ISLAMABAD                     -                  Although the COVID-19 pandemic has shattered human confidence besides encouraging ‘personal-safety-first’ approach, but the Pakistani-American community has exceptionally risen to the challenge and is fighting as a frontline force in protecting the lives of its compatriots as well as non-Pakistanis, in the United States (US).

The community is fearlessly engaged in relief activities in the world’s hardest-hit country, the US, and it’s campaign’s major target is the New York City where majority of fatalities have been reported by the US authorities.

“Since the emergence of this pandemic a couple of months ago, we were the first South Asian organisation in America to have launched a major initiative to help those people who are in need,” a representative of American Pakistani Advocacy Group (APAG) Ali Rashid said during the Virtual Town Hall meeting, organised by the Pakistani Americans to discuss issues faced by their countrymen in the US.

 “Our efforts would not only improve the image of Pakistan, but also ensure the safety of Pakistanis, spread across the US,” he added.

Ali Rashid informed the forum that his organisation had been delivering ration and other essential items at the door step of those people who were unable to visit the grocery shops due to lockdowns in various US cities.

“So far, we have distributed 800 full grocery packages among Pakistan community, especially to the families of blue collar workers.”

He said since the holy month of Ramadan was fast approaching,  an order of 500 more such packages had been given to ensure uninterrupted supply of rice, wheat flour and other essential edibles for the Pakistani families. “The cities do not provide those items to Pakistanis which they required actually. They only provide cane food.”

Highlighting another initiative which was meant to offer free lunch to those Americans who are at the forefront in the fight against the coronavirus, he said:  “With such initiatives, we have changed the narrative about Pakistan and show that what actually Pakistani community can do.”

Pervaiz Riaz, a businessman from the US, said he had given free disinfected services to the doctors, nurses and other frontline fighters. “We have disinfected homes and police stations to ensure safety of the first responders.’

Mazhar Chughtai, an entrepreneur by profession, said he, in collaboration with the US-based Pakistani organisations, had distributed food among 5,100 families. Some 2,500 were Pakistani families while half of them belonged to the other communities, he added.

Moviz Siddique from the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) said his organisation had distributed food and safety kits in 145 cities of the US. As of today, he said, around 5,131 Personal Protective Equipment had been delivered to the multiple hospitals for the safety of medical and paramedical staff.

He said 866,250 USD had been spent on the distribution of food and ration. “700,000 pounds of food have been delivered to the people’s homes that included 22,377 boxes cooked meal.”

Moviz said 565 volunteers had been working across the US that also involved a large number of Pakistani women. Hotlines had also been set up to provide medical assistance to the people, he added.  

“Right from the day one, when guidelines about coronavirus and its possible impact given to us, our consulates and community together have been very proactive in getting the message out, reaching out the people and highlighting the community efforts,” said Pakistan’s Consul General Ayesha Ali.

Pakistani organizations were playing key role in providing multiple services to the people including ration, funeral services, financial assistance and accommodations, she added.

Pakistani Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed said he had special appreciation for those people who had opened their homes for the stranded Pakistanis after closure of international flights. “This reflects generosity of Pakistanis,” he added.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfikar Bukhari, who also joined the special session from here, appreciated the Pakistanis for taking care of their community in such trying times. He also informed them about the initiatives taken by the government of Pakistan to stem the spread of coronavirus in the country.