Pakistanis – as charitable as we are corrupt!

Published: August 31, 2013
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With every hurdle and disaster thrown Pakistan’s way, there is someone willing to provide relief and respite. PHOTO: REUTERS

What could I write about? I thought to myself, while taking a long drive down the smog filled roads of Sea View in Karachi, my birthplace and a city I keep returning to. Corruption, violence, poverty, slave labour, child abuse, acid victims, rape, gender discrimination. The possibilities are endless because we are an under-developed country with a plethora of topics ranging from the manic to the incredibly insane making lives quite exciting for photographers, journalists, documentary-makers and writers.

Photo: Reuters

Then, something remarkable happened.

I was passing by one of the food stalls erected away from the beach area. A boy, barely eight-years-old, holding wilted rose stems in his hands was begging, his tanned face and sun-bleached hair plastered on the side window of a shiny, blue Honda. The tinted window zoomed down and a hand reached out giving the child a bag, which I could only presume was food.

It wasn’t that act of charity that warmed my heart but what the child did with the food that put a lot into perspective about my country of birth.

He swiftly saluted the owner of the car, turned on his heels and ran to a group of huddled boys, not that much older than him.

They hunched over what seemed like a few sandwiches and laughed with glee, putting tiny morsels of food into their malnourished mouths, as the sun set behind them.

This boy could have had all this food for himself. Instead, he chose to sacrifice his happiness and hunger by sharing with others in painful predicaments similar to his. Granted, they only received a few bites each, but the communal experience of sharing that moment was priceless for them, as it was for me.

Children standing in the rain by using an umbrella on a road in Karachi. Photo: Mohammad Saqib

At the end of the day, through all the misogyny, pain, intolerance and discrimination, Pakistanis and South East Asians on the whole have a lot of heart. We have a problem. It is a disease called poverty and since we haven’t found a complete cure for it, every single act of kindness and charity is a self-realised solution that can go a long way. Moreover, the art of giving is contagious and infectious. It spreads like wildfire and many look at it with a sense of moral obligation taking it upon themselves to further better the lives of the less privileged around them.

Photo: AFP

Another example worth mentioning here are the noble deeds conducted this Ramazan by a few charitable and conscious households. Families provided free Sehri (breakfast) and Iftari (food consumed at sunset to break the fast after a hot, laborious day) outside their homes, daily. This is no small feat. Beggars, homeless people, construction workers, even individuals employed in surrounding homes were invited to join in and consume food twice daily, free of charge.

A Pakistani arranges bowls of food before Iftar, the breaking of the fast, during the holy month of Ramadan, in Lahore. Photo: AFP

This kind of charity is not limited to the confines of one holy month. There are families that provide cauldrons of biryani and lentils to the poor and hungry once a week, whether outside their homes or at designated mosques and shrines. All are welcome to partake in the consumption of this food regardless of gender, race, religion or sect.

Flood survivors struggle for charity food near a makeshift camp in Sukkur. Photo: AFP

Houses across Pakistan install water taps near their gated entrances so passersby can stop to get a drink to ease and soothe their parched throats. Roadside cafes commit to providing a modest breakfast outside their place of business to throngs of people gripped with poverty. Almost every shrine across the country feeds the homeless and provides a cool place to sleep or rest on their rose scented marble floors.

Photo: Reuters

I, myself, stem from a household that has been formed on absolute principals of living for others and giving. Every Thursday without fail, we unite as a family and distribute bags of meat and rice to anyone who is in need of food on the dark, littered streets. As soon as we run out of food, we provide little trays of milk to stray cats and dogs in garbage-infested colonies. This is followed by throwing grains of food to fish in the waters of Netty Jetty (Native Jetty) and finally we leave bowls filled with lentils for birds in various parks around the city.

Photo: Qasim Ghauri (APP)

Doing this consistently, as a family, has strengthened our sense of compassion and keeps us sensitive to the needs of others. This has also been a defining factor as to why I am committed to combating pressing social issues in developing countries through volunteering and social work. Our family is not exclusive in this way of thinking. I know of many families that distribute blankets, food and clothing quite religiously to help all those in need. These families and individuals don’t do it for the fame. They won’t be winning any awards nor will their names be published in newspapers. Journalists won’t swarm their homes to interview them based on their kindness and they won’t be entered into a hall of fame. They are charitable, noble, humble and modest because they are aware that they have been blessed with a lot and these blessings attained must be shared.

The Navroz in March is mostly celebrated by people of Iranian descent and Saturday’s special day was mostly celebrated by the Parsis. The stalls set up in the afternoon at Beach Luxury Hotel. All the proceeds go to charity. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

It is worth mentioning that if you need to join a reputable, revered and philanthropic team of people, there are several charitable institutions that are doing tremendous work for the dwellers of Pakistan and they could always use an extra pair of hands.  Organisations like Khana Ghar, feeds the hungry, the Citizens Foundation runs 700 schools serving poor students, and Human Development Foundation builds and operates schools and clinics for the poor.  Not to mention the world-renowned works of the Edhi Foundation, that operates a non-profit ambulance service across the country.

Abdul Sattar Edhi, one of the finest Philanthropists of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

There is no doubt in my mind that this country needs work.  There are Pakistanis living here and abroad that are a complete exception to the biased norms, dedicating their lives in their own profound and unnoticed ways to contribute to the country’s well being. With every hurdle and disaster thrown Pakistan’s way, there is someone willing to provide relief and respite.  This is the primary reason the country is still alive and kicking and will continue to do so as long as a feeling of mutual, communal, love and kindness is maintained.

Students at The Citizens Foundation Schools (TCF). Photo: TCF website.

One way of instilling moral service toward the less privileged is to target wealthy demographics in private schools and make social service a mandatory part of the curriculum. Visiting old age homes, jails, orphanages, shelters for the destitute and centres for the mentally disabled can offer the future generations of Pakistan a kind and compassionate way of thinking while bridging the gap between the various classes.

Students eat lunch at the Jamia Binoria Al-Alamia madrassa in Karachi. Photo: Reuters

As I was writing this piece I received a beautiful text from my father.  It is a quote by the Dalai Lama and I would like to share it with my readers as a closing statement:

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, and I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

Mariam Magsi

Mariam Magsi

A photographer, writer and curator working in Canada. She tweets @mariammagsi (twitter.com/mariammagsi) and her professional work can be viewed at www.mariammagsi.com. She is the recipient of a prestigious publication award from the "World Poetry Movement" for poetic works highlighting natural disasters in Pakistan.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • kappa

    Charity is not an effective phenomenon. In my opinion it helps more poverty as poor tend to have more children. The effective way is to control population and reduce corruption in our society.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    whole nation became a poor begger in the hand of one percent crrupt rich bast i am quating iqbal about this situation na ho muaser roti jis dehkan se, aag laga do har gosha
    e gundam ko..Recommend

  • Ishrat salim

    On a positive note, charity is good as Allah swt loves it, but it should be properly regulated in an organized manner, so that maximum number of deserving families are benefitted…

    On the negative note, we as Pakistanis are charitable, because the corrupt or people who are guilty of making money through wrongful ways, thinks that giving away some of the ill gotten wealth, will wash some of their sins….

    Anyway, as long as it benefits the ” have nots “…. is fine as only Allah swt knows best.Recommend

  • Shame shame

    Where are the parents for these poor people?

    We need family reform in this country but our Mullahs and the fundamentalist primitive minded people opposes it greatly!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nice pictures. You are a little out of touch………….we are way more corrupt than we are charitable.Recommend

  • Indian

    The pictures are enchanting …beautiful Pakistan.Recommend

  • GornmentCallage

    hold on, “we”.?? Speak for yourself…

    “I, myself, stem from a household that has been formed on absolute principals of living for others and giving.”

    yes, its only the other person who is greedy and corrupt isnt it? Not you though…never.

    Highly Sanctimonious… This seems to be a trend with a lot of ET’s articles….

    @Ishrat salim… And who is going to regulate? The government? yes i really trust them!. Sounds like communism to me. No thanks, i think the way its going right now is just fine. Zero red tape.

    Also no hippy nonsense, just empty words at the end there. Live and behave like edhi, then write an article like thisRecommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/pltacademy?fref=ts Travel_Tart

    Pakistanis are charitable but they are much more negative thinking than anyone else.
    .
    Only positive comment above is from an Indian. Isn’t it about time that Pakistanis start seeing good and saying good too???Recommend

  • gp65

    Loved the pictures. The little acts of kindness and charity are what make life worthwhile. Thanks for sharing a different side of Pakistan. It was good to see.Recommend

  • Linchpin

    Pakistanis are more charitable than any other South Asian country. Per capita Pakistani’s use about double as much as other South Asian countries. Though some of it can be explained by religiously sanctioned charity this is not the only reason. After all Bangladesh should be more or less the same as Pakistan on charity, which it is not.
    The effect of charity is not just institutional begging. Most charity goes into organizations and if you look at slum dwellings in Pakistan the standard is much higher than in slums in Dhaka or even rich cities like Mumbai. This is because of charity. The biggest private ambulance service in world is run through charity. The best cancer hospital in Pakistan is run on charity.
    I think all religious groups have played a role in charity in Pakistan it is part of the culture of this part of South Asia.
    I agree that there is a lot of corruption and injustice in Pakistan but let us not forget the good side of our culture and the great beacons of charitable works that have emerged among us.
    Thank you to the thousands of brave Pakistanis who have dedicated their lives to bringing hope and a future in education, health, feeding the hungry or helping a community with establishing a sewer system. They give us hope in the midst of dispair.Recommend

  • http://tribune.com p r sharma

    Giving and sharing emotes a good feeling. beautiful pictures. But one thing is sure you can give more when you are affluent . so ultimately it is the economy of the nation and individual which will enable it for charitable activities. Once the economy is strong there will be less need for charity at home and then spread across the globe(without limiting it to ethnicity, race and faith )Recommend

  • HELPTHE_ORPHAN_POOR

    @ Charity is not an effective phenomenon…. IS THAT SO !!!

    “FOR THAT IS THE ONE WHO DRIVES AWAY THE ORPHAN.” [Quran 107:2]
    “AND DOES NOT ENCOURAGE THE FEEDING OF THE POOR.” [Quran 107:3]

    Charity — It is a part of the PURPOSE of our EXISTENCE in this world !!!Recommend

  • Pappu

    @HELPTHEORPHANPOOR:

    Orphans should be adopted by people who have no children and other well off. Poor should be provided jobs or small businesses for a respectable living. Also poor should do family planning. Than there is no need for charity.Recommend

  • Hassan Riz

    I completely agree. We are a sharing nation, not selfish. Recommend

  • siddiqui

    Pakistan is one of the most charitable nation in the world. According the 2010 report Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Pakistan ranked 4 by the amount of money countries give as a percentage of their gross GNI (Gross National Income).
    According to this report Pakistan gives 1% of its GNI as charity. Whereas Sweden, Norway and Luxembourg rank above Pakistan with the percentages of 1.12%, 1.06%, 1.01%.According to some researchers this position would be no one in the upcoming report of 2011.The one thing to be noted more that no other Muslim country is present in this list of 24 countries. This shows that Pakistani nation is keen to help their brothers and sisters.Recommend

  • siddiqui

    Lot of big institutions in Pakistan runs on charity, SIUT(sind Institute of urology and transplant), Indus hospital, LRBT, Edhi( have the largest ambulance service in the world) with more than 6000 ambulances. Many schools Like TCF shools (The citizen foundation) with more than 130 thousand students from under privileged families. Chippa trust, and hundreds of smaller hospitals and schools runs on charity which is contributing to the well being of poor and under privileged people. This is the reason the the situation in health and education is not as bad as it looks on paper with government spending of about 2 percent on education and equally low on health. Add to this the private sector enterprise in education and health things are not as dismal. Some of the best schools in the world are in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Kappa

    @siddiqui:

    According to a new survey by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), the Pakistan is the 34th most charitable nation and India is 91th in the world. The survey, called the World Giving Index 2011, shows that the US is the most charitable country, while Ireland is second and Australia third.

    Charity Index 2011: Pakistanis Beat Indians in Donations | Latest Pakistan News in Urdu, Breaking News, Urdu Columns, Recipes, Exam Results, Videos

    Source: http://www.defence.pk/forums/social-issues-current-events/148276-charity-index-2011-pakistanis-beat-indians-donations.html#ixzz2e1IzvzFr

    The Washington-based World Justice Project (WJP) has released its 2012 Rule of Law Index, which finds Pakistan as the seventh most corrupt and the top-most insecure nation out of a total of 97 countries assessed. – See more at: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2012/11/30/news/national/pakistan-ranked-seventh-most-corrupt-nation/#sthash.NCA8xHDF.dpuf

    According to a new survey by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), the UK is the fifth most charitable nation in the world. The survey, called the World Giving Index 2011, shows that the US is the most charitable country, while Ireland is second and Australia third. Recommend