The Rebel Road…

I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you’re only going to kill a man. – Ernesto Che Guevara

Trading on Piety.

with 2 comments

Society, as we know it, exists in a fragile balance – one part serving the whole and vice versa – and in such a delicate situation it is easy for some individuals to slip between the cracks; it is easy for some to find themselves the victims of social indifference or even apathy. In order to avoid this predicament, almost all religions promote a culture of alms – a system whereby society gives back to the poor and destitute from its fruits and, in doing so, invests in collective welfare. In most Muslim countries, such a system exists as the practice of Zakat. The need for an institutionalised provision system for public ‘good’ is an accepted fact. However, the complex matrix of poverty, vulnerability and the poor quality of life, which has come to be the defining feature of the life of an ordinary citizen of Pakistan, cannot be adequately addressed through an individual-based, informal and largely undocumented approach like Zakat. Although it does not take away from the commendable nature of the act itself, such relief efforts are better handled through an institutionalised mechanism that promotes effectiveness, dependability, accountability and transparency, in contrast with how it operates currently, where a casual approach allows the state substantial leeway to abandon its responsibilities towards public uplift.

It is almost inevitable that an unregulated dispensation like Zakat will eventually veer towards already entrenched grooves of corruption. Our nation has been witness to the corruption of the clergy through Zakat Committees since the late 70s. A recent report in The Post on how private companies have turned Zakat into a function of corporate enterprise is a new chapter in an old story. The involvement of various reputable hospitals and NGOs in what can only be described as fraudulent activities has left little but disillusionment in its wake. It has been learnt that hospitals such as General Hospital, Jinnah Hospital, etc., and NGOs such as Child Care Foundation and Rising Sun Institute are involved in misrepresentation of intent to potential donors as well as paying a cut to the middlemen from all received Zakat. Moeenudin Chisty and Sahil Zahir, ex-employees of a private company and an NGO respectively, have formed a company called Together & Strategic Consultants, which solicits Zakat from donors on behalf of hospitals and NGOs and in doing so rakes in commissions ranging between 15 and 30 percent of the total collected. The unavoidable moral question attached to such activities is why money that is paid by multinational companies, local industrialists, philanthropists, etc., in good faith and on the implicit understanding that it will not be diverted from the purpose for which it is intended finds its way into corporate pockets? There is no mention of the fact that some (significant) part of the donations will be lost to middlemen or that there is no legal cover for this mode of collection. Second, what is to stop these concerned individuals from keeping more than their (un)just share? What form of auditing is involved? Is the common man aware of the details? The people who donate the money also have a right to know where it ends up.

As is evident, this practice doesn’t just go against the moral fibre of our society, it goes against the very purpose of Zakat, an amount that is supposed to help the disadvantaged in its entirety, rather than fill the coffers of the wealthy. However, in a country where funds from the Bait-ul-Maal are used to pay for VIP medical treatment of local dignitaries, what else can be expected?

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2 Responses

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  1. Hey Mobeen, hope you remember me and our debate. Yesterday I had gone for a meeting where Prakash Karat the general secretary of CPI(Marxist) party of India was speaking. The party members and Mr Karat spoke on the Indo US Nuclear deal. The contentions of communist party were quite clear. First, they opposed to the Hyde Act which was passed in 2006. The Hyde Act will dictate to us what our foreign policy should be like, the Hyde Act will tell us what our defense policy should be like. In other words our foreign policy and defense policy will be dictated from an outside source. So it challenges the sovereignty of the nation. Secondly. our gains from this agreement are also not much, as you must be knowing or must have read somewhere that currently we have 3 % of our energy sector requirement, and signing this deal, after a few years it will reach 7%. So just to make it from 3 to 7 the cost outweighs the benefits. Mr Karat further said that this deal is not be seen isolation, its not just about the nuclear aspect, but it is more of a strategic alliance. When we build that strategic alliance it means our foreign policies have to be congruent. So tomorrow if US decided to bomb Iran or Iraq once again we have to support it. There were many other issues raised which I will tell you later, but first i want to know from you an outsider who is neither a part of India or US, how you perceive this deal or how your country members in Pakistan perceive this deal. Thanks

    Aseem Naphade

    October 21, 2007 at 6:09 am

  2. Mr. Aseem,

    I’m sorry i hadn’t been online for a couple of days and couldn’t moderate your comments before – my apologies. I am somewhat busy these days and I will give you a detailed reply on your query as soon as convenient.

    Best Regards,
    Mobeen Chughtai.

    redtribution

    October 22, 2007 at 11:07 pm


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