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January 29, 2020

‘Safe charity practices the need of the hour’


January 29, 2020

Pakistan is known for a nation for generously taking part in charitable acts. It contributes more than one per cent of its GDP to charity, which pushes it into the ranks of far wealthier countries like the United Kingdom (1.3 per cent GDP to charity) and Canada (1.2 per cent of GDP) and around twice what India gives relative to GDP, according to a 2018 report of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

However, most of the residents are not sure or aware that their charitable donations – particularly during the holy month of Ramazan and the follow-up Eid holidays, go to the deserving and genuine welfare organisations and not to individuals and groups using the money in subversive activities.

But in recent years, mainly to effectively implement the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force related to alleged terror funding through charities, the government has been taking measures to streamline the flow of charity into the right hands.

Karachi has its own significance in the charity donation campaign. It accounts for the lion’s share of the country’s GDP and generates more than half of national revenue. Researchers working on the charity sector believe that members of Ismaili and Bohra communities run multiple philanthropic projects for their members. However, they believe that some of the mid-level traders from specific communities, particularly various sub-clans of Memons, Dehli Saudagaran and Chinotis, donate huge amounts of money to some charity organisations on the basis of their sects or schools of thought.

“We have observed that Karachi’s traders have donated millions of rupees to a charity that has clandestinely been supporting a certain sect-based religious group that promotes violence on the pretext of preventing blasphemy,” said a researcher. “There is a need to make Karachi’s business community aware about safe charity practices, which could ensure that the money given to individuals and organisations leads to its intended outcome of religious penance and social welfare rather than being used by violent elements in society.”

Faisal Edhi, head of the Edhi Foundation, the country’s largest charity organisation, said that Pakistani Muslims during religious occasions donated billions of rupees in the form of zakat, usher and fitrana. “But an important challenge is that donors do not know enough about what they support or about the fund-raising group,” he told The News.

In Karachi, Saylani Welfare Trust has emerged as the key charity that doles out food twice a day to more than 30,000 needy people through its nearly 100 dastarkwans, most of them in the metropolis.

Camouflaged under different names, a number of banned militant outfits and groups promoting hatred are operating in Karachi, ravenously pocketing zakat and other Ramazan-related charity in the country’s financial hub.

The practice has been going on for years, but recently there has been a decline in these activities in the city after a crackdown on violent groups started in September 2013, claimed a police official, who was not authorised by the Sindh government to speak to the media.

Studies carried out by various organisations, such as Haq Haqdaar Tak, a project of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, suggest that private donations in Pakistan amounted to around 500 billion rupees every year, which is mostly given to madrasas, mosques, and poor and homeless.

Although the militants’ fundraising campaign has badly been affected across the country because of the government’s banning militant outfits and barring them from fund collection, officials working in the charity sector said proscribed outfits had been finding new ways to collect funds for their subversive activities and it was high time the people were educated.

In keeping with the trends of recent years though, authorities have taken several measures. In October, the Sindh government cancelled the registration of 4,693 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) all over the province for being inactive or grossly violating the rules prescribed by the government regarding their functioning. A total of around 10,500 NGOs are currently registered in the province. According to informed sources, the registration of over 2,000 more such NGOs could be rescinded in a similar manner. Also, every year ahead of Ramazan, the federal interior ministry imposes restrictions on dozens of proscribed militant outfits from collecting zakat and other religious donations.

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