Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Remembers that flood of 2010?

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On Sunday 16 June, I flew to Karachi where I was picked up by a young man from Sindh Agriculture and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization. The story of this NGO (established late 1980s) is remarkable. Starting in a small room of the family home of Suleman Abro with a staff of three, it now employs several hundred workers. Its work is spread across Sindh and, being friends with Suleman, I have had the good fortune of studying their work and writing about it.

Most of the writing was for their official use. But many times I used stories that were published in Herald or The News on Sunday [read one of them here]. The work of the NGO is humanitarian and the stories are terribly moving.

This time they wanted me to write a short report on a project to rehabilitate landless peasant women who had lost livestock in the August 2010 flood. With financial aid from Sindhi Association of North America, SAFWCO purchased five hundred goats to be given to half as many women. That was the SANA project. With smart thinking SAFWCO turned it into a perpetual programme. They laid down that for the first two years after a woman got her goat, she would return to SAFWCO one kid of each birth. A single birth was the woman’s to keep. At the end of two years while the woman could have upward of ten goats, SAFWCO would have a goat bank in its agricultural property at Shahdapur (Sanghar district). These goats in the bank could then go to other poor women on the same condition making this a self-sustaining programme.

Though the distribution began in January 2013, the beneficiaries who were utterly without hope after the floods were beginning to dream great dreams again.

Suleman keeps me captive to write these reports. This was the second time he did it. I who could never write anywhere other than my study that looks out to greenery, find it can be done: in two straight days of working from 5.00 in the morning until about 8.00 evening, I turned out 6400 words. By the way, Suleman is a very dear friend and SAFWCO is like another family to my wife and me.

Postscript. PIA out to Karachi was on time. On the way back the flight supposed to depart 7.00 PM to reach Lahore 8.40 was delayed until 11.45 because of a PIA ground staff strike in Lahore – at least that is what we were told. So we left Karachi on 19 June and reached Lahore on the 20th at 1.15 AM. I was home at 2.00, took a shower and then could not fall asleep!

I am a PIA frequent flyer, but now it is decided: wherever another airline flies, I take that instead of PIA. The flight out on Sunday (PK 303) was the second flight in my past eighteen months that was on time. Delays were always between 1 hour to 3 hours. Twice of thrice when leaving Lahore, I had to cancel and come home because things were so out of kilter as to not work for me. Actually, with PIA you cannot even plan anything any longer. You are simply bound to be late. And I am too old to take the eighteen-hour Daewoo journey to Karachi!

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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days