As the official number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) post operation Zarb-e Azb crosses a jarring one million mark and the death toll in Gaza looks ready to touch a thousand, Eid celebrations are laced by an underlying guilt and helplessness. Fortunately, people from across the world are coming up with ways to make it more meaningful for those in the straits of war.
While the world looks on in horror at the genocide in Palestine, each one of us is processing it in our own way. We, in Pakistan, protest on streets in small numbers and purge on social media in large numbers but only a committed few attempt to boycott products that directly benefit the perpetrators. Some creative youngsters like Saad Shahid and Hassan Iqbal are doing their part by selling T-shirts.There’s is a charity with a refreshing twist. Saad, founder of 9Lines, is the entrepreneur while Hassan is the creative genius. The two partners could not sit and watch what was happening and came up with a collection of six T-shirts with catchy phrases, highlighting the Gaza cause. “The project has done extremely well. We get orders in large numbers, never single orders. People buy them to gift to others,” Saad says. They have sold more than 850 shirts already. “All the proceeds go to our brothers and sisters in Palestine who deserve monetary and emotional help. This is our small contribution towards people who should be remembered, loved and cared for.”
Relief bags for IDPs prepared by Owais Sheikh and his team.
While 9Lines is a commercial set-up, focused primarily on selling fashion and lifestyle products, the dynamic duo have gravitated towards including charitable causes apart from helping Palestine as well. For instance, they have recently conducted a similar venture for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust wherein they had a stall and sold notebooks of Imran Khan for Rs600. The proceedings went back to the hospital. “Our future plan also includes a school to educate and place eunuchs at respectable jobs. They shouldn’t be mocked; instead they should be acknowledged as a respectable minority of Pakistan,” Saad says.
When it comes to charity, there is hardly a dearth of outlets one can take if they wish to give back. There is a general perception that the IDPs of North Waziristan have not been able to garner the kind of wave of charity that we saw after the earthquake of 2005 or floods of 2010. But the ‘Directory of Organizations Providing Relief to IDPs of North Waziristan’, complied by the Pakistan Centre for Development Communication (PCDC), sets the record straight by enlisting more than 60 NGOs, UN agencies and volunteers. The directory also identifies where exactly the donations will be going and provides information about donors, NGOs, social groups and volunteers that are providing relief to the affected families.
Owais Sheikh’s name may not be listed in the directory but this banker-cum-businessman has used each moment of the holy month of Ramazan wisely. Thanks to him and the many volunteers that helped, some 500 families in Bannu will not go hungry on Eid. Shaikh is hardly a novice at giving back to society. He spearheaded a similar drive in the wake of the disastrous floods as well.
“We don’t wake up till something becomes real,” Sheikh says about the lack of help from Pakistanis this time. He believes that people are now coming around and want to help but don’t know how to go about it. Not to mention, if the organisation leading the drive is deemed trustworthy, people would not hesitate to give back as much. “We have to understand the seriousness of the IDP issue. There are no camps as such. The displaced people are all staying at homes of their relatives,” he says, confirming that while the open-hearted hosts have welcomed the displaced, most of them lack adequate resources for themselves. And if the host has no food to offer, both families go hungry. “The tribals are a prouder race so they don’t want to beg. We have to help them out without their asking,” says Shaikh. The bags made by Shaikh and his team cost Rs 1,833 each, and are to last a family of five a week, with 12 items in each bag. Hailing from a military background, Shaikh is taking the help of rangers and using it to his advantage. “If we do not look after the IDPs, the vicious cycle will continue and more extremists will be created. This is our final run as a country. If we don’t help them out, tomorrow they will be against us.” Unlike many who feel charity begins at home and should stay at home, Shaikh emphasises that the two concerns, that is the one for IDPs and the one for Gaza, are not mutually exclusive.
A design by 9Lines. PHOTO: 9LINES.SHOP.WEB.PK
Disconnecting ourselves from what is going on around us is not an option this Eid. While our efforts maybe tiny drops in the ocean, taking a single step and being generous will help make Eid better for everyone around the world.
How You Can Help
The number of registered families of IDPs is currently 49,857. This is expected to rise to 60,000.
IDPs of North Waziristan:
• Check out this directory at https://sites.google.com/site/thecivilsocietyforumofpakistan/list-of-donors-ngos-providing-relief-to-idps-of-waziristan
• Look out for individual drives and volunteers leading donation drives.
• Get in touch with people of the area and once you have found credible contacts, start a donation drive yourself with your friends. The IDPs will need our help for a long time to come.
• Buy T-shirts for the Gaza cause from 9Lines at http://9lines.shop.web.pk/
• Get money across to the Palestine RED CRESCENT. One way of sending funds to them or other credible organisations is to get in touch with the Embassy of the state of Palestine in Pakistan at firstname.lastname@example.org or palestineembassy.com.pk
• Donations can be made online to The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) at http://www.pcrf.net/
• Be on the lookout for individuals and groups collecting funds for Gaza but make sure you have checked out credibility.
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, July 27th, 2014.