Social media become a platform for humanitarian activities: Pakistani expat in UAE brings out power of social media

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For many, social media is just a tool to express their emotions. But Pakistani expat Mariam has converted it to a tool for her humanitarian efforts and her political activities.

It was in May 2018 when a Dubai-based Pakistani man, Nadeem, seemingly disappeared from the radar. He was neither reachable on his cell phone nor were his social media accounts active.

A couple of months later, Mariam, a friend of Nadeem and an active tweep with 50K followers, noticed his absence and tried to reach him but to no avail.

“I called up his number and it was switched off and I thought he might be travelling,” said Mariam who tweets with the handle @MariamsMadness.

She then checked his Twitter account, which was also inactive. Mariam found this strange since Nadeem was a fellow Insafian (a name given to Imran Khan’s followers) and a passionate tweep.

By then, elections in Pakistan were on the horizon and Mariam, being an active supporter of Khan’s political party Pakistan Tehreeke Insaaf (PTI), travelled back home to Islamabad from Abu Dhabi for campaigning.

It was after a while that she again tried to get in touch with Nadeem but this time, his phone number was disconnected and his Twitter remained inactive.

“Now I was really worried and tried to look for someone who knew him,” she said. Finally she found his roommate in Dubai who told her Nadeem had a stroke and was taken to Pakistan.

“He had some loans in Dubai and had been in stress,” said Mariam. She also got to know that he was hospitalised in Dubai for a month and half in May with no one to care for him. He eventually left for Lahore after a struggle in July.

Mariam then got in touch with his wife, Erum. Nadeem had a brain hemorrhage and was in a vegetative state. He suffered from fits, frothing at the mouth and also had a stiffening of his limbs. He was being fed through a feeding tube and was fit with a urine bag.

The family was also in dire straits. Two of Nadeem’s kids had been taken out of school and the family had been starving. House rent had not been paid for the past eight months.

Mariam was much affected with the happenings and the only thing she could think of was to seek help from her Twitter followers. She put in an appeal tweet. “I have failed, we have failed. I’m ashamed that someone from our Twitter family has gone through so much pain and we had no idea. I cried and apologised for not being there. We must do our part and look out for each other. We must notice when someone goes missing,” she tweeted while asking for help and giving the account number of Erum.

The next morning, Mariam was woken up with the constant sounds of WhatsApp messages from Erum who was sending Mariam snapshots of messages of credit being deposited in her bank.

In 24 hours, the family had received Rs785,377 (Dh20,587) and in a week the amount totalled Rs1.2 million (Dh31,436).

“People had donated whatever they could, from Rs200 to Rs150,000 and I was overwhelmed,” said Mariam.

Nadeem’s kids are now back in school and he is back on his feet after getting physiotherapy. “He has lost his memory but he only remembers two people – Imran Khan, and the second his own wife,” she said laughing.

The overwhelming response in Nadeem’s case reinforced Mariam’s belief in humanity.

Earlier this month, she put out another appeal to help a fellow Pakistani who has been stuck in Dubai along with his 72-year-old father due to financial issues.

“I was looking for something else when I came across this tweet by a person seeking help,” she said. Tanveer Ahmed Gull had put out a tweet on March 7 asking for help, saying that his father was disabled and they were living without water and electricity since November 2018. The duo had been using the nearby mosque for their basic needs. But despite his appeal, no one had responded.

Tanveer had brought his father, Muneer Ahmed, three years ago to Dubai on a business visa of a cleaning company that employed 11 people. The business could not take off and the company went into loss.

Three rent cheques bounced and the landlord filed a police complaint against Muneer and he was due to pay Dh13,000.

Mariam personally looked into the details and Muneer’s case was taken to the Pakistan Consulate in Dubai. Though a case was registered, consulate officials said they did not have enough funds. “Muneer was carried into the landlord’s office to show how ill he was and to ask for a reduction in the rent but it didn’t happen,” said Mariam.

She then put out the case on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Citizen Portal but did not get the desired response.

Mariam finally put out a tweet to which people from the UAE responded and a total of Dh10,000 was raised including air ticket.

“No one asked me for proof ever and simply helped as much as they could. I am so overwhelmed with the gesture,” said Mariam.

“I asked for help for several people, but I failed,” Tanveer, who is also an elected PTI member from Gujrat, told Khaleej Times. “Mariam came as a blessing for me,” he added.

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