A helping hand knows no caste or creed
JI’s welfare organisation has spent millions on assisting minority communities during the pandemic
KARACHI: Times of crisis may greatly disrupt life as we know it. But in doing so, they also sometimes bring out the best in people.
Pakistanis as a nation have long had a charitable spirit stretching back to their country’s very inception and religious organisations have not allowed themselves to be left behind in this regard.
But where the very term may mislead some into thinking otherwise, at least one religious charity in the country is proving that there is no caste or creed when it comes to lending a helping hand.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Al Khidmat Foundation Pakistan (AKFP), a welfare organisation functioning under the umbrella of Jamaat-e-Islami, has been engaged in relief efforts focused towards vulnerable minority communities in Pakistan for over two months.
“Between March 15 and May 14, we have spent more than Rs87.8 million on initiatives to help minorities,” the foundation’s senior vice president Ehsanullah Waqas told The Express Tribune. “We have distributed ration bags - each of which costs around Rs4,500 and can feed a family for 20 days - among 19,520 families in all four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan.”
“And this is not one off assistance,” he added. “Families in need have received more than one such bag from us. We have also distributed cooked meals to those in need.”
Beyond helping their destitute members, the foundation has also been helping minority communities all over the country in making sure their worship places did not pose the risk of spreading Covid-19.
“We have so far arranged sanitisation operations in more than 3,000 churches, temples, gurdwaras, and Ismaili community jamaatkhanas all over the country,” Waqas said. “Around 1,700 of them are in Karachi alone, but such activities have been arranged across Sindh and in all provinces.”
“Even in remote areas, which no one else has been able to reach, we have been trying to reach out to our non-Muslim brethren,” he said. “Our foundation has a dedicated minorities wing that is composed of 800 Christian, Hindu and Sikh volunteers from all provinces, G-B, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.”
Overall, according to him, AKFP has spent around Rs1.3 billion in relief activities that have benefited as many as 6.6 million people.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, prominent Hindu leader and former MPA Dr Shankar Lal was all praise for the foundation. “AKFP is the only welfare organisation that has been treating all minorities with equality,” he said. “Both JI and the foundation respect all communities without prejudice and especially in these times of pandemic, they have been extending valuable support to the most vulnerable segments of minority groups,” he added.
Aneel Singh, a Sikh volunteer working for the foundation for around seven years said he had never sensed any discrimination or ill-will. “They treat me like a brother. They treat us as ‘Pakistanis’ not minorities, which fills me with appreciation,” he told The Express Tribune.
In addition to religious minorities, the foundation has also been helping out other underprivileged groups. “We have been distributing food parcels among members of the transgender community,” Waqas said.
“Our thinking is clear. We want to let minority groups in Pakistan know that they are as important to us as anyone else in the country,” said AKFP President Mohammad Abdul Shakoor.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2020.