It has been almost a month, and the images and news from Turkey and Syria continue to grieve me. Deeply saddened, I pray for the millions of Turks and Syrians who have lost their everything in this disaster.
The visuals of babies and children recused after days re-strengthen my faith in the power of miracles.
The image of a dog pulled out from debris by recuse workers who welcome him with big smiles reconfirms my belief in the goodness of humanity. The image of a horse rescued in Adiyaman, after twenty-one days the earthquake hit Turkey, is a reiteration of my faith that all lives are special.
On February 6, 2023, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria. The earthquake, reportedly one of the fiercest ones to strike the region, has claimed more than fifty thousand lives.
My dil se dua for the most-impacted Turkish provinces of Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, and Sanliurfa. My dil se dua for Syria, and its ancient city of Aleppo that faced the severest damage, and the badly affected Damascus, Raqqa, Homs, Hama, Deir ez Zor, Daraa and Idlib.
Millions of people in Turkey and Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance. Such largescale tragedies elicit a collective reaction of shock and grief, as the world, despite its divisions and borders, bonds in the universality of human suffering. The global response to the unimaginable pain in Turkey and Syria continues to be unitedly empathetic. From the most developed to the developing, most countries are with the grief-stricken nations of Turkey and Syria where countless families have lost their loved ones and homes.
Much still needs to be done in thousands of destroyed places where rescue work continues despite there now being an almost non-existent hope of survival of human beings and animals trapped under debris of concrete, brick, and steel for almost thirty days.
In this time of dire need, Pakistan, despite its current bleak economic scenario, is standing with its old friends and allies. The government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan are with their Turkish and Syrian brethren, assuring them with their deep concern, heartfelt prayers, and human and other assistance that their pain is our pain.
Under the supervision of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the principal coordinator of Pakistan’s rescue and relief assistance to the disaster-stricken people of Turkey and Syria, Pakistan’s Naval Ship NASR, carrying one thousand tons of relief items, left for Turkey on February 28. Reportedly, the ship is carrying 1,800 large, family-sized tents, especially made for winter, and 29,000 blankets for the immediate needs of the quake survivors.
According to a statement issued by the Pakistan embassy in Turkey, on February 25, twenty-one trucks of Pakistan’s National Logistics Cell, carrying two hundred- and seventy-five-ton relief assistance goods, including winter tents and blankets, reached the Turkish city of Malatya, “one of the worst hit cities by earthquake.”
Pakistan embassy also stated that an air bridge had been established between the two countries after two earthquakes devastated large sections of Turkey. Reportedly, so far “twenty flights have carried relief assistance goods to Turkey. Approximately, eight to fifteen tonnes of humanitarian assistance have been sent daily to Turkey and Syria on the Pakistan International Airlines flights. Pakistan aims to manufacture and supply fifty thousand winter tents to Turkey by March 23.”
One of the most remarkable aspects of Pakistan’s empathy for the people of Turkey and Syria is the selfless work of social welfare organizations and regular Pakistanis who volunteer whenever humanity is in need of help. Prominent in their unassuming assistance are the Edhi Foundation, Akhuwat and Alkhidmat Foundation. Several other organizations are making their contributions in the rescue and aid operations.
Teams’ work lauded
I always marvel at Pakistan’s amazing and constant generosity for the underprivileged, for the ones in pain, within and outside Pakistan. I’m proud of my compatriots for their unpublicised philanthropy, for their acts of compassion, for their beautiful hearts.
And then there are Pakistan’s unsung heroes, the nameless faceless brave hearts who show extraordinary patience and courage to pick every bit of concrete and stone and brick and steel to find humans stuck under the rubble of destroyed buildings. Working with the local and international rescue teams, Pakistan’s civilian Rescue 1122 and Pakistan Army’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) were part of the rescue operations in Turkey.
My fellow Pakistanis were among the first ones to arrive in Adiyaman on February 7, 2023.
Thirty-three USAR and fifty-three personnel of Rescue 1122, seventeen days of search and rescue; twenty-eight live evacuations, out of which fourteen exclusively by the Pakistani teams. I’m thankful to my compatriots for their participation in the rescue and assistance of people whose agony and loss are unimaginable.
These courageous Pakistanis are my heroes. Their service is invaluable, their empathy is inspirational, their slogan is humanity. These amazing workers of Rescue 1122, these incredible jawans of our Army. They prayed for the people stuck under debris. They devoted hours to rescue them from their wrecked homes that had turned into graves for so many who most tragically could not be saved. On rescuing humans, their chants were of Allahu Akbar. On being able to save a life, their joy was marked with humble gratitude.
Forgetting food and rest and sleep, they did their best to rescue people. Their mission had a single agenda: saving lives. Their aim was to give solace to grieving families desperately praying for their loved ones to be alive beneath the ruins of ravaged buildings.
Giving it their all, Pakistan’s Rescue 1122 and Urban Search and Rescue teams worked on a simple tenet of existence—we are one in our time of pain, in our friends’ time of pain, in humanity’s time of pain.