|Posted by Aftab on September 23, 2010 at 7:20 AM||comments (6)|
INTERVIEW OF DIRECTOR FINANCE, SAF PRINTED IN ACCA PAKSITAN SOCIETY
Ali Ahmad: You have been an investment banker for most of your life – how are you feeling working in a finance role of non-profit organization?
Noor Aftab: It’s a leap of faith! Faith means committing before you have all the answers. It means following your conviction rather than common wisdom. It’s a philosophy for life. I have just returned from 21 hours of non stop service in Swat where roads & bridges were broken, mobile communications were dead & security threats were all time high. I went there just coming out of hospital a day back for gastro enteritis (that I got from the camps as well). I had never seen these people before. I did not
even speak their language. Yet I went there because women, disabled and children were stranded in SWAT.
They had not seen food or water in days. It requires moving out of my comfortable suite in Islamabad. You need to know why you are doing this. The motive can’t be monetary gains or glory or even passion to field. It requires a deeper commitment —a burning desire, an obsession.
Being an investment banker all my life, I organized Euromoney conference, World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) & Overseas Pakistani Conference (OPIC) on finance and investment which attracted 800 foreign investor and 60 heads of states respectively; having worked in Warren Buffet’s world Book
international and guiding Pakistan’s largest conglomerate Fauji Foundation in its investment decisions, I could safely say, I had my fair share of strategy, exposure & shaping the economic dynamics of the country or even the region (case in point: Alhamdolilah at the 2nd Regional Conference on Reconstruction of Afghanistan in 2006 all my recommendations on investments were accepted & are a part of Delhi Declaration). I worked on the biggest deals with the biggest names on the globe yet nothing ever in my life gave me the satisfaction this work does. The entire wealth of the world cannot buy that single moment. Every single step that I take on the path of Allah makes me realize it is what life is all about. The rest all does not matter.
Here are a few thoughts:
1 ) This is most innovative form of finance- This comes as a surprise to most people but there is a lot of finance involved in here. The degree of complexity is amazingly high. There is so much room for financial innovation— amazing workable financial products and models have been developed and lot more could be. There is so much you could pair it with like mobile commerce
and technology. At the bottom of the pyramid is really where it is most technology savvy too.
An interesting read on this topic is Professor Prahalad’s Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid.
2 ) It does make a difference- Development sector finance does not hold the answer to everything but it has the solution to a lot of world’s problems. It does require a lot of sincerity and commitment. But there is nothing as rewarding as this work. Building a school for the poorest of the poor, getting food and water to people that have not seen it weeks really saves lives. And its economic impact is evident as well. What better example that Grameen in Bangladesh that has met all MDGs. Other examples come from success across globe whether it’s the ghettos of Chicago or aid & poverty hit Africa. InshAllah the next most successful model would be from within Pakistan.
Ali Ahmad: As we all know that Pakistan is struck with the most deadly floods of Indus history - What SAF is doing to help those victims?
Noor Aftab: Floods of 2010 are the biggest damage in the recorded history of mankind. It’s safe to say that these damages are bigger than all of the world economy combined. Some initial estimates suggest that over 20 Million Pakistani are directly affected, 7 Million are still without any food, water & shelter. 3.5 Million children at extreme risk of death (UN), over 35,000 cases of acute diarrhea are confirmed (Oxfam). These are times when blood was cheaper than water— people were forced to drink flood water that had remains of dead animals & humans. Women were stranded on roof tops with their clothes torn, dying infants and the old & disabled had no hope.
Shahina Aftab Foundation (SAF) was one of the very NGOs that jumped into flood relief from the very start. SAF started flood relief on 1st Aug, 2010 under Director Operations, a Sitara-e-Imtiaz Military recipient for Excellence in service from Pakistan Army. He is an expert in disaster relief and management having handled earthquake relief in 2005, flood relief operations in Lahore (1996); in Peshawer, Mardan & Swat (1992). We went methodical. Sent out survey teams to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KRP) where these members risked their lives to reach the cutoff areas. They told us “Women stranded on roof tops with clothes torn. Infant death toll is on the rise. Water is badly needed. Time is running out”
I went to UN coordination meeting on 27 August, 2010 where I learnt about 200,000 women, disabled & children stranded in Swat. On 6th Sept SAF team called on Operation Imdad— the largest air operation in a land where roads & bridges were broken. Communications networks failed. We reached the most stranded areas on jeeps, choppers and by foot and personally delivered aid to over 500 families.
Private investors in UK have sent us relief goods. Junior Chamber International (JCI), a member of UN has partnered with SAF to provide relief & rehab to KPK areas. Islamabad International School has partnered with us for rehab projects for a year. I have just received a message from
Unilever SVP global communications saying, “I wish you all success in your fund raising efforts”.
Ali Ahmad: It is a general belief that all relief activities will come to an end after EID or people might forget about it soon – just like they did in 2005 Earthquake. Do you agree with the general perception? And if it happens, what could be the possible consequences for the country and its already drowning economy?
Noor Aftab: With the exception of a few areas in Sind & Punjab province, the flood rescue operations have come to end. In most of Pakistan relief work is also ending and we are moving towards early recovery. Many people have Donor Fatigue given at least once and in most cases, more than once to flood victims. For a majority of us when we give out an amount or write a cheque we feel our job is done. But these are desperate times. We have never before seen such a magnitude of damage of lives and infrastructure.
On the impact of drowning economy— There has never been greater damage in the infrastructure, agriculture, livestock and employment. A few million more have been pushed below poverty line. In terms of economic progress we have moved back another 30 years. I remember having a conversation with a high net worth investor telling me that Pakistan’s economy was in ruins. The agriculture sector is washed off and we never had any industry.
Conversely, I hold the opposite conviction. In this moment of greatest crisis are the seeds of greatest human development. I am confident inshAllah that we would emerge from this as a stronger nation. With economic development of 30 years undone, floods have also washed off bad decisions of 30 years. Today we have a chance to rewrite our financial and economic destiny. It is not for the government to decide.
A Challenge to Financial Wizards
The real power lies within the people and the friends of Pakistan. We are resilient people and an extremely hard working nation. Ours is one of the best population pyramids with 80% of Pakistanis in the age group of 18-40 years. I would challenge the readers who are financial wizards to come & play their role in the economic prosperity of Pakistan. We need to build roads— new ideas are welcome. So are new financing schemes. We need schools & hospitals too— that means new modes of education and new methods of treatment where we can use technology, internet and innovation. Most agriculture could now be built on modern principles.
Here is food for thought—- Pakistan has a population 170.5 Million. If we leave aside 50.5 Million has children, disabled & otherwise too poor and the remaining population just donates 1 rupee per day: we will have 120.5 Million/ day available to rebuild lives of these people. We are working round the clock and can never make it without YOUR support. Simply by passing word to your network YOU too could save these people from hunger, extreme poverty & death. YOU could rebuild Pakistan. I appeal to YOU to make a fixed payment every week even if it is Rs 10 and partner with SAF for reaching these people. We don’t need international aid. YOU & SAF — together we could save Pakistan!
Ali Ahmad: What is the mission you had in mind when you started relief activities and do you think you are achieving what you planned for?
Noor Aftab: The mission we had in mind was to save a life at a time. And replicate this process as much as Allah gave us the strength. We believe simple ideas save lives. And that anyone could have the next big idea. Therefore we always make appeals in small chunks & listen to everyone with an open heart.
What SAF has been able to achieve as an organization that started with no background but winning trust of friends, family, collegues and international agencies whether it is BBC or Unilever is because of the will of Allah, dedication to the cause & our amazing network. We have learn that in some cases individual donors could not give more than 100 Rupees but when they went to their network, they returned with 100,000. 5 and 10 year olds have brought has 50 tooth pastes and brushes. It’s still a long shot but we know if YOU are with us, nothing will stand in the way of our success, inshAllah.
|Posted by Aftab on September 5, 2010 at 9:02 AM||comments (1)|
Pakistan floods: 'The worst is yet to come'
Two women from Islamabad, who decided to put their personal lives on hold in order to help Pakistani flood victims, describe the areas they visited and what they did there.
Noor Aftab, former head of investments and treasury at First Women Bank
"It wasn't even a matter of choice. The only thing I could do was to go to the affected areas and try to help people there.
I am a board member of the Shahina Aftab Foundation, which primarily works on women income generation programmes. Once the flood happened, our focus shifted to flood relief. We created a crisis cell here in Islamabad and we started calling donors.
The area we are working is Nowshera and Risalaur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which was first affected by the floods.
We sent our first team there and the reports we got back made us even more determined. They witnessed people clinging to electric wire, they saw human and animal bodies in the water, they saw people drinking that water. They saw 3,000 women stuck on roof tops with clothes torn - these are women who cover themselves from head to toe.
When I went there we had limited supplies and we selected about 12,500 women to give it to. Some women hadn't seen food for days. They weren't acting rationally. They were pushing everyone else to get their hands on something to eat. They thought this was their last chance of survival.
We could either help a larger number of people, but only for the basics for a short period of time, or select a smaller number of people and work with them not just for their immediate needs, but towards their longer-term rehabilitation.
Millions of Pakistanis have been displaced by the floods We chose the second approach. We are now helping 6,000 people in Nowshera and Risalaur, but we have set a much higher target. The army is housing them in schools. But that's where the job of the army stops and our job starts. We want to help women in particular, create income generating projects for them and provide them with doctors and psychotherapists.
There was a woman who had a strange behaviour - I was told by people who knew her that the flood waters took her three children in front of her. Their bodies were found later. I saw children who were so traumatised that they wouldn't respond to you.
Some people have lost relatives, but everybody has lost their home.
Every time we send relief items, there was a sticker on them with our contact details. I gave my mobile phone and I am now constantly getting distress calls from various different locations telling us where people are stranded and in urgent need of help. Then we send a small team with supplies to those places.
I am horrified how many cases of acute diarrhoea there are. People in camps we visited have been wearing the same clothes and in come cases they haven't been able to wash their hands in ten days.
Women need sanitary kits. From all the calls we are getting - I think female sanitary items and dry milk for the babies are most needed.
We are using social media actively to reach people. We have a Facebook page and we just got a large offer of money from India. The interesting things is that many individuals from India have come forward with their offer of help.
The amount of damage is colossal and we are grateful for anything we get. One if every five Pakistanis is affected and we may be wondering if our little bit makes a difference. It does, because it's all the hope they have."
|Posted by Aftab on September 5, 2010 at 8:47 AM||comments (0)|
FLOOD RELIEF IS HAPPENING IN PAKISTAN
by Talib Qizilbash
It is not really what we expected.
But that was a good thing.
A couple of friends and I visited flood-hit areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on August 14 and 15. We made arrangements with three different NGOs through which relief packages of food would be distributed to flood-affected families.
On August 14, we followed the team from Shahina Aftab Foundation (SAF) to Risalpur, just a few minutes away from Nowshera city. We had met the SAF management the night before in their Islamabad offices where we discussed the ground realities and the plan of action for Saturday’s work.
Nearby PAF Risalpur, in the Cantonment area, six schools had been converted into relief camps for flood-hit IDPs. The six schools housed approximately 6,000 people. One area had been specially allocated for about 221 Christians, said army officials. The military, who managed the camps, believed that this was best given it was Ramadan: this way non-Muslims were free to drink and eat without offending those who were fasting.
The army engineer corps there had already set up clean drinking water in the days before our arrival. Scores of bottles of water in the SAF office were now being saved for a future day: they were no longer a part of the food ration package for the Risalpur IDPs. This was proof of a common assertion made by relief workers around the country: in a crisis like this, conditions and needs change daily.
The relief package arranged through SAF was designed to feed a family of four for four days. That afternoon we were delivering 168 packages using a portion of the funds we raised. The rest of the funds were being allocated to other flood victims through different NGOs.
At Presentation Convent High School in Risalpur Cantonment the atmosphere was, remarkably, not gloomy or squalid. A special event had just wrapped up for Independence Day where small gifts had been distributed to the children there in an effort to “lift their spirits,” according to Colonel Salem Sajid, who greeted us and headed one of the army corps. A coloured tent still stood in the centre of the schoolyard even though staff were already picking up the chairs. The festivities were not over though. An army officer was reading out the names of registered families one by one over the sound system. And one by one family representatives were going up to a table to collect 1,000 rupees in aid. It wasn’t a lot, but it was something they could put towards their family when it would come time to leave the camp (see photo gallery below).
As absurd as it sounds, it’s fair to say that the IDPs here were the lucky ones. Many displaced people around the country were in camps with no running water, no toilets and nothing to cook on. If they were fortunate, they had a tent that didn’t leak and wasn’t being shared by multiple families.
At a camp in Charsadda, one volunteer relief worker told me that at first people were sleeping with their livestock in their tents, desperate to safeguard whatever they had left. And with no latrines and endless amounts of stagnant water the place was a stinking mess, ripe for diseases.
Here in Risalpur, many of the people came from nearby areas in Nowshera District. And in villages around Nowshera, the Kabul River – the Kabul River feeds into the Indus near Attock – had overflowed greatly: by some local accounts as much as 30 feet. Water marks on building walls showed that water flowed through some villages 12-15 feet above street level. Thus, as the water level rose, some houses eventually disappeared under the expanding river.
The military-run relief camps set up in the schools were nothing like what is shown on television. According to officers guiding us around the camp, 1,440 people were housed in Presentation Convent High School alone. Families lived in solid classrooms. The school building we entered was built a couple of feet off the ground. It was unlikely any minor flooding from heavy rains would inundate them. These IDPs had secure, non-leaking roofs over their heads, working toilets nearby and a medical clinic where both female and male doctors were accessible (though the clinic was not manned by both at all times, and when we visited, only a medical assistant was on duty, though the clinic had a healthy stock of medicine).
Most families fled their homes with very little. Some had bedding, others brought a few valuables. According to Colonel (retd) Aftab Alam of SAF, most didn’t have pots, stoves or any cooking utensils, so the army set up a kitchen to cook for the IDPs. All relief food packages were handed over directly to the army who cooked meals using the donated bags of rice, flour, ghee and daal.
Looking at the displaced parents here, they were far from happy. But there was a general sense of calm. Kids played in the compound. Everyone had some space and their immediate burdens (providing food, shelter, medicine, water to their families) had been lifted. Of course, over two weeks after the floods commenced, it was clear that their troubles had hardly commenced. The future was uncertain, and as such, this was just the beginning: after this camp, they would face the daunting task of rebuilding homes, businesses and lives. In fact, a new school year is scheduled to start in the coming days. Classes could possibly be delayed for a week or two, but not indefinitely. Soon, the 6,000 IDPs will probably have to be shifted. And it is likely that the camps to which they are moved won’t be as well equipped or comfortable as this one.
Still, not everyone was happy. Our food packages were enough for only 672 people, and we didn’t have enough treats for all the kids – no parent likes to see their child left out, and they let us know. Moreover, there were a couple of people in the school who approached us and said they were not getting enough to eat. The army had a registration system for everyone in the camp, and rations were systematically being distributed to all, said the team from SAF. Nonethless, Mrs Shahina from SAF ensured us that they would look into the matter, even though the SAF team had seen the registration system and already visited all six schools in the area. They were confident that everyone was being looked after as best possible, but admitted that caring for 6,000 IDPs wasn’t simple and even the army was struggling with limited resources and was dependent on NGOs for support.
For now, these Pakistanis can take solace that they have had, at least, some of the best temporary relief. The army, partnering with relief organisations such as SAF, was doing a tremendous job providing safe and clean living conditions, meeting everyone’s basic needs. This is a view of the relief response that the media has failed to show. It was not what we expected. And in these times, meeting expectations, let alone exceeding them, is dismissed as an impossibility.
|Posted by Aftab on May 30, 2010 at 6:24 AM||comments (0)|
The Ministry of Women Development, Government of Pakistan is now accepting nominations for Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Awards for women excelling in service in various categories. The Ministry also announced Fatima Jinnah Medals for women exhibiting exceptional performance in their selected areas.
Details of the awards could be found at the Ministry's website:
The Ministry of Women Development could be contacted at:
|Posted by Aftab on May 30, 2010 at 5:51 AM||comments (0)|
Since the times of Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat to a white man in the bus, women in the US have come a long way. In the most recent presidential election held in 2008, two women candidates were nominated for the top posts Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton for President and the then Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin for Vice President. It is a sad fact that neither Clinton nor Palin could make it. Although Clinton has been in the White House before but it was as the First Lady not as the President.
Pakistan in sharp contrast to US, gave the Islamic World its first female Head of State some 20 years ago. Since that time women in Pakistan have proved their mettle in politics, arts, sciences, law and even military forces. Yes, it is true that the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul inducts women candidates to become Army Officers. It is small wonder then that women empowerment is on the rise in the country. From the largest number of seats in the National Assembly to the Speaker National Assembly and even the sensitive position of the Minister of State for finance all belong to women of Pakistan.
The Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Giliani was quoted saying "I often mention this, that my constituency is women and minorities". On the convention organized by Women Parliamentarians Caucus, the PM encouraged the women legislators to work across party lines to become catalyst for change for the generations to come.
To encourage diversity in work space, Gilani announced 10% quota for the women. He mentioned the setting up of the office of Women Ombudsman as well as the Women Commission of Pakistan for creation of opportunities for women--- a segment that has been the most neglected. About the development funds allocated to the female legislators at the Federal level, the Premier emphasized that there would be "no discrimination" between male and female legislators hoping that the provinces would follow suit.
This is a great achievement by the women of Pakistan both within and outside the corridors of power, who through their untiring efforts, commitment and persistence have made the world recognize them. It is their efforts that have made the government pledge to their empowerment and protection of their rights.