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December 2, 2018

PM grants Rs5 bn to NGO

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December 2, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has granted Rs5 billion to an NGO that is excellently performing for the destitute and widows.

In his speech to the ceremony marking his first 100 days in government two days back, the premier announced the hefty grant to the NGO, Akhuwat, acknowledging it as a unique interest-free programme for poverty alleviation.

Akhuwat was the brainchild of Dr Amjad Saqib, a former District Management Group Officer, who had served with Shahbaz Sharif as his deputy secretary in 1997. Besides, he had worked as his key aide in many pro-poor initiatives. In 2001, he founded the NGO after quitting the civil service.

The review of the annual report and audit for 2017 of Akhuwat done by a reputed international company, appearing on its website, reveals that while prior to 2008 Akhuwat was an NGO of a pilot nature, it was the previous provincial government, which granted it some Rs13 billion and made it a national programme extending up to all districts of Punjab as well as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

The amounts so provided have been shown as loan on the website, but an official said that these were not meant to be ever taken back.

He said that such funding for Akhuwat was integral part of every budget of the earlier Punjab government. The organisation distributed loans of worth Rs40 billion with a return rate of 99.9pc, enabling its beneficiaries to transform their lives. Nearly 1.8 million families benefited from this colossal funding in Punjab.

Akhuwat visits mosques and localities and finds out the poor for its facilities. They are provided small things like sewing machines, pushcarts and bicycles through microloans so that they earn their livelihood.

The Punjab Small Industries Corporation (PSIC) had done the main funding to Akhuwat on behalf of the outgoing provincial government. Besides, the Care International UK, the Gilgit-Baltistan government, Power Alleviation Fund under the Prime Minister Interest Free Loan Scheme, Technical Education & Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA), Fata Development Authority, and Agriculture Department of the Punjab Government under Khadim-e-Punjab e-Credit Scheme had also provided different amounts to the organisation.

Working as the general manager at the Punjab Rural Support Programme (PRSP) in 2001, Dr Amjad Saqib found 20pc interest charged on the loans disturbing. One reason was that the policy was in direct conflict with the teachings of Islam. The other was that in the formal banking sector the interest was much lower and available to creditworthy affluent individuals only.

Inspired to make a change, he wanted to start a microfinance programme where the loans were in the form of Qarz-e-Hasna and the benevolent loans. He took his idea to a small gathering of friends and won over their support. With an initial donation of a humble Rs10,000 from Saleem Ranjha and the support of Dr Kamran Shams, Dr Izharul Haq and Humayon Ehsan, Akhuwat was formed. The first loan was given out to a woman.

For its initial years, Akhuwat was simply a philanthropic venture to see how interest free microfinance would do. However, by 2003, the donations had increased to Rs1.5 million and the loan recovery rate was 100pc. Consequently, it was decided to initiate Akhuwat as a proper and registered organisation under the Societies Registration Act of 1860.

From 2001 to 2003, Akhuwat had managed to receive donations at an exceptional scale. The work that was once handled by Dr Saqib himself and another employee was delegated. These two years became the “action research”, laying the foundation of a great movement and an unmatchable institution to date.

Akhuwat is governed by a board of directors; consisting of philanthropists, civil servants and businessmen. Its members have worked purely out of benevolence and the goodness of their hearts with no financial interests in their investments.

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