Jemima distributes 3,700 tents among Afghan refugees
PESHAWAR, May 3: Jemima Khan, wife of Imran Khan, on Thursday distributed 3,700 tents among Afghan refugees at Jalozai makeshift camp, 30km southeast of here. She thanked the government for permitting her to hand out good quality tents to refugees living in small-sized plastic sheeting under the scorching sun. It is her fourth visit to Jalozai camp.
When she arrived here with Mariam Gilani of the Afghan Relief and Rehabilitation and a media team comprising Sky TV, BBC TV and reporters of London-based newspapers, the authorities did not allow her to distribute tents among the refugees. She was told that no NGO or any other organization at its own could distribute any relief goods among the refugees. She was told to contact the Cabinet division for the purpose.
Ms Khan protested over the manner in which she was barred from handing out tents among the needy refugees and took the newsmen to the campus of the closed University of Dawat wal Jihad, supervised by Ittehad-i-Islami Afghanistan chief Abdul Rab Rasool Siyyaf, and criticized the "lame excuse" by the officials.
She got furious over the "delaying tactics" by the government and the Afghan Commissionerate. "It has nothing to do with politics. I have come here to provide tents to refugees living in pathetic condition. One cannot live in such condition in which Afghan women and children are forced to live. It is horrible to live in a small-size plastic sheeting under the scorching sun," she observed.
The governor, she said, had promised that a policy on refugees would be made in two weeks, but months had passed and he had not come up with any policy. Certainly Pakistan was faced with problems, she remarked, but one could not wait for a long time to hand out relief goods to people who badly needed them.
"We are here on humanitarian ground. I will extend all out help to refugees. I have talked to many charity organizations in Europe and they have contributed 100,000 pounds for the refugees. We have made investigations at the camp and then purchased 3,700 tents, which cost us 80,000 pounds," she said.
Later, she took the media team to the camp to witness the condition of Afghan refugees. She talked to Sara, wife of Daulat Khan, who was living in a plastic camp, enough for one person. Sara's husband was killed some months back in her home province, Paghman. A 17-year-old boy, Mohammad Ibrahim, told Ms Khan that at least four families from different backgrounds were constrained to take shelter in one tent. "It is very difficult for us to expose our women to alien tribesmen. How can one live in such condition," he deplored. Later, Ms Khan moved to the deserted university campus, where she distributed tents among the refugees.
During her previous visits to the camp, she handed out 470 tents, plastic sheeting to 1,000 families, and some cash for food items. She said next time she would bring medicines and food items for the refugees. An official said the government had imposed a ban on the distribution of relief goods by individuals and NGOs because they would always distribute goods among few refugees, which led to pandemonium. In future, every one would have to seek permission from the Cabinet division for the purpose, he added.
DONATION: The Italian maestro, Luciano Pavarotti, has decided to donate 1.5 million US dollars to the health and education programmes of Afghan refugee children sponsored by the United Nations' High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pakistan.
He has dedicated the 2001 edition of the "Pavarotti and Friends" charity concert to the refugee children. According to the UNHCR, the event will take place in Modena, Italy, on May 5 and a mission of the Italian and other European press will arrive in Peshawar on Thursday to assess the plight of the old and the newly-arrived Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
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