Speech at the meeting of the Pakistan Red Cross Society held at the governor-general’s House, Karachi on 15th March, 1948.
It gives me great pleasure indeed to welcome the Members of the Governing Body of the Pakistan Red Cross Society and friends and sympathizers who are present here today. I thank you for the honor you have done me by inviting me to inaugurate this meeting and I am glad that you have given me the opportunity to do so. Many of the members of the governing body are new to Red Cross work, and, therefore, I thought it appropriate that I should mention the objects to which the Funds of the Society can legally be applied. I have tried to gather such information as I could with regard to the origin and history of Red Cross which is replete with great sacrifices rendered by unselfish men and women who have done so much good to suffering humanity.
The “Red Cross” had its origin at Geneva, almost directly as the result of an accidental visit made in 1859 to the battlefield of Solferino in Italy by a young man from Geneva, named Jean Henry Dunant. Dunant was deeply moved by the sufferings of the wounded and the groans of the dying. He wrote a book, which made a great impression, and as a result of his enthusiastic efforts a non-official “Committee of Five” was founded in Geneva. In 1863, this Committee convened a semi-official conference, which was attended by the representatives of sixteen different countries. Following the conference the “Committee of Five” became the “Genevese Committee for the Relief of wounded soldiers” and “National Aid Societies” were formed in a number of countries.
A few months later, the Swiss Government called an official diplomatic conference, which drew up the Geneva Convention for the relief of, sick and wounded in war. Sixty-three nations eventually acceded to this Convention. The Conference also decided that all those who worked to relieve suffering in war and were under this. Convention, entitled to protection, should adopt one distinctive emblem, irrespective of the country to which they belonged. They selected for that emblem, as a compliment towards the country in which the idea for international treaties for the protection of the defenseless victims of hostilities was born, the reverse of the Swiss flag, which is a white Cross on a red background. The emblem adopted by the Conference was, therefore, a Red Cross on a white background. It is generally recognized that this emblem should be universal to enable it to fulfill its mission to the greatest possible extent, especially on the battlefield, where the persons and institutions of the Army Forces Medical Corps and of the Voluntary Aid Societies are, if under this distinctive emblem, protected against any enemy action by international conventions. Not less important is the symbolic value of the Red Cross in the field of international collaboration with the aim of mitigating the horrors of the War and ameliorating public health and public welfare.
Switzerland is still the headquarters of the Red Cross movement. The original Committee of Five has, since 1876, been known by the name of the International Committee of the Red Cross and is still a purely Swiss organization with an exclusively international activity. The members are all Swiss Nationals. One of the chief functions of this Committee is in time of war, to serve, either directly or through their Delegates, as intermediaries between Governments and National Societies of the belligerent Powers, in all cases where their assistance is requested. They endeavor, by all means in their power, to promote in every way the welfare of the victims of the war. The Committee takes over similar functions in time of civil war and internal troubles offering to all parties concerned their services in order to mitigate human suffering. In peacetime and in Wartime, the Committee is the guardian of the Geneva Convention and the fundamental Red Cross principles and their distinctive emblem. That such an organization is an international necessity needs no emphasis. lt is peculiarly appropriate that it should be located in Switzerland, as Swiss perpetual neutrality was guaranteed by the Power in 1815 at the close of the wars of Napoleon and his neutrality has been respected ever since.
I must explain that the International Committee of the Red Cross is not the governing body, although it is the body which has to approve the affiliation of National Red Cross Societies to the International Red Cross, the name adopted in 1928. The Red Cross Community comprises the National Red Cross Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the League of Red Cross Societies. This league was founded in 1919 on the proposal of the American Red Cross. It is a federation of National Red Cross Societies, created with a view to promoting Red Cross activities in peacetime and to help the National Societies to perfect their organization, to develop public health and public welfare in the national and international fields. The League has a board of governors, comprising one representative of each of the National Societies of the world. This board meets every two years and its Executive Committee twice yearly. However, in wartime it is often not possible to convene these sessions and the International Committee remains the only link between countries and their societies. No National Red Cross Society can be affiliated to the International Red Cross unless the country to which it belongs has acceded to the Geneva Convention regarding the care of the sick and wounded in war and the Convention regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. The Government of Pakistan have already communicated to Geneva their desire to adhere to these conventions.
In so far as a governing body of the International Red Cross exists, it is the International Red Cross Conference. It is the supreme Assembly of the Red Cross and includes representatives of all National Societies of the International Committee and of the League. Official representatives of the States signatory to the Geneva Conventions are also invited to the meetings and enjoy the right of vote. The International Conference passes resolutions on all questions concerning Red Cross policy in international field. The Conference meets in principle every four years, except in times of world war, and in the intervals it is represented by a standing Commission. The next meeting is to be held in Sweden this August. It will be an important one as a final meeting of several preliminary international meetings already held after the end of the second world war. Its main task will be the revision of the Geneva Conventions concerning the treatment of the sick and wounded and prisoners of war and the protection of the defenseless civil population in wartime. These conventions are ready in a draft based on experiences gained during the second world war. The Conference will furthermore lay down the future Red Cross policy on the international field. Having the importance of this Conference in view, we hope to be able to send Delegates of the Pakistan Government and of the Pakistan Red Cross Society which, has now been formed by the Pakistan Red Cross Society Order, 1947 to this Conference to be held in Stockholm this year.
It was in 1920, that an Indian Red Cross Society was formed. The Act was then passed “to constitute an Indian Red Cross Society and to vest in it the balance of the funds collected for medical and other aid to the sick and wounded and other purposes of a like nature” during the 1914-18 war. This Act was adapted under the Pakistan “Adaptation of existing Pakistan law” Order of 1947,to bring into being the Pakistan Red Cross Society. At the first meeting of the Governing Body of this new Society today you will, among other things, consider the division of the assets of the old Indian Red Cross Society between India and Pakistan. Ladies and Gentlemen, as will be clear from what I have told you, the aims of the Red Cross may be summarized under three heads:
- Promotion of health.
- Prevention of disease.
- Mitigation of suffering throughout the world.
In war time the proper function of the Red Cross is of course care of the sick and wounded. In peace time the activity of the Organization lies chiefly in the field of:
supplementary work for existing organizations concerned with the three aims which I have mentioned above; and pioneering work to initiate social service in pursuance of those aims which might eventually be taken over by the Government or by local bodies.
It is most appropriate that the Red Cross should have available emergency services to be ready in times of floods, famines or epidemics or any other calamity that may overwhelm any country to go to the relief of suffering humanity, as laid down in the first schedule of Act XV of 1920 adapted for Pakistan include:
The care of the sick and wounded men of Pakistan Forces, whether still on the active list or demobilized.
The care of those suffering from tuberculosis, having regard in the first place to soldiers and sailors whether they have contracted the disease on active service or not Child Welfare.
Work parties to provide the necessary garments, etc., for hospitals and health institutions in need of them.
Assistance required in all branches of nursing, health and welfare work, ancillary to any organization which have or may come into being in Pakistan and which are recognized by the Society.
Home Service Ambulance work
Provision of comforts and assistance to members of Pakistan Forces, whether on the active list or demobilized.
Such other cognate objects as may, from time to time are approved by the Society.
In India, in the past, the main peacetime activities of the Society have been :
Maternity and Child Welfare Services.
Training of Assistant Midwives.
Providing amenities in women’s and Children’s hospitals.
Supply of ambulance Cars to Districts.
Since partition of the sub-continent of India into two dominions Pakistan and India –such activities have been continued by the existing Branch Red Cross Societies in the Provinces of Pakistan. A fifth service with which our Society might well concern itself is the organization of Blood Banks; for these it would be the function of the Society to arrange for Panels for the whole country, to enlist donors, and to send vans around to collect them. The scope of the work, which can be done by Provincial Branches under the guidance of the Governing Body, is very wide indeed.
There is also the Junior Red Cross, which has been organized by some of the Branch Societies in Pakistan, and operates in schools. The teachers are generally known as Patrons or Red Cross links. Services rendered by the Junior Red Cross are concerned with: operates in schools. The teachers are generally known as Patrons or Red Cross links. Services rendered by the Junior Red Cross are concerned with:
1. organization of lectures;
2. International correspondence, between Members of the Junior Red Cross in one country and the Junior Red Cross in another, which has proved a potent force in promoting International understanding; and;
3. Helping in carrying messages and performance of similar services.
It is dear from the history of the Red Cross as I have tried to outline it to you that National Red Cross Societies are not official bodies, although throughout the past 80 years they have been closely associated with national and diplomatic actions. Even when countries sever all connections with one other in war their Red Cross Societies still have a common link in the International Red Cross Society in neutral Switzerland. Today, it gives me great satisfaction to welcome among us a representative of the International Red Cross –Dr. Wenger, who has been in Pakistan for some weeks visiting Refugee Camps, advising upon methods of improvement in our relief work there, and investigating means by which the International Red Cross can give us aid.
Indeed from the brotherhood of the International Red Cross much help has been forthcoming in Pakistan’s hour of need.
The Red Cross Society of Canada sent to us a valuable gift of penicillin, and the Canadian Trade Agent in Karachi received a donation of some RS. 12,000 which he spent upon blankets for our refugees.
The Australian Red Cross Society have informed us that it is proposed to ship blankets, woolen clothing, dressing and drugs worth £6,00 to Pakistan, and from the same country a cash donation of about £99 and warm clothing have been received for my Relief Fund.
From the Turkish Red Crescent 75 bales of warm clothing have been sent for distribution in refugee camps.
From the British Red Cross Society have come one complete hospital, which is now functioning in Multan, 12 Ambulance cars, 2 Doctors from the United Kingdom and 2 engaged in Pakistan, a Matron and three nursing sisters. Four more sisters are expected and a complete Casualty Clearing Station for 250 persons has recently arrived. From the same source during the last few months we have received supplies of milk, stores, and blankets apart from other aid of a substantial nature, and the services of Major General Sir Treffry Thompson, the commissioner of the British Red Cross Society operating in Pakistan, whom I am’ “ratified to see here today, are proving of the highest value to this country.
By other countries also we have been given the most generous assistance, although not always, under the symbol of the Red Cross. From the Government of Iran came a gift of anti-cholera vaccine, and Switzerland, Holland and South Africa made offers of similar gifts. American Voluntary Relief Agencies working through a committee for emergency aid to India and Pakistan have sent drugs, medical stores, powdered milk, cereals, blankets and warm clothing in large quantities. Fourteen different ships have brought these sorely needed gifts. Doctors and nurses also come, and Mobile Medical Unit of the Christian Committee for Relief in West Pakistan, composed of mixed American, British and Indian Christian personnel have done splendid work. How much all this has meant to our Refugees, everyone here, will realize. It was inspiring to know that these, our friends, were working under most difficult conditions to supplement our own organizations while Muslim ladies came forward enthusiastically in hundreds to help their sick and injured brothers and sisters in a spirit of sympathy and sacrifice.
Among the doctors who, inspired by a high ideal of service, have come from abroad to work in an honorary capacity in our refugees camps, I must mention doctor Holland, son of Sir Henry Holland, an honored Member of our Governing Body who has given long years of his life to the people of this land, and who is leaving us within a few days. Our good wishes go with him in his retirement. I would also mention Mr. Ghulam Mohammed, a businessman of Newcastle-on-Tyne who brought 3 British Doctors for honorary service in Pakistan. Ladies and Gentlemen: magnificent contributions to the common cause, such as those to which I have just referred, are assuredly a most faithful interpretation of the noble spirit of the Red Cross.
So, now that Pakistan Red Cross Society has been established by us, it will, I hope, play its full and destined part in the service of humanity along with other bodies and organizations in the international field to afford all possible relief and help to the suffering and distressed people wherever possible.