September 6, 2022
By Farooq Mehsud
Amidst the relief efforts across Pakistan made by provincial authorities, non-government organizations (NGOs) and the Pakistan Army, nothing can beat the passion of the citizens who are racing to come to the aid of their fellow country people.
Waiting out school closures due to flood and rains, a group of students in the Tank district of Dera Ismail Khan, have decided to engage in volunteer work, distributing food bags to poor households in their immediate vicinity.
Muhammad Zarar, a seventh grader enrolled at the Sky Education System (SES) school, is extremel busy packing ietms, and making piles on one side. He says that he volunteered because he could not bear to sit around when others were in dire straits.
“We are on a three-day break from school because of the floods, and we thought to ourselves that we should not be sitting at home while our brothers and sisters are drowning,” he tells Voicepk. “They are the ones suffering today, so we will come to their aid. And if tomorrow we are the ones affected by all this, they will stand by us.”
Zarar tells Voicepk that he had started off by collecting donations from his family, teachers and other children, with which he purchased enough ration packages to distribute among 70 families. Now, he supplies food and other necessities to 300 households.
“We have packed flour, sugar, rice, ghee, tea and salt. We even collected clothes from various homes to give to the poor.”
Like Zarar, Muhammad Mauz, a member of the Seraiki Qaumi Tehreek (SQT), is also voluntarily rescuing people from the deluge and sending relief items to areas where the district administration has yet to even reach.
“Government institutions always delay work. We understood that if we did not reach these people to rescue them or directly hand them lifesaving goods, then we would have a much bigger disaster on our hands,” he says, adding that that there were about 300 houses in Tank’s Garah Shadahu village which have been completely destroyed in the deluge.
He provides that there are many more such villages of where hundreds receive government aid that can only suffice for a few, whereas he and his team are working on their own dime to ensure everyone has what they need in these troubled times.
“There are many villages here that are off-grid and have no roads leading to them. The only way we could reach them was via the water. The government had set up a relief camp here and declared that only those people who could make it across the water to the camp would receive aid – no relief bags were reaching the village itself,” he claims. “At least a hundred tents would be required in one place, and the authorities would give the people just 20 and leave.”
Mauz further states that common citizens are stepping in where the government has failed in providing relief to flood affectees.
Prior to the inauguration of rescue services in Tank a year ago, Mauz says that locals relied on their family, friends and neighbours rather than any government organization when lives were at stake.
On July 11, a massive deluge in Tank’s Pai area killed two people and injured scores, while 437 houses were reportedly destroyed. A second flood two weeks ago affected 22 union councils, of which nine are inaccessible due to the deluge, while another two lost their lives while several more were injured.
A total of four people have died in rain and flood-related incidents in Tank, while according to Commissioner Dera Ismail Khan Amer Afaq, a total of 20 people have lost their lives while 85 were injured across the Division.
According to the Deputy Commissioner Tank Hameed Ullah Khattak, flood affectees were first rescued and shifted to secure locations before relief activities were carried out with the support of the Pakistan Army and civil administration, however flood affectees in different parts of the district, especially in remote areas, have launched protests against the lack of aid.