Pakistani NGOs beset by ‘visa denials’ in quest to help Gazans

Published October 18, 2023
Palestinians buy bread in Gaza City on October 16. — AFP
Palestinians buy bread in Gaza City on October 16. — AFP

KARACHI: As the humanitarian situation in Gaza becomes desperate after days of relentless bombing by Israeli forces, global aid organisations have said the time was “running out to save millions of people” in the Gaza Strip. Yet, no aid is being allowed inside the besieged enclave.

Like global aid agencies, non-governmental organisations in Pakistan are also ready to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, but they cite blockade and logistical issues as key challenges.

“All routes to Gaza are closed. It’s all sealed,” Faisal Edhi of the Edhi Foundation told Dawn, adding his heart bleeds for the Palestinians.

While all crossings into Gaza from Israel are closed, the only entry point is the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. However, that, too, has been left inoperable due to Israeli air strikes.

Faisal Edhi claims Egypt ‘not issuing visas to aid workers’; Saylani partners with Turkish NGO to send money

According to Mr Edhi, aid agencies in Pakistan could enter from the Egyptian side, but the North African country was “refusing visas to Pakistanis.

He recalled that three years ago, when Israel was bombing Gaza, his organisations tried to reach Gaza via Rafah, “but then Egypt turned down our visa applications”.

He presumed Egypt was “afraid” granting visas to humanitarian bodies would not sit well with the US.

Amjad Chamdia of Saylani Welfare Trust also said going to Gaza through any country was not possible.

“Even people from neighbouring countries cannot reach there as borders are sealed,” he said.

According to Mr Chamdia, the people of Gaza have no food, water, electricity or cooking gas. “Everything has been cut off, and they are being tortured and killed.”

Alternative ways to help

As it was impossible to send relief goods to Gaza, some NGOs in Pakistan have joined hands with global organisations to send money to the besieged region.

Mr Chamdia said his organisation has found a way to send money to Gaza.

“We are joining hands with NGOs from Turkiye to help them,” he explained.

He added that in a day, Saylani Welfare Trust will start a donation drive for the people of Gaza. “The money will be used in feeding the people of Gaza who have succeeded in exiting the besieged enclave.”

The organisation will also work with Turkish NGOs who are providing food and medical aid for the Palestinians who have escaped from Gaza.

“They are homeless. Besides, winter is also approaching. The money we collect will help buy food and aid for them.”

Alkhidmat Foundation, the relief wing of Jamaat-i-Islami, has also partnered with international aid organisations and NGOs that have access to the area to send relief goods.

The foundation’s Karachi CEO, Naveed Ali Baig, said his organisation “has stepped up relief activities for people in Gaza in the wake of the increased aggression by Israel”.

He disclosed that Alkhidmat’s volunteers were providing food, water, medical supplies and other necessary items to the Palestinian civilians.

Mr Baig also appealed to people to support their relief efforts and help those stuck in Gaza.

“A total blockade of food, water, fuel and electricity has been imposed on Gaza, creating a humanitarian crisis on a massive scale. Palestinians are looking towards their fellow Pakistani Muslims to come to their aid at this crucial moment. I appeal to the public to step forward and donate generously for this cause,” he said.

No political motives

Mr Edhi said aid organisations only want to help people and don’t have any political motives.

“But we are being stopped from even doing that,” said a dejected Mr Edhi.

According to Alkhidmat Foundation’s Mr Baig, thousands of men, women and children are severely wounded due to “the incessant and indiscriminate carpet bombing by Israeli forces and in need of help”.

Mr Chamdiya also said Israel and America were “treating Palestinians like animals”.

“They have forgotten about human rights there. [The US] likes to be known as the upholder of human rights, and here it is turning its back to the worst human rights atrocities.”

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2023

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