For nearly three weeks since the monsoon rains triggered historical flooding along Pakistan's Indus River the world has barely reacted to the tragedy befalling the hapless people of Pakistan. The numbers are staggering...over 20% of the country has been inundated by the worst flooding in Pakistan's history; over 20 million marooned victims -- a staggering 14% of Pakistan's population of 170 million -- have lost everything. The mounting humanitarian crisis is beginning to take on biblical proportions. And some fear the worst is yet to come!
Only a small fraction of the six million victims has received any tangible aid -- 500,000 at last unscientific count...the situation made all the more compelling by a total washout of bridges and roads in the affected areas leaving a tenuous helicopter lifeline as the only means to reach the people desperately in need of food and potable water. Survivors are barely clinging to life...with neither shelter from the incessant torrents of rain or food reaching so many. While the death toll so far is relatively low (1,500 so far) that number is expected to skyrocket in the days and weeks ahead from the inevitable disease that follows such a calamity.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, with the strong backing of the Obama Administration, plans to convene an emergency UN meeting to kick start international donations on August 19, with the U.S. already having directed $76 million in urgent emergency flood relief, evidenced by U.S. military helicopters running relief supplies ferried in from U.S. bases throughout the region.
Unfortunately, of the $460 million deemed immediately needed by the UN for disaster relief barely 50% has actually been delivered, the lion's share from the U.S. and other western nations. Indeed, Deputy British Prime Minister Nick Clegg deemed the international response to be "absolutely pitiful" with fully 25% of the assistance coming from the UK so far.
The paltry and pathetic response so far to Pakistan's plight from Arab oil producing states is particularly disturbing. Why, I ask, are wealthy Arab states so slow coming to the rescue of fellow Muslims from their accumulated oil revenue surplus? The Arab OPEC states are awash in cash. With this being the holy month of Ramadan -- when charitable deeds are of particular significance -- one wonders why the cries of fellow Muslim desperation are hardly being heard! Surely, the Arab media is covering this compelling humanitarian tragedy.
This is not my narrative. Rather, it is the blistering criticism being leveled by the Pakistani media. Today's Daily Times of Pakistan editorialized that "...it is shocking the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has yet to voice strong support for Pakistan in its darkest hour and it is astonishing that Muslim countries Pakistanis defend with such passion (such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, etc.) have contributed so poorly."
A visit to the OIC's website reveals nary a reference to either the floods or to any organized effort initiated by the OIC to support flood victims. What gives? It would take a couple of phone calls among the leading oil producing states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Libya, the United Arab Emirates to meet, if not exceed the disaster relief targets for their fellow Muslim state.
Ironically, so much of the funding to support al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan emanates from these very nations' private citizens. Memo to these donors: the people of Pakistan are far more deserving than either al Qaeda or the Taliban.
One reason why Arab states are slow to pledge and even slower to deliver on their promises to support international causes, such as disaster, is that they refuse to empower and financially support the very organizations they helped create to address and redress the causes afflicting Muslims less fortunate.
The OIC is a case in point.
The very organization created to serve as the collective voice of Muslim nations neither has the resources or the financial support to serve as a significant conduit for assistance...one reason why the OIC has hardly lifted a finger to help Pakistanis.
When the UN convenes its donors' conference for Pakistani relief this weekend perhaps Arab states will find their collective humanitarian voices in time to make a difference before it is too late for the millions of Pakistanis searching for help.
Nothing less than a $1 billion ironclad commitment to Pakistan from the Arab OPEC states (mind you, not a pledge, but cash on the barrelhead) will suffice given the expanding disaster and rebuilding costs. The increasingly frustrated people of Pakistan surely have reason to wonder why the U.S. and the U.K, rather than their fellow Muslim state of Saudi Arabia - Pakistan's biggest benefactor in the Arab world - have been their disaster relief champions.
Ramadan compels an appropriately generous response from these nations. Kudos to the U.S. and the U.K for showing the way -- now its time for fellow Muslim Arab states to learn by example.