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Please support the relief efforts of Pugwash Council Member
Pervez Hoodbhoy and his colleagues at Quaid-e-Azam University
in Islamabad after the devastating earthquake.

Email Letters | Pakistan


Email Letters from Pervez Hoodbhoy


Dear Pugwash Member,

Should you wish to know about the horrific state of affairs, please read my recent article:

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=32&ItemID=8930

And, should you wish to help out, please read the emails below.

Thank you.

Pervez Hoodbhoy
(Member of the Pugwash Council)

---------------                                                                                                                          
Pervez Hoodbhoy
Professor of Physics
Quaid-e-Azam University
Islamabad 45320, Pakistan.
Phone (R): 92-51-2824257
Phone (O): 92-51-2829914





THURSDAY NIGHT, 13 OCTOBER

Dear All,

I am back from Balakot. We spent some of last night in ferrying the injured to Abbottabad at the request of the army.  A second QAU team went to Muzzafarabad and beyond. Tomorrow 2 other teams will head back to these places. We hope to keep this going, although classes are scheduled to restart on Monday. This is the first time I can recall of ever wanting the university to stay shut longer.

My report is below. But first, the following urgent points:

1. I hope you will concur with the conclusion at the end of my report.  What you and I can do is but a drop in the bucket. Please, let us not go for microdrops. Handing out relief supplies just isn't enough, and it left me with a sense of much dissatisfaction. Since it is the use of your money that I am suggesting, feel free to suggest or object. The responsibility of administering the program will be undertaken by others at QAU, and we might even need to hire local people dedicated to the job. I shall retain a distant supervisory role at most. No portion of the funds you have committed to me will be spent on administration and will be raised separately if necessary.

2. You have clear instructions at the end of this email as to where to send money. I will be gone again tomorrow and not available for 3 days. If there are remaining questions, please contact Zia Mian in the US  or A.H.Nayyar in Islamabad. If you need my response, please wait until I return. This mailing list started at 40-odd friends, and is now quite a bit bigger.

3. This is no time for credits, but the QAU effort owes entirely to dedicated students, employees, and the tireless coordination efforts of the Academic Staff Association's president.

4. If your cheque is in rupees, send directly to me at the address below.   Make it out to "Quaid-e-Azam University and Eqbal Ahmad Foundation Earthquake Relief Fund". Or shorten it to QAU-EAF Earthquake Relief Fund if it is too long for your cheque.

Thanks again, and best regards. Pervez Hoodbhoy


MY REPORT OF THE BALAKOT TRIP

Four days later, they are still not even trying to extricate the dead.  From under the rubble of collapsed buildings, a gut-wrenching smell of decaying corpses now fills the town. The rats have it good; the one I accidentally stepped upon was already fat. If there is indeed a plan to clear the concrete rubble in and around the town, nobody seems to have any clue. But the Balakotis are taking it in their stride - nose masks are everywhere.

There is good news. The Mansehra to Balakot road stretch, finally forced open by huge army bulldozers and earth moving machinery, is now available to relief trucks.  Goods donated across the country are piled to the truck roofs. If there ever was a time when the people of Pakistan moved together, this is it.  Even the armed bandits who waylay relief supplies - to guard against whom soldiers with automatic weapons stand at alert every few hundred yards - cannot destroy the euphoria of having this solitary moment of unspoiled national unity.

Aid from across the world is making its way, and the United States is here too. Double bladed Chinook helicopters, diverted from fighting Al-Qaida in Afghanistan, weave their way through the mountains. They fly over the heartland of jihad and the militant training camps in Mansehra to drop food and tents a few miles beyond. Temporarily birds of peace instead of war, they do immensely more to soothe the highly Islamic, highly conservative, bearded mountain people than the reams of silly propaganda on glossy paper put out by the US information services in Pakistan.

Visibility makes relief choppers terrific propaganda, for good or for worse. This is undoubtedly why the Pakistani government refused an Indian offer to send in helicopters for relief work in and around Muzzafarabad, the flattened capital of Pakistani administered Kashmir. In spite of a much celebrated peace process, Pakistan has also not issued visas to Indian peace groups and activists that seek participation in the relief effort. Sandeep Pandey and other Indian activists are very frustrated.

Islamic groups from across the country have arrived in vast numbers.  Some bring relief supplies, others simply harangue poor goat herders and simple tillers of the soil to tell them that their misdeeds brought about this catastrophe. None seem to have an explanation for why God's wrath was especially directed to mosques, madrassas, and schools - all of which have collapsed in huge numbers. And none say why thousands of the faithful have been buried alive in this sacred month of fasting.

Bad news: the aid is still too little, often of the wrong kind, and is not getting to those most affected. Hundreds of destroyed communities lie scattered deep in the mountains. We saw helicopters attempt aerial drops; landing is impossible in most places. But people told us that they often miss and the supplies land up thousands of feet below or in deep forests.

Distribution is haphazard and uncoordinated, done with little thought. In Balakot we saw relief workers simply throw packets of food and clothes from the top of trucks, and a subsequent riot. Hustlers thrive, the weak watch passively. Tons of clothes, lovingly donated and packed by citizens around Pakistan, but mostly useless because of specific cultural and climatic conditions, are mixed and scattered with garbage and rubble throughout the town.

I have mixed feelings about the army role. I did not see enough to validate a previous observation that they were shirking. But certainly, I did not see senior officers anywhere. The Edhi Trust gets full credit and more.

For me personally, there was a sense of dejavu. Nearly 31 years ago, on 25th December 1974, a powerful earthquake had flattened towns along the Karakorum Highway killing nearly 10,000 people. I had traveled with a university team into the same mountains for similar relief work. Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had made a passionate appeal for funds around the world, taken a token helicopter trip to the destroyed town of Besham, and made fantastic promises for rehabilitation. But then hundreds of millions of dollars in relief funds received from abroad mysteriously disappeared. Some well-informed people believe that those funds were used to kick off Pakistan's secret nuclear program.

Shall the present government do better? This will only be if citizens, and international donors, demand transparency and accounts are available for public audit.

The clock is ticking. In barely two months from now, the mountains will get their first snowfall and temperatures will plummet below zero. There are simply not enough tents, blankets, and warm clothes to go around.  Hundreds of tent clusters have come up, but thousands of families remain out under the skies, facing rain and hail, and with dread in their hearts.  These families have lost everything but the tattered clothes on their backs. Some even lost the land they had lived upon for generations – the top soil simply slid away, leaving behind hard rock and rubble. Those without shelter will die. From a special university fund we have pledged a dozen families to rebuild their houses. This number can be pushed up to fifty with the amount you have pledged so far (assuming Rs 50K per house, where the cost is for wood and stone mostly). But ten thousand or more will be needed in the Mansehra-Balakot-Kaghan area alone, not to speak of adjoining Kashmir.

That's all for now.
---------------                                                                                                                          
Pervez Hoodbhoy
Professor of Physics
Quaid-e-Azam University
Islamabad 45320, Pakistan.
Phone (R): 92-51-2824257
Phone (O): 92-51-2829914




---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2005 15:09:46 -0400 (EDT)
From: Pervez Hoodbhoy <hoodbhoy@lns.mit.edu>
To: Pervez Hoodbhoy <hoodbhoy@marie.lns.mit.edu>
Subject: Pakistan earthquake relief instructions

Dear All,

This has to be quick.

We finally have a university van which we will take to Balakot in a few hours from now and, hopefully, a hired truck as well. Subsequent rounds will have different teams, with one common member for continuity. The road is now open, from what we hear.

This morning I was able to persuade the QAU vice-chancellor to sanction use of the van and open an official university account entitled "QAU-EAF Earthquake Relief Fund". So, the money sent to the Eqbal Ahmad Foundation (see instructions at the very end of this email) will be transferred directly into this account to be jointly operated by the university treasurer, the president of the academic staff association, and myself. You now have all the details that you need. If there are further questions on the procedure, please contact Dr. Zia Mian.  I will not be able to respond to emails for a while.

The Azad Kashmir VC in Muzzafarabad called the QAU VC while I was waiting for the signatures to be done. He was pleading for students from QAU to come and dig out some 300 university girls still buried under the rubble.   Some of our students have already gone there, but the problem is the stench of rotting corpses. Nature continues to be needlessly cruel. There was rain and hail this afternoon in Islamabad, and probably north of here as well. I hope our 6-hour drive tomorrow will not be too problematic.

I am happy to say that my university students, who I have so often said are disappointing academically, are nevertheless full of spirit and vigour in helping in the relief effort. We have repeatedly had to turn down their offers to help for lack of capacity.

Thank you again for your contributions, which keep increasing. After the immediate crisis passes, we will use the remainder to rebuild infrastructure. Several of you are not Pakistanis, and your solidarity in these desperate moments is appreciated even more. It reinforces hope in our shared humanity.

With warm regards,

Pervez
---------------

Pervez Hoodbhoy
Professor of Physics
Quaid-e-Azam University
Islamabad 45320, Pakistan.
Phone (R): 92-51-2824257
Phone (O): 92-51-2829914





---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2005 00:24:54 -0400 (EDT)
From: Pervez Hoodbhoy <hoodbhoy@lns.mit.edu>
To: Pervez Hoodbhoy <hoodbhoy@marie.lns.mit.edu>
Subject: earthquake efforts. help needed. IMPORTANT REVISION.

I am overwhelmed by your generousity. Not sure how to handle it. In the last few hours, between the 42 people on this mailing list, about $45K have been pledged. Simply splendid.

I shall respond individually as soon as time permits.

A friend on the list gave wise counsel: better to have it routed through the Eqbal Ahmad Foundation, registered as a tax-exempt non-profit organization registered in the US. Else I may be docked with having the above as income! So please let me check with EAF and get back to you. Its midnight in the US, so I can't expect to hear for many hours.  In any event, I will use $2.5K of above for today (+2.5K local) and expect reimbursement from EAF. Thanks to you, we have enough to set the first van going.

As I was typing the above, I received a call from near Rawalakot, about 100 miles away from here.  Apparently cell phones have now started working again but in limited areas only. Bodies under rubble, no supplies, almost no houses standing. The man (Yunus), an employee of Hajra's school, said that no aid has reached any village that he knows of although he can see helicopters flying towards Rawalakot. Hajra, who called from Abbottabad last night, says that relief trucks are being attacked by desperate survivors. The army simply watches. She could not return last night.

The question of what to do after the immediate crisis passes will remain.

More later.

Warm regards,

Pervez
---------------

Pervez Hoodbhoy
Professor of Physics
Quaid-e-Azam University
Islamabad 45320, Pakistan.
Phone (R): 92-51-2824257
Phone (O): 92-51-2829914




---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2005 23:37:04 -0400 (EDT)
From: Pervez Hoodbhoy <hoodbhoy@lns.mit.edu>
To: Pervez Hoodbhoy <hoodbhoy@marie.lns.mit.edu>
Subject: earthquake efforts. help needed.

I am writing to a handful of friends in the US. The earthquake situation is pretty desperate.

Tomorrow a bunch of university students and teachers from QAU plan to go to Balakot where the devastation is total. Rotting corpses all around, I am told. If we don't succeed, then Mansehra. If not that, then Abbotabad.   It all depends on the road conditions. Massive landslides all around.

We need to take foodstuff, blankets, medicines. Today I prevailed on the QAU administration to release a university van. No large bus, because it would be useless there. We want to fill it up with stuff, then go again and again.

I think we could use up to 300,000 a trip ($5000/trip). We are limited by having a single university van only. We have collected enough for one trip, which is not a bad achievement given that the university is now closed and there are hardly any people around. The number of trips will depend on the sum collected.

If you want to contribute, say so now. It will have to be a solid promise, and the money will have to be transferred into my personal bank account in the US. I will then give the rupee equivalent to the team. It is not the ideal way of doing things, but the only one I can think of given the time constraint.

Please remember that if you do not transfer, then I lose the money. Also, that I cannot provide you receipts. At most, I can ask the president of the Academic Staff Association at QAU to write you an acknowledgement letter stating that the sum was used for purchase of relief items.

From my office I can hear military helicopters constantly passing overhead. Hopefully they are dropping supplies in the right places.

Hajra is in Abbotabad with senior students of Khadunia High School. They felt that they really wanted to do something after two of their colleagues had been killed in the collapse of Margalla Towers. She will return tonight sometime.

Pervez
---------------                                                             
Pervez Hoodbhoy
Professor of Physics
Quaid-e-Azam University
Islamabad 45320, Pakistan.
Phone (R): 92-51-2824257
Phone (O): 92-51-2829914

INSTRUCTIONS FOR DEPOSIT

1. Please make CHECKS payable to " EAF - EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND "

2. Please PRINT OUT, SIGN and MAIL the following form, along with your check :

Enclosed is a donation of ________ to the EAF - Earthquake Relief Fund.  I understand that this money will be used solely for the purpose of purchasing and distributing earthquake relief and rehabilitation supplies in Pakistan.

Name (please print): _________________________________________

Signature:  _________________________________________________

Address : _______________________________________

3.  Please mail your check and this form to: Eqbal Ahmad Foundation, P.O. Box 222, Princeton, NJ 08542

The Eqbal Ahmad Foundation is a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code.  Therefore, your donation is tax deductible.  If you wish to receive a letter acknowledging your donation for tax purposes, please include your mailing address.

For tax purposes, all donation over $250 must include your name and mailing address.

Should you have any questions about how to make or send a donation, please contact the Foundation's Vice President, Zia Mian, at zia@princeton.edu
Members can post messages by sending them to pugwashforum@lists.pugwash.org.

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