Middle-Eastern partners play critical role in Pakistan’s humanitarian relief operations

Middle-Eastern partners play critical role in Pakistan’s humanitarian relief operations

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Over the past month, the length and breadth of Pakistan has been ravaged by the floods, assumed to be the worst in the country’s history. A record-breaking monsoon rainfall and the heat-wave driven exponential melting of glaciers resulted in the inundation of nearly one-third of the country and four main regional clusters most severely affected by flooding. They include parts of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, areas in South Punjab, 70 percent of the landmass of Balochistan province and most urban and rural localities in interior districts of the southern province of Sindh.

As more than 30 million people have been affected by the devastation caused by floods, Pakistan’s government has appealed for support from the international community. The response from various actors in the broader community of nations also gives us a good understanding of Pakistan’s foreign partners and the commitment shown by them in this hour of need.

Among Pakistan’s friends, Middle-Eastern states truly stand out in terms of the scale of humanitarian aid sent to the flood affected areas of the country. The emergence of this aid regime has refreshed the memories of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, when Pakistan’s regional friends were at the forefront of aid efforts both in terms of sending relief items and providing monetary assistance to the disaster-stricken country.

This time again it’s a similar story. Leading this constellation has been the UAE. Emirati authorities have taken abrupt measures to start this aid delivery operation and have built an air-bridge between the Emirates and airports across Pakistan and sent nearly 55 aid flights to Pakistan. UAE’s role in the delivery of humanitarian relief remains critical as it is an important commercial and logistical hub. Aid coming from international humanitarian organizations such as the World Food Program, World Health Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross has been channelled through the Emirates. Apart from the international actors, an Emirates based independent charity, International Humanitarian City, has been at the forefront of this aid delivery operation.

Remittances sent by these Pakistanis to their families in the flood affected zones will be crucial not only for survival and rehabilitation of these communities but also for the revival of economic activities and agriculture in these areas.

Umar Karim

Saudi Arabia has also initiated the delivery of aid supplies to Pakistan. King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Action has taken a lead role in this regard and has sent two relief flights carrying 180 tons of food, medical aid, and shelters. It is expected that 10 more flights from the Kingdom carrying further relief goods will also arrive in Pakistan. In an extraordinary display of brotherhood, Saudi authorities also launched a fund-raising campaign within the Kingdom to help flood victims in Pakistan. The campaign launched on the directives of King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has also been endorsed by the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars. Pakistan has also received aid flights from Jordan and Oman as well as a medical response and rescue team from Palestine.

Turkey is another brotherly country that has taken serious measures to assess the scale of damage within Pakistan and to send humanitarian aid. This Turkish approach was visible as a high-ranking Turkish delegation led by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change Minister Murat Kurum visited Pakistan’s flood affected areas at the start of September to assess the scale of devastation. Turkey has sent 13 aid flights to Pakistan till now.

Furthermore, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) maintains an extensive presence already is Pakistan and has been involved in various developmental projects. This gives Turkey a unique advantage in terms of its capacity and capability to deliver humanitarian aid within Pakistan. TIKA’s well established network and experience of partnering with local charity and development sector further enhances the Turkish ability to deliver aid efficiently on the ground level.

Other Gulf and Middle-Eastern states have also stepped in to help the flood affectees in Pakistan. Qatar has sent four aid flights to Pakistan and its humanitarian relief organizations remain at the forefront of relief activities particularly in the flood affected districts of Nowshera and Charsadda in KP Province and Loralai district of Balochistan province. This aid regime has been organized by the Qatar Development Fund (QDF) and Qatar Charity (QC).

Here it is also worthwhile to note that Gulf countries are connected directly to the people within some flood affected areas through Pakistani expatriates. A sizeable number of expatriates from the Malakand region work in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Similarly, a huge chunk of Pakistani expats both within Saudi Arabia and the Emirates hail from Southern Districts of Punjab. Remittances sent by these Pakistanis to their families in the flood affected zones will be crucial not only for survival and rehabilitation of these communities but also for the revival of economic activities and agriculture in these areas.

In this manner, continuation of direct and indirect humanitarian assistance and relief from Middle Eastern States in general and Gulf States in particular, will remain critical in Pakistan’s recovery from this unprecedented natural disaster.

- Umar Karim is a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham. His research focuses on the evolution of Saudi Arabia’s strategic outlook, the Saudi-Iran tussle, conflict in Syria, and the geopolitics of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.

Twitter: @UmarKarim89

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