Friday August 19, 2022

‘Soulidarity Caravan’ – a Mawakhat movement

June 26, 2022

As a philosophy, Akhuwat cannot fail; if the movement does not succeed, it will not be a failure of the principles and ideals that guide the organisation. Failure could only stem from the waning strength of men and the weakness of their resolve but never from the lack of strength in the idea of Akhuwat itself.

Dr. Amjad Saqib: Integral Finance – Akhuwat: A Case Study of the Solidarity Economy

These are the opening lines of the first chapter of the above-mentioned book, which reaffirm Dr. Saqib’s resolve in the philosophy of Mawakhat, which historically bound two distinctive Arab clans into an exemplary spiritual brotherhood bringing peace and prosperity to the land of Yathrib, now known as the model city of Medina.

It is even more heartening to see the replication of this movement throughout Pakistan, which was initiated, by Dr. Saqib and his colleagues some twenty years ago. Their resolve was to eradicate poverty in urban space, starting from the city of Lahore by giving interest-free loans to micro-entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the city spaces needed a reminder to revive the tradition of Akhuwat, an Arabic term for Bhai-chara in Urdu - a tradition of rural Punjab. Whereas in rural areas of Punjab this tradition is still intact and cherished amongst the elders of the community. The young being influenced by the urban lifestyle and education are somewhat oblivious to this dying tradition now being replaced by self-interest and individualism.

Thanks to the selfless efforts of some sentient beings like M Saleem Ranjha and Naseer Abbas Tarar who are reviving this tradition in their respective villages, Wan Miana and Chot Dheeran, in the district of Sargodha and Mandi Bahauddin.

Wan Miana is a village in the district of Sargodha in central Punjab. For many reasons, it is not a typical rural locality. The Wan Miana rural development project benefits from close cooperation between government bodies and several charitable organisations. It fosters an inclusive development model that offers inclusive financial services (interest-free loans facilitated by Akhuwat), remote medical facilities, employs modern technology, and promotes progressive farming.

Mr. Saleem Ranjha is a former civil servant and one of the most prominent founding members of the Akhuwat Foundation who has now reverted to his ancestral roots with a renewed vision to convert his birthplace into a model village with a 100 % self-sufficient economic model.

Mr. Naseer Abbas Tarar, on the other hand, is an ex-pat having lived and worked in Europe envisioned a model of self-sufficiency by utilising the foreign remittances coming into his village, Chot Dheeran. He is the founder of the Pakistan Public Aid Trust (PPAT), a one-of-a-kind overseas Pakistanis movement to convert the district of Mandi Bahauddin into a welfare district of Pakistan.

The writer is the co-author of Integral Finance: Akhuwat – A Case Study of the Solidarity Economy. She is now an advocate of her model of the Soulidarity Economy, inspired by the effects of the Mawakhat paradigm through giving beautiful loans (Qard Hasan).

In doing so, he has stirred up a movement that has now spurred some 238 villages (and counting) in the district of Mandi Bahauddin to take ownership of their own village’s development and welfare. This includes the building of a public hospital facility with state-of-the-art medical facilities, water filtration plants to provide clean water, free girls’ education, street sanitation, etc, as some of the most pertinent features among many others. All of these interventions are privately and collectively funded by the overseas Pakistanis in Mr. Tarar’s network, who also happens to be his fellow and neighbouring village community members living abroad.

Even though the establishment of basic infrastructure and the provision of basic amenities and financial assistance to the public is part of the responsibility of the state and thereby of public sector organisations. It is also argued that the state is central to economic and social development not as a direct provider of growth but as a partner, catalyst, and facilitator. Yet, ever since the inception of the so-called state of Pakistan, the rural spaces have been massively neglected. Albeit being an agrarian country, more than half of Pakistan’s population belongs to the rural areas. The total rural population is around 63 percent, and they live outside cities and towns. The major profession of people in rural areas is the cultivation and plowing but owing to the state’s neglect in educating or introducing new ways of farming, they have adopted new professions to earn and live their life in modern ways. Many had to flee the country to better their families’ living conditions by emigrating to Europe and the Middle East.

Although villages or rural areas lack the essential facilities but people who belong to these areas embrace their simple lifestyle and regard their forefathers’ places as the most important part of their life. Hence why this latest trend of turning their ancestral lands into some sort of model villages is setting a new precedent with overseas Pakistanis, particularly in the district of Mandi Bahauddin.

The concept of the model village started in the late 18th century, with many English landowners and industrialists who began building villages to provide housing for their workers and their families close to their workplaces.

In Britain, model villages are centered around all sorts of industries ranging from soap to chocolate. When they began popping up all over Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, they sharply contrasted the overcrowded living conditions of British working-class districts of the time. Model villages had higher standards of living with high-quality housing, integrated community amenities, open spaces, and other attractive physical environments that British workers had seldom access to. They became models—examples for others to follow.

Closer to home, before the partition, the Gandhian concept of village development was known as Panchayati Raj or village Swaraj.?According to Dr. Shubhangi Rathi, the Panchayat Raj is a system and process of good governance. Villages have always been the basic units of administration in India since ancient times. Gandhi wanted to see each village as a little republic, self-sufficient in its vital wants, organically and non-hierarchically linked with the larger spatial bodies, and enjoying the maximum freedom of deciding the affairs of the locality. The vehicle that was most ideal to initiate both political and economic democracy at the grassroots level was the Panchayat Raj system.

Oblivious to this historical fact, Mr. Tarar is towing the same line of the Panchayati system albeit in the indigenous Punjabi context in so far as forming autonomous village tanzeem (council). Furthermore, Islamically inspired by the concept of Mawakhat, he has crafted a way of ending rivalry and animosity between various villages by bringing them together to resolve their issues in the name of welfare and service to mankind.

Wealth management is an important aspect of Islam. Since we are not the absolute owner of the wealth in this world, we have the duty or responsibility to manage it in the best way we can. This is because wealth management is closely related to individual and society’s welfare. The way things stand in the Pakistani societal context, the concept of welfare needs a new paradigm of thinking beyond charity giving as is the norm in Pakistan. The success of economic development relies on how the wealth or property is managed, distributed, and benefited those who need to achieve justice and equality for the welfare of society. Thus, in order to strengthen the public wealth sector and realise its full potential for socio-economic development the mobilisation and distribution of the resource are of prime importance. The lack of focus on the public resources as a strategic tool and resource has greatly undermined the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector organisations. Lack of investment in public resources contributes a great deal to the failure and disintegration of the economic welfare development.

Mr. Tarar, in his own way, and with the support of his Akhuwat mentors, Dr. Amjad Saqib, Dr. Izhar Hashmi, and Mr. Saleem Ranjha, has devised an ingenious plan of managing the overseas wealth by reinvesting it into the village’s commons which is exemplary and hugely commendable.

This call should be taken up by other Pakistani ex-pats who can help by supporting Pakistan Public Aid Trust (PPAT) with their endeavour by setting an example for others to follow.

From Akhuwat foundation to PPAT and Wan Miana development project, the Mawakhat caravan has come a long way.

The writer is the co-author of Integral Finance: Akhuwat – A Case Study of the Solidarity Economy. She is now an advocate of her model of the Soulidarity Economy, inspired by the effects of the Mawakhat paradigm through giving beautiful loans (Qard Hasan).