‘Extorted’ donations: Karachi’s multi-million dollar charity business

Political parties prepare for a decrease in Zakat, fitra income as Rangers clamp down on forcible collections

Photo Athar Khan/rabia Ali July 07, 2015
As the Rangers have started a crackdown against political parties collecting Fitra and Zakat, alKhidmat Foundation, like many other welfare organisations, puts up a billboard calling for people to donate for the poor. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS


Karachi is well known for its lawlessness and violence. But then again, it has a softer side. Of philanthropy and volunteerism and cub scouts. Unfortunately, this softer side too has become victim to the unrelenting violence - when organisations start fighting to collect more donations and the competition ultimately leads to violence. This was the way things were done in Karachi. Until the Rangers decided to act.

The Sindh Rangers have come down hard on political parties and their welfare wings, accusing them of forcefully collecting donations. Workers are being arrested, cash and Fitra slips are being confiscated and a helpline has been set up where people can register complaints against forceful collection.

Read: ‘Uncharitable’ affairs: Save the Children office sealed in Islamabad

The crackdown by the Rangers is now forcing political parties to change their method of Fitra collection, a compulsory charity with a minimum amount of Rs100 per head, to be paid before Eidul Fitr.

The other round

Since the start of the holy month, more than two dozen volunteers of the Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation (KKF), a welfare organisation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), have been arrested by law enforcement agencies - a move that has slowed down its donation drive, said a party leader.

Fearing raids and arrests, the KKF has slightly moved away from its traditional method of Fitra collection by sending out volunteers with receipt books in different neighborhoods.

Party spokesperson Aminul Haque claims that instead, people are coming to their offices to donate money. "People are coming themselves to the KKF office in Dastageer or our headquarters, Nine-Zero."

The party, which would usually set up collection camps from the advent of Ramazan, only recently set them up. Leaders claim that the KKF banners are being removed from the streets. "We are continuously motivating our volunteers and encouraging them to remain strong in these difficult times."

The KKF was established in 1979, with the name of Khidmat-e-Khalq Committee. After the formation of the MQM, its name was changed to Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation.

While the Rangers claim that the arrested men were involved in extortion and forceful collection of donations, the party has denied this and said that innocent people are being arrested. "An audit is also held of the KKF and all legalities are completed. There is complete transparency in the operations."

The MQM, which claims to collect millions of rupees as fitra and Zakaat, predicts a 19 to 20 per cent decrease from last year, owing to the crackdown of the law enforcement agencies.

Read: Charitable gains: Save the Children allowed to resume work

No shops this time

Another party affected by the Rangers' crackdown is the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, whose headquarters were raided and several workers arrested. The party runs a welfare organisation with the name of Ahle Sunnat Khidmat Foundation Trust. This time, it has decided not to collect fitra from shopkeepers. "When we go to shops to collect donations which are not forced, it is labeled as extortion. A donation is a donation. It is wrong to call it otherwise," said the party's spokesperson Fahim Sheikh.

The party, however, lauds the crackdown by the Rangers, and says that because of them, extortion has gone down. "Good and bad people are everywhere, even in our party. At the lower level, there may be workers who force others to give donations. We have told people that in case this happens, they should inform our leadership."

According to the party, 11 workers have been arrested. "Those who love us are still giving us donations."

The unaffected ones

Jamaat-e-Islami, which collects huge amount of fitra and Zakaat for its welfare organisation, Al Khidmat Foundation, has remained largely immune to the Rangers' crackdown.

"Most of the fitra and Zakaat comes from our activists. People trust us and unlike other political parties, we don't force anyone for donations. We don't tell them to pay us the entire fitra receipt book," said Zahid Askari, the party's information secretary.

Hence the party never goes to shopkeepers and traders for collection of fitra. While they do go into neighbourhoods and put up stalls outside mosques, the JI says that they don't force anyone. "Because of some political parties, this holy work is now being regarded a commercial enterprise."

Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2015.