Pakistan Ranks High on Philanthropy
"Righteousness is not that ye turn your faces towards the east or the west, but righteousness is, one who believes in God, and the last day, and the angels, and the Book, and the prophets, and who gives wealth for His love to kindred, and orphans, and the poor, and the son of the road, beggars, and those in captivity; and who is steadfast in prayers, and gives alms." Quran 2:177
More Pakistanis gave to charities and the country saw the "largest jump in the rankings globally of 108 places, moving from 142nd to 34th in 2011", according to World Giving Index 2011. The report compiled by Charities Aid Foundation points out that "the floods did not lead to Pakistan's twenty-six percentage point rise in its World Giving Index score" because the survey was conducted before the 2010 floods.
World Giving Index Rankings in South Asia
The United States is ranked as the most generous in the world for charitable giving. Sri Lanka, ranking 8th in the world, leads philanthropy South Asia region. It is followed by Pakistan (ranked 34th globally) in second place, Bangladesh (ranked 78 globally) in third place, Nepal (ranked 84 globally) in fourth place, and India (ranked 91 globally) in last place.
It appears that the country scores in the World Giving Index reflect the breadth of participation rather than the amount of money given as percentage of income or gdp. Here's how the report explains it:
In order to reflect a culturally diverse planet, the report looks at three aspects of giving behavior. The questions that feed the report are:
1. Donated money to a charity?
2. Volunteered your time to an organization?
3. Helped a stranger, or someone you didn't know who needed help?
Pakistan does well in South Asia in terms of the percentage of gdp given as charity as well. Given the lack of full documentation, the estimates of giving in Pakistan range from a low of 1% to a high of 5% of GDP. The upper end of 5% is more than twice the 2.2% of gdp annually contributed by Americans who lead in the world in giving.
The low end of the estimate is by PCP that says Pakistanis contributed Rs.140 billion (US$1.7 billion), nearly 1% of the nation's gross domestic product of $170 billion in 2009.
The upper end of the estimate of 5% of GDP comes from Professor Anatol Lieven in his book Pakistan-A Hard Country. Lieven argues that the "levels of trust in Pakistani state institutions are extremely low, and for good reason. Partly in consequence, Pakistan has one of the lowest levels of tax collection outside Africa. On the other hand, charitable donations, at almost 5% of GDP, is one of the highest rates in the world".
The donations help organizations like Khana Ghar that feeds the hungry, Edhi Foundation which operates non-profit ambulance service, The Citizens Foundation which runs 700 schools serving 100,000 poor students, and Human Development Foundation which builds and operates schools and clinics for the poor.
Lieven lauds the work of TCF and several other charitable organizations, but he singles out Edhi Foundation for his most effusive praise of Pakistan's strong civil society filling the gaps left by the corrupt and incompetent government:
"There is no sight in Pakistan more moving than to visit some dusty, impoverished small town in arid wasteland, apparently abandoned by God and all sensible men and certainly abandoned by the Pakistani state and its own elected representatives- to see the flag of the Edhi Foundation flying over a concrete shack with a telephone, and the only ambulance in town standing in front. Here, if anywhere in Pakistan, lies the truth of human religion and human morality".
Philanthropy in Pakistan
Pakistan-A Hard Country
World Giving Index Report 2011
How Can Overseas Pakistanis Help Flood Victims?
Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness
Pakistan Center for Philanthropy
An Overview of Indian Philanthropy
Aaker Patel on Philathropy
Orangi Pilot Project
Three Cups of Tea
Volunteerism in America
Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan's Vision
The Social Service Society of Foundation Public School’s (FPS) A-Level campus is working on making this kind of work mandatory for all A-Level schools in the city.
According to Muneer Iqbal, the chairperson of the society, he and his peers are already in touch with students from other schools to push for this demand. Meanwhile, the school’s society plans to publicise the cause at events in different schools. “As youngsters, we should contribute to the society by helping those who are in need,” Iqbal said.
At the FPS A-Levels campus, all of the 120 first-year students have to do mandatory community service of 30 hours to be able to pass to the second year. They are free to choose what kind of work they want to do.
They can, for example, teach at government schools, tend to the elderly at shelter homes, or spend time with the mentally or physically challenged or those suffering from life-threatening diseases.
“Community service is greatly needed at government schools because they are in a deplorable state,” said Iqbal. “If educated people like us step forward, we can make a huge difference.”
Another student, Hamza Masood, also at FPS, believes that community service also gives students applying to universities abroad an edge. “Foreign universities prefer students who have done social service,” he said. “Even the top universities in Pakistan, like the Lahore University of Management Sciences, give credit to social service.”
But Masood does not do charity work because it will get him admission to a foreign university. According to him, at the end of the day it is satisfaction that one gets from helping the people that matters.
“I went to Dar ul Sukoon five months after I did community service there,” he said. “I was delighted when two children recognised me and called me by my name. They made me realise that our visits meant a lot to them.”
It seemed like students of other A-Level schools feel the same way. Saba Basit, who studies at Nixor College, believes that students should be made aware of how important serving the community was.
“Community service should be made mandatory but students should know what they are doing is important for the community rather than it being imposed upon them,” said Basit. “Social service does not only mean going to hospitals or old homes. It means that we can also help others in our neighborhoods as well.”....
The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton presented Proctor & Gamble (P&G) with the thirteenth annual Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) for the company’s exceptional corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts in Pakistan.
Bob McDonald, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Proctor & Gamble Company accepted the award in a ceremony held at the State Department in Washington, DC on Wednesday.
US Consul General in Karachi William Martin and P&G Pakistan Country Manager Faisal Sabzwari joined the ceremony in Washington via digital video conferencing.
Addressing a news conference at the Karachi Consulate, Martin said that this was the first time that a firm based in Pakistan had received this prestigious award.
He said this recognition is likely to help boost foreign investments in Pakistan as international organisations are bound to take notice of the quality work being conducted in the country. He stated that this award signified the interest American investors have in Pakistan.
He further said that this award had been presented to a firm run and managed by Pakistanis which highlights the progressive social attitude of the people here. Sabzwari said that P&G Pakistan had made massive investments in the country, the last one being a $40 million investment into a laundry manufacturing facility.
He also mentioned the new plant established by the organisation in Port Qasim. Speaking about the award, he said that this year, 62 nominations were received for American companies operating in 38 different countries. Of these, some 13 companies were selected as award finalists. P&G Pakistan and Nigeria were selected as the winners among this group.
P&G Pakistan was awarded the ACE for the company’s efforts under its ‘Live, Learn, and Thrive’ CSR programme, including humanitarian assistance efforts to provide clean drinking water, food, hygiene products. It also made medical care available to over 1.9 million affected residents after the devastating 2010 floods. It also established a network of schools and supported orphanages. “A total contribution of over $2 million was made in flood aid,” he said.
Pakistan is a country in which social entrepreneurs and businesses fill urgent public needs. As one Pakistani told us, “We are a culture of problem solvers, and we are a country of entrepreneurs.’’ Despite violence, corruption, weak governance, and many social challenges, this country of more than 180 million has moved forward in growing its economy. Many Pakistanis are investing in their own and their country’s future - small business owners, industrialists, social entrepreneurs, and investors - under deeply challenging circumstances and not without risk.
In a country where public services are in shambles, private-sector innovations are abundant - in agriculture, education, health, social services delivery, and IT. We met middle-class families running schools, philanthropists building universities and hospitals, investors increasing their investment inside Pakistan, and CEOs whose businesses are thriving. Nestle has one of its largest dairy production facilities in the world based in Pakistan. And as Pepsi notes, the second-largest consumer of Mountain Dew in the world after the United States is Pakistan.
The US Chamber of Commerce and the Pakistan Business Council could promote dialogue, explore business ventures, and identify opportunities for mutually profitable market development. Our networks of entrepreneurs and businesses can forge relationships with counterpart networks in Pakistan to find opportunities for collaboration and joint investment, information exchange, and mentoring.
Another area that offers great potential is the opportunity to support Pakistanis in deepening their ongoing democratic transition. Parliamentary elections tentatively set for next year offer an opportunity for Pakistan to hold the second legitimate democratic elections in a row for the first time since the country was founded in 1947. The opportunity for citizen engagement and cooperation comes as US and Pakistani civil society organizations work together to address a wide range of challenges in Pakistan, including good governance, religious pluralism, and women’s rights.
Pakistan’s media - increasingly free and vocal – are interested in exchanging views with American counterparts on how to better educate the public and hold those in power accountable.
For the past two years, the United States has engaged the Pakistani government in several rounds of a strategic dialogue, and tripled the funding for non-military assistance to Pakistan. But because of the Afghanistan war and the threats posed by Al Qaeda and its affiliates, the US government also adopted a more aggressive military strategy in Pakistan, including the controversial drone strikes.
The efforts to move beyond a transactional relationship with Pakistan fell short, however, not just because of what the governments did or did not do. They fell short because governments are constrained in what they can achieve given how they view the threats posed to their citizens.
Without greater citizen involvement to deepen our ties, the United States and Pakistan will remain trapped in mutual mistrust.
The private sector’s charitable organisations, some reputable hospitals or welfare entities also collect zakat and other donations. Reputable organisations like Edhi Foundation, Chhipa Welfare Association, Alamgir Welfare Trust, Indus Hospital Karachi, Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) of Civil Hospital Karachi, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust, Layton Rahmatulla Benevolent Trust (LRBT), The Citizens Foundation, and scores of others in different parts of Pakistan.
They often make an appeal to the general public in the media or through other modes of advertisement for donations from zakat, ahead of Ramzan. Some faith-based or community-based charity organisations are also working effectively and efficiently in Pakistan and they also accept donations.
Prominent among them are Al Khidmat Foundation — welfare wing of Jamaat-e-Islami; Khidmat Khalq Foundation — welfare organisation of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Caritas — Pakistan’s branch of the international Catholic organisation, Jamiat-e-Punjabi-Saudagaran-e-Delhi, Aga Khan Development Network, Pakistan Hindu Council, etc.
As no official data or record is available to quantify the size of individual charity in Pakistan, it is estimated that at least Rs 400 billion is given away by individuals every year in Pakistan as charity from zakat, sadqa or donations.
Read also: On-screen Ramzan
According to Dr Siddiqi, the bulk of zakat money is given to individuals or relatives or people in dire need whereas a big portion of zakat goes to madrassas, also in an undocumented mode because of the religious belief that charity must be given secretly.
The mechanism of distributing charity money is still primitive and traditional in Pakistan. One can recall that in October 2014 around eight to ten dacoits had looted an Edhi centre in Mithadar Karachi and whisked away five kilogrammes of gold and currency worth Rs 20 million (including some foreign currency).
The money is either deposited as charity or as “amanat” at the Edhi centre, which runs the largest ambulance service in Pakistan, besides running old age homes, orphanages, etc. With such a huge network of ambulance operation across Pakistan the management style of Edhi Foundation is quite inclusive in nature. Maulana Abdus Sattar Edhi is currently ill and his son Faisal and daughter Kubra Edhi are personally handling all finance related operations of Edhi Foundation.
Similarly, many other organisations in Karachi like Chhipa Welfare Association and Sailani Welfare Trust, Alamgir Welfare Trust are some other organisations doing excellent charity work in Karachi city by not only providing free food and ambulances (by Chhipa) and healthcare support and provision of interest-free loans or equipment to youth for starting their own businesses (by Alamgir).
But no audited accounts of these organisations are available. As against these reputable organisations, some other major organisations like LRBT, The Citizens Foundation, or Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust manage their audited accounts and the details are available on their websites.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help Pakistan develop best practices models to strengthen collaboration between the government, businesses and civil society organisations for the delivery of social services and poverty reduction.
The ADB assistance will lead to developing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) frameworks and partnership models for effective linkages between public, private and civil society sectors.
The models aims to ‘building capacity of key stakeholders to strengthen partnerships; and establishing philanthropy and civil society organisation (CSO) networks to facilitate sustainable governance structures to contribute to inclusive social sector development and poverty alleviation in Pakistan’.
The ADB technical assistance will also enhance the capacity for resource mobilisation and CSR contribution of private sector and SCOs in Pakistan, according to ADB.
“Pakistan has experienced periods of strong economic growth. However, the resilience of the economy has been tested by exogenous and endogenous shocks and periods of macroeconomic instability. Sustainable social development and poverty alleviation has lagged behind economic growth,” the bank noted.
Pakistan ranks 146th out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI). Its progress in HDI and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were below many peer countries.
Pakistan’s expenditure on social sector at 0.8 per cent on health and 1.8pc on education is very low by world standards. The result is a large social sector deficit which is a drag on sustainable, inclusive economic growth and poverty alleviation, and creates risks to social stability.
It is clear that the magnitude of the social sector service delivery is beyond the fiscal and institutional capacity of the government, thus other alternatives must be considered to help achieve sustainable development.
In other countries, efforts are being made to create productive and viable linkages with key stakeholders such as the private sector and the civil society to ensure attainment of development goals. This may be a viable option for Pakistan as well.
To mobilise additional CSR and corporate philanthropy and to enhance its effectiveness, it is essential to identify best CSR practices and models, CSO implementing partners, and to form strong and credible linkages between government, philanthropists and civil society.
In order to enhance CSR for inclusive growth in Pakistan, it is crucial to generate relevant knowledge, form synergies, and create an enabling environment where these three segments of society work in partnership.
The ingredients exist to strengthen business and CSO contributions to overall social development and sector service improvement. Pakistan is a giving society, as indicated in several studies.
Pakistani cricketers will wear the logo of Edhi foundation on their playing shirts during the tour of England.
While addressing a ceremony to endorse the charitable organisation, Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Shahayar Khan said that Edhi sahab deserved to get Nobel Award for his lifelong services to the humanity. He said that the Edhi foundation has tirelessly served the humanity.
Khan said that International Cricket Council (ICC) has granted Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) permission to don the Edhi foundation’s logo on Pakistan cricket team’s official kit.
The tour of England will begin with four Test matches starting next month, with the first match being played at Lord’s cricket ground in London on July 14.
The extraordinary growth that NGOs have experienced in recent years in their numbers, their outreach and their resources is unprecedented even by Pakistani standards. The number of active NGOs in the country is, at the very least, anywhere between 100,000 to 150,000, investigations by the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP), a certification organisation for NGOs and charity institutions, reveal. By this count, there is at least one NGO for every 2,000 people. Way back in 2001, a Civil Society Index put together by the Aga Khan Foundation in Pakistan, in coordination with Civicus, an international alliance of civil society groups, put the number of “active and registered NGOs in Pakistan” at “around 10,000 to 12,000”.
The phenomenal rise in the number of NGOs could be linked to the massive injection of foreign money, especially donations and grants – and sometimes even loans – into Pakistan since 2001 (the United States alone has provided more than 10 billion dollars during these years). A major part of this money came into Pakistan due to the peculiar political and economic situation in the country. We have been through multiple violent conflicts during the last decade and a half; we have been transitioning from a dictatorship to a controlled democracy to a fully functional democracy, and our economy has been undergoing massive liberalisation. All this necessitated that foreigners came in to help with expertise and money to take Pakistan and Pakistanis through this troubled period of our history.
If money is any guide, charitable NGOs, which live on the generosity of local donors, receive an estimated 70 billion rupees every year, according to Malik Babur Javed, a senior programme manager at PCP. These organisations do not include all those thousands of NGOs which receive money from the Pakistani government, international charities, the governments of other countries and multilateral forums like the United Nations institutions.
Sadiqa Salahuddin, the director of Karachi-based NGO Indus Resource Centre, which has been active in poverty alleviation and disaster relief and mitigation in rural Sindh for more than 20 years, says the presence of large amounts of money creates major issues of both capacity and corruption within NGOs, even when they genuinely want to carry out development activities. She cites the instance of her own NGO which received an unprecedented amount of funds to provide relief to the victims of the 2010 floods.
The disaster called for quick disbursal and management of vast resources which her NGO was not prepared for, she says. Having her base in Karachi but working in Dadu district, she found coordination and management a tough task. “It drove me crazy. I would go to Dadu myself every week.” Even this was not always helpful. In one instance, going through the statement of expenses spent on flood relief, she found “83,000 rupees spent on toothpastes”. She would find many errors in computation of prices and other procedural irregularities, simply because she did not have enough skilled and motivated staff to handle such assignments in a challenging post-disaster environment.
Critics have been quick to point out that NGOs themselves don’t practice what they preach. They say NGOs avoid accountability and transparency as much as they possibly can and, therefore, are quite averse to any form of regulation or oversight. With some large NGOs having become heavily corporatised entities, where staff earn market-based salaries and where foreign money flows in regularly, it is natural to expect some kind of transparency and accountability — to be able to ask if all those salaries are being paid to the right people and for the right purposes as well as to ensure that foreign funds are spent on the projects they are meant for.
Force Multipliers, partners, intermediaries, agents of change---all of these are contained in the State Department's language, as it perfectly echoes the terms in favour in the military. The State Department makes it plain that it intends to use NGOs abroad as tools of US foreign policy, frequently using "civil society" as a rhetorically pretentious cover:
" We will reach beyond governments to offer a place at the table to groups and citizens willing to shoulder a fair share of the burden. Our efforts to engage beyond the state begin with outreach to civil society--activists, organizations, congregations, journalists who work through peaceful means to make their countries better. While civil society is varied, many groups have common goals with the United States, and working with civil society be effective and efficient path to advance our foreign policy goals". (DoS, 2010, pp 21-22)
The Muslim holy month ends this weekend, and hey, happy Eid to everyone. Some people will be relieved. In the lead-up to it, many affluent people in Pakistan visit their bank and fill out a form asking to be exempted from having zakat, an Islamic charitable tax, deducted from their accounts. By law, during this period the government is entitled to collect zakat from people whose assets reach a minimum threshold, and place it in a welfare fund for the needy.
In the same month of Ramzan — known as Ramadan in the Middle East — people give billions of rupees to various charities. Zakat may be a pillar of Islam, but Pakistanis just don’t like handing their money over to the state.
In a country of about 200 million people only about half a million pay direct income tax, for example. Even Pakistanis who live in huge mansions, have four cars or spend a few million rupees on a wedding dress pay zero income tax.
If we give to the government, the logic goes, it’s just going to steal some more. And after stealing from us, government officials will head off to Mecca to redeem themselves in the eyes of God. So why not just go ahead and do our own stealing and redeeming?\
In God we trust; in the government, not. Plus, the government can always go to the International Monetary Fund.
There is some merit to this view.
In Pakistan, some of the most basic functions of the state are performed by charities. If you are poor and have an accident or a medical emergency, the ambulance that takes you to the hospital probably was sent by a charitable organization. If you can’t pay for your medicine, it’s a welfare trust at the hospital that may help you out. You might even get a kidney for free.
If you live in a slum, your child might go to a school run by a bunch of do-gooders. If you are a daily wage laborer in the city, some nice folks will serve you a free lunch. If you see a wounded animal on the road, you can call a privately run shelter to pick it up.
If you die, chances are that your body will end up in a morgue run by a charitable trust. Your ride to the graveyard will be in a vehicle donated by some god-fearing, and probably tax-dodging, dude.
These charitable, god-fearing, tax-dodging souls become really generous in the holy month. During Ramzan, major Pakistani cities are overrun by beggars who travel from far-off rural areas to partake of the seasonal generosity.
Only there is less and less to go around. Last year in Karachi, I came across a family of eight from a village in southern Pakistan crammed into a tiny air-conditioned A.T.M. booth. They were taking refuge from the oppressive heat. How is the month going, I asked? Nothing but food, I was told. Not even enough cash to cover the bus fare to go back to their village. In previous years, they had been able to take at least some cash home.
The late Abdul Sattar Edhi, Pakistan’s most well-known philanthropist, who ran a countrywide network of ambulances, orphanages and shelters for abused women and unwanted babies, accepted donations from (almost) everyone. When he was short on cash, he would sit at a traffic signal, like a beggar, the hem of his shirt stretched out. People would come to him and give and give. Sometimes even beggars would stop by and throw their entire day’s earnings into Edhi’s lap. He used to say that it’s poor people who give the most.
A millionaire who lays a spread for fellow Muslims breaking fast is making an investment in the afterlife. A poor man who digs into his pocket and gives away his last few rupees to another poor man is doing Allah’s work.
As I circled to find a parking spot, I was awestruck by the stately mansion in the upscale neighbourhood of Karachi. Casually, my sister-in-law remarked that the equally impressive estate across the road also belonged to Bilquis Sulaman Divan, the Memon (an ethnic sub-group of Sunni Muslims) and ex-colleague of hers that we were visiting. Flanked by perfectly manicured hedges, the home’s colonial architecture and sprawling, expansive gardens spoke of affluence and hinted at greater opulence within.
But on approaching, we were marched straight past the grand main entrance and guided instead to a simple room crammed with the necessities of life, including a ramshackle sewing machine by the door, threadbare sofas and an ancient refrigerator.
Although Divan and her sister – who also live with her sister’s husband and their adult daughter – have almost incalculable wealth, as owners of a bottle manufacturing plant and heiresses to their late father’s fruit-exporting company, they choose instead to spend most of their time not in the mansion’s grand rooms, but in one small living quarter. The rest of the estate has been rented out to an elite private school, which is where Divan and my sister-in-law worked for more than two decades.
Why, despite such abundance, did these people live so frugally, I wondered?
Divan and her family are not the only ones. As I would soon learn, the entire minimalist Memon community takes pride in pinching pennies.
The concentration and preservation of wealth, as the last vestiges of power and dominion that the displaced Memons clung to, has been integral to their quest for identity. And while safeguarding their security through financial stability has become second nature to the Memon diaspora, the Memons of Karachi have an especially interesting – and successful – story.
Part of what sets the Memons of Karachi apart from their Indian counterparts is the memory of the harrowing time of Partition in 1947. While the Memons who stayed in present-day India continued to have access to the established businesses and industries of their forefathers, those who uprooted their businesses and migrated had to start from scratch, setting the family’s financial status back by years, if not generations.
“My grandfather came to Pakistan, literally barefoot, asking people for work. He built his empire slowly and diversified. From childhood, we’re instilled with an awareness – and understanding – of the value of hard-earned money. It’s part of our daily narrative. It’s how we survived. And we take care to give back,” said Anila Parekh, granddaughter of the late Memon industrialist and philanthropist Ahmed Dawood.
For the Memons of Karachi, each “paisa” (Memoni for “money”, but also the Urdu word for “cent”) accumulated and saved is an ode to trials that they overcame. Although they now control the majority of many business sectors in Pakistan, including the textile industry, education sector, fertiliser industry and financial securities, respect for money is deeply engrained in Memon ethos, making for a thrifty legacy that they take pride in preserving.
“It’s not ‘don’t spend’ – it’s ‘don’t waste’,” clarified Nadeem Ghani, a Memon and dean of Academia Civitas and Nixor College, an elite school and college in Karachi. “Being frugal,” he said, “has an element of humility. It’s a manifestation of respect. We don’t shy away from placing a monetised value on our comfort.”
Her final words were straight to the point: “Turn off the light before you leave the room.”
Outside grocery stores in Karachi, a remarkable scene has been unfolding over the past two weeks. Instead of rushing home after shopping to avoid being exposed to coronavirus, many Pakistanis are pausing outside to offer food, money or other charity to the many people on the street with no “place” to shelter-in-place. These generous offers are often accompanied with a request to the recipient: “Pray that [the coronavirus] ends soon.”
Like many nations, Pakistan has imposed strict containment measures in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, including closing schools, banning public gatherings and shuttering all businesses that don’t sell groceries or medicine. But unlike some other countries that have ordered similar measures, the effects of a prolonged lockdown here could have much more dire economic – and potentially fatal – consequences.
In a recent coronavirus-related address to the nation, Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, stated that “25% of Pakistanis cannot afford to eat two times a day.” As the country issues more stringent lockdown measures and forces people to stay home, many daily wage earners here – from street-food vendors to shoe-shiners – now haven’t earned a rupee in weeks, and they’re going hungry.
In the same televised address, Khan summed up Pakistan’s grave reality: "If we shut down the cities… we save them from corona[virus] at one end, but they will die from hunger on the other side … Pakistan does not have the conditions that are in the United States or Europe. Our country has grave poverty."
But it also has hope.
Amid the pandemic, Pakistanis are bonding together to assist the less fortunate in a unique and inspiring way. Specifically, many are offering zakat, the traditional Muslim charity tax, for daily wage earners who have no paid leave, health insurance or financial safety net.
In Arabic, “zakat” translates to “that which purifies”, and, according to the Five Pillars of Islam, it is one of the most important religious duties for Muslims. This mandatory alms-giving is calculated at 2.5% of a person’s annual excess wealth. Strict parameters exist outlining the nisab,or threshold, beyond which a Muslim’s assets become liable for zakat, as well as who is eligible to receive it. Stemming from the belief that this world is transient and all is bestowed from the benevolence of the Creator, zakat upholds the idea that those less fortunate have a share in everything the community temporarily owns.
According to a report by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Pakistan contributes more than 1% of its GDP to charity, placing it among “far wealthier countries like the United Kingdom (1.3%) and Canada (1.2%) and around twice what India gives relative to GDP.” And a nationwide study found that 98% of Pakistanis give to charity or volunteer their time – a figure that far exceeds the number of people who are legally obligated to offer zakat.
Rabia currently works as a Senior Privacy & Compliance Analyst at Nike in San Diego, California, United States. She is one of the baby girls who was abandoned and left in the Edhi carriage twenty-eight years ago. Bilquis Edhi forged her identity and helped her settle in her home.
She was later adopted by loving parents that provided her with a bright future. Rabia went on to study Computer Science and Information Security at the John Jay College (CUNY), and later on, went to Albany Law School to study Master of Science in Legal Studies with a Concentration in Cybersecurity and Data Privacy. Rabia’s Linkedin also illustrates a picture of her career as secure in cybersecurity with ample experience.
In a lengthy post on Linkedin, she wrote, “Twenty-eight years ago I was abandoned in a baby carriage at the #EdhiOrphanage located in Karachi, Pakistan. You found me, you named me after your mother Rabia Bano, you forged my identity, then you gave me a home. Because of you today…I am a somebody, I have an identity, and I have loving parents to call my own. You fought for woman’s rights, you were an activist, a philanthropist, a rebel for the good cause. You taught me the power of woman, to always have an unwavering sense of self and to be unapologetically ambitious.”
In these scenarios, individual and corporate philanthropy takes on particular importance. Pakistan may not be a wealthy country, but its people are rich at heart. In an article in Stanford Social Innovation Review, it was postulated that Pakistani’s contribute more than one percent of the annual GDP to charity, pushing it into the ranks of far wealthier countries like the United Kingdom (1.3 percent GDP to charity) and Canada (1.2 percent of GDP). A study conducted by Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy shows that around 98 percent of Pakistanis give in some form or another, around PKR 240 billion (more than $2 billion) annually to charity.
Pakistan prime minister says he’s ‘deeply moved’ after Pakistani businessman living in US makes donation at Turkish embassy
A US resident from Pakistan has anonymously donated $30m to victims of the earthquake that has killed thousands of people in Turkey and Syria and devastated the countries’ infrastructure, according to officials.
Word of the Pakistani businessman’s kindness has provided a rare instance of uplifting news amid the mounting death and damage toll associated with the calamity.
The prime minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif, tweeted Saturday that he was “deeply moved by the example” set by an anonymous compatriot, who walked into the Turkish embassy in Washington and made the donation to benefit victims of the quake.
Sharif’s tweet added: “These are such glorious acts of philanthropy that enable humanity to triumph over the seemingly insurmountable odds.”
The editor-in-chief of the political news outlet the Election Post, Mustafa Tanyeri, tweeted that Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, Murat Mercan, had confirmed the contribution to the earthquake aid campaign launched in the US.
The donation also came in after the United Nations world food program made appeals for $77m to provide rations to at least 590,000 people displaced in Turkey and 284,000 in Syria. According to the program, about 45,000 of those people were refugees, and another 545,000 were displaced internally.
As of Sunday morning in the US, more than 33,000 people had died after the immense 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck parts of Turkey and Syria six days earlier. That toll is almost certainly going to increase as rescue crews’ expectations of finding survivors fade with each passing day.
Nearly 30,000 of the dead in the toll as of Sunday were in Turkey. Meanwhile, the area of Syria affected by the earthquake was a north-western part where many people had already been displaced repeatedly by a decade-old civil war there.
Lost jobs and soaring prices have pushed 5m Pakistanis to the edge. As demand soars at Ramadan, charities cannot cope
here is a crowd outside the Khana Ghar food kitchen. Men wait patiently on one side as a group of women push forward, clutching photocopies of identity cards. “Every second day of Ramadan we give one-month’s food rations because we close our kitchen,” says Parveen Saeed.
“But we can only give one bag to one family, and we need their ID cards to check that, says Saeed, 63. “There are more and more mouths to feed than we can cope with.”
Saeed has been operating the kitchen in one of Karachi’s poorer districts for more than 20 years, and says she has never known it to be so busy. Pakistan is experiencing a series of crises that is pushing people to the brink.
Food and fuel prices, already on the rise before the Ukraine war began, have rocketed over the past year. The price of a kilo of flour has risen from 58 to 155 rupees (45p) since the start of 2022. Rice has more than doubled, while petrol has gone from 145 rupees a litre last year to 272 rupees now.
This is compounded by record inflation rates – surging in February to 31.5%, the highest in half a century. This week, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association warned that the country’s textile industry is facing “imminent collapse” due to production cuts. About 7 million people have already lost their jobs in the sector since the Covid pandemic. Another 7 million jobs are at risk in the steel industry, where factories are closing as costs rise.
The World Food Programme predicts 5.1 million Pakistanis will be facing severe hunger by next week – an increase of 1.1 million people from the previous quarter.
In Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, the problems have brought long queues at food banks. Ahmed Edhi, from the Edhi Foundation, which has provided free meals for more than 40 years, says he is seeing “well-dressed men from offices” coming to the city’s centres.
“These people are not beggars, they have become destitute,” says Saeed, as she points to the queue outside her kitchen in Taiser Town, Karachi. “Where are the jobs?”
Before Covid, meals for 6,000 people a day were provided here. The number rose to 7,000 during lockdowns, but in the past four months the figure has been 8,200.
“Food prices have hit the sky,” says Saeed, who charges three rupees (less than 1p) for a plate of curry and roti flatbread for those who can afford it, and gives it for free to those who cannot. Some days, she does not have enough. “It is heartbreaking as they have waited for a couple of hours, only to leave empty-handed.”
Pakistan’s political turmoil has diverted attention away from such daily issues. “Sadly, there is no conversation, no debate within political circles about how the daily wage-earner is feeding his family at a time when the prices of food have skyrocketed,” says Fawad Chaudhry, a minister in the previous Tehreek e Insaf government of Imran Khan.