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June 24, 2021

SHC takes exception to use of Zakat funds for Benazir Muawinat Cards

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has taken exception to the conversion of the Guzara allowance into the Benazir Muawinat Cards by the Sindh government, observing that “province cannot utilise Zakat funds to gain political mileage”.

Hearing a petition with regard to the distribution of Zakat among deserving citizens and poor people, a single bench of the SHC headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar observed that giving Zakat to deserved persons was not grace but a duty cast upon the Zakat Council or those whom Allah almighty had made capable of doing so.

The high court observed that Zakat was citizens’ money that was deducted every year from their accounts and it could only be given to those who were qualified to receive it as per the criteria established by Shariah.

The bench observed that neither the Zakat Council nor anybody else, including the government, could take exception to the criteria for the distribution of Zakat and therefore, the receiving end must be qualified or else giving of a single penny to any unqualified person from the Zakat fund shall not only be illegal but also expose the delinquent to legal consequences.

The SHC remarked that the distribution of Zakat with the title of Benazir Muawinat Cards was shocking because it plainly gave an impression that such help was being offered by the government, which was not the case in the distribution of Zakat.

The high court directed the Sindh government to issue a new scheme by its other funds as the province could not utilise Zakat funds to gain political mileage. The bench directed the Zakat Council secretary to produce a record and submit a report with details of when they had introduced the Guzara Allowance with the name of the Benazir Muawinat Cards and why the necessity arose for converting the allowance into the cards.

The Sindh advocate general (AG) filed a compliance report mentioning that funds had been released by the finance department on account of biometric verifications for the Benazir Muawinat Cards of 100,000 beneficiaries with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).

Regarding the dowry funds, the AG submitted that any girl, living in Darul Aman or any shelter home, be it private or public, would be competent to approach directly or through incharge, to receive dowry/Jahez funds which would be paid through a crossed cheque. He submitted that the processing of the crossed cheque and opening of the amount by the Sindh Bank, though temporarily, shall be through a biometric system.

The Zakat Council secretary submitted that the department had launched a website to comply with the order of the court. After perusal of the Zakat Council report, the SHC observed that it was alarming that since four years, the council had been providing funds to the public universities but they had failed to utilise the same despite the court order whereby the universities were required to open a window on their website and constitute a committee to give the Zakat amount to the deserving students.

The high court observed that the Zakat Council had been asking the public universities to provide the details of accounts and receive the amount but surprisingly only few universities had received the amount but they failed to utilise the same.

The bench observed that only one of the universities communicated to the Zakat Council secretary for returning the amount as the same had not been utilised. It observed that the doors of the public universities must be opened for deserving persons/students. The high court directed the registrars of the public sector universities and others to submit their replies with regard to non-utilisation of Zakat funds.

The SHC observed that public universities shall prepare a mechanism and the Zakat Council officers would be competent to object to their mechanism, if need be, and the universities shall maintain the Zakat record on their websites.