAD initially accepted donations for old clothes because the situation in Pakistan was dire and the flood-affected people were gladly accepting used clothing. But he added that as the condition back home improves, and aid pours in from all corners of the world, the requirement for such donations has lessened considerably and the Association now only accepts clothes which are new or in excellent condition.
I leave the place feeling pleased about the fact that Pakistanis in the UAE have been able to make a positive difference. It is moments such as these when you feel proud to be a Pakistani. In a pleasant reverie of thoughts about the homeland, I maneuver my car out of the parking space – only to find a blue Mitsubishi Lancer jumping the cue of cars and coming smack in front of me out of practically nowhere. I jam the brakes and as the young driver needlessly revs up the accelerator to make unwanted noise, I notice a small Pakistani flag bumper sticker on the rear of the Lancer. Some things, I suppose are essentially Pakistani, and helping fellow brethren in times of disaster, breaking the cues no matter where you are, and the uncanny knack of producing one tear-away fast-bowler after the other, are just some of them.