It is the greatest national disaster this nation has ever faced: floods have devastated lands, have laid waste villages and destroyed lives across the country. All four provinces have been affected and it is impossible for those who live away from the flood’s reach to ignore what is happening. All across Pakistan, musicians, entertainers and celebrities have quickly started to mobilise their efforts to try and help those in need.
“It’s more devastating than one can perceive,” says Ali Zafar, “It’s heart breaking to see so many suffer at the hand of one of the biggest natural calamities of our times.”
Ahmed Ali Butt says that there is actually something even more disturbing than the floods and the devastation left at its wake. “The problem is infrastructure. God forbid if we have a repeat of the floods next year, what precautions do we have in place now to prevent what has happened to happen yet again?” Ahmed points out that a lack of relief and rescue infrastructure and plan to deal with the floods is the problem.
Artists like Shallum Xavier echo Ahmed’s sentiments. “The government isn’t doing enough and that’s making the situation worse. It’s a terribly sad time.”
Noori has been actively seeking out opportunities to help the victims of the flood. The band had recently led the charge in Lahore through an event called Celebrity Camp where various musicians and bands such as Lal, Roxen, Noori, Falak, Ali Sher, Noman Javed and Umer Nabeel performed. It also featured a number of celebrities such as Shiraz Uppal, Shoaib Akhtar, Maria B, Muneeb Nawaz, Omair Rana and many more. Singer Ali Azmat and Fareeha Pervaiz were on hand talking about the devastation and were collecting money. The camp collected some Rs300,000.
But camps aside, the band has a much deeper focus for the flood relief efforts. Ali Noor further clarifies: “For us, the focus are the children. We’re planning on launching a venture that will focus on children who have been left devastated in wake of this national disaster. They will need rehabilitation and understanding as to exactly what has happened here.”
Ali Noor says that information about this new venture will be available soon on their website. Besides being part of events post-Eid, the band also hopes to travel and meet these children at camps and bring them new clothes, toys and books. “It’s all because these children are our future and we shouldn’t make them feel left out, especially at this time on Eid,” Ali Noor said.
Mekaal Hasan also spent time working on spreading the word for flood relief efforts. The musician appeared on BBC World’s The Hub programme and spoke in detail regarding the flood efforts and local agencies that are mobilised in the area. He was asked if the international Pakistani community was doing something for the relief fund. The musician/producer responded: “They are, there’s the Islamic Relief Fund in America, there are a lot of student bodies that are working together, there’s the Pakistan Peace Builders who have set up a relief fund; and there has been a concerted effort by civil society.”
Ali Zafar spoke regarding his contributions to relief work: “I am arranging a series of fundraisers with artistes to raise more money to help them. I also plan to work with the Pakistan Navy to actually go into the areas and try to be as much help as I can.”
He elaborated on his efforts by adding, “I plan to release an album and the earnings from it will go to flood relief ventures.” Ali’s efforts do not end there, “I am also trying to get in touch with international artistes and have them raise more awareness on the international platform and convince more and more people to help and donate.”
He has also set his sights on working with credible NGOs, such as the Red Cross to bring in more funds from international avenues.
Similarly, Ahmed Ali Butt from Entity Paradigm (eP) has also been hard at work at relief efforts. “I worked in conjunction with the students at the University of Lahore. We set about a collection drive and have collected more than Rs300,000,” Ahmed said.
“We also arranged for the University buses to take goods to the stricken areas,” he added.
The band hopes to participate in a series of concerts after Eid and will submit all of proceeds from its merchandising sales towards the flood relief efforts.
Meanwhile, Shallum Xavier is hoping to launch a series of events, in collaboration with bands from across the country with the help of an event management company. “At the moment these concerts will have Jal, Call, Mekaal Hasan, Strings, Fuzon, eP and Noori — all performing across Pakistan.”
The concerts, to be held sometime after Eid, will be staged in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and will feature local artistes from each city as well. According to Shallum, “The proceeds from the concert, tickets and merchandising, will go towards relief efforts.”
For musicians like Zeeshan Parwez, national tragedies have a personal meaning to them. It was on a journey back from Islamabad to Peshawar that the musician and a group of friends discovered just how much damage had been wrecked by the flood. “It was then that a group of friends and myself got together and decided that something must be done,” recalls Zeeshan.
Adapting an idea from a friend that worked in an NGO, Zeeshan and his friends quickly set about to develop and make food packets for families that were affected by the flood. These packets contain enough basic food to last five days.
After a careful reconnoiter, Zeeshan and his friends chose the area of Charsaddah where they distributed these food packs amongst 142 families.
This is not the first time Zeeshan has been a part of a disaster relief effort. In 2005, while he was part of an NGO, he mobilised young students as a part of Emergency Radio Stations across the affected areas.
Zeeshan admits that while he has been asked to organise an event for disaster awareness and relief funds, he says, “I’d rather be part of one as opposed to organising one. For the simple reason that I’d want to be absolutely sure that I’d do something that would benefit people on the scale as a whole.”
These are but a few of the many efforts that have been mobilised across the country in the hope to help those in need. They have proved that although there is international support there are those among us who are helping out those who need it most.
Originally published in Dawn Images on Sunday.