July 10th, 2020 was commemorated as the fourth death anniversary of Pakistan’s gigantic welfare worker Abdul Sattar Edhi. We all know who Edhi was; a man who masterminded world’s largest donations backed ambulance network; a rehabilitator for elders and children disowned from society; a humanitarian who established free morgue, dispensaries and nursing homes without any bias. Personally, he was an acetic comfortable in rags and a congested apartment despite receiving billions in aid, and a stalwart patriot who embraced death on his own soil after refusing generous offers for medical treatment abroad. No wonder that he is one of the only two civilians to have received a state funeral.
However, all of this is already known by every Pakistani and denizens of Karachi in particular. The intent of this article to analyze what makes us one of the most charitable nations? How do we manage to outperform rich countries like Japan, China and many European countries in The World Giving Index and proudly join the league of UK and Canada which donate more than 1% of GDP? In fact, Pakistan’s actual stats will be even brighter owing to large sums of money reaching the poor without being registered by any institute.
These questions require an insight into a combination of factors with different elements playing a dominant role for individual countries.
Pakistan has two prominent reasons at work – Poverty and Religion. Our country is plagued with high income disparity and unemployment which, along with other factors, result in every fourth person living below the poverty line as per latest estimate. Consequently, our streets are plying with people in need. Also, the meager per-capita income (18,000-20,000 PKR a month) tempt many to adopt the egregious profession of begging which also extracts a comparable amount – this aspect of charity cannot be seen in a productive sense though.
The second key factor is Religion. For Pakistani society, Islam not only encourages charity but also makes Zakat, Fitra and Sacrificial animals mandatory for those who can afford. The holy month of Ramadan is a Season of giving offering multi fold rewards for the same money persuading Muslims to donate more enthusiastically and liberally. Moreover, most Pakistanis have devotion for Madarssahs and Mosques which receive enormous donations.
The connection of charity with religions is, however, a universal phenomenon. A study Who Gives Most to Charity notes that the USA is the most charitable nation because of being the most religious society in the modern world. Similarly, philanthropy in Myanmar, which tops The World Giving Index, is also driven by Buddhism. Judaism also makes charity an obligatory act called tzedakah.
Besides these two major factors, there are many social drivers to promote generosity and some of them are relevant in context of Pakistani society. A research project at Berkeley university titled The Science of Generosity reveals that wider social circles positively contribute towards a welfare cause. Since Pakistan has a strong family system and active social circles, a word about the needy person spreads contiguously creating a conducive atmosphere for donation campaigns. Discussions on the plight of needy people naturally induces empathy to reach out to the poor. Like many others, I am also an eyewitness to social groups which initiated fund-raising for COVID-19 hit livelihoods and received overwhelming response.
Another favorable social factor for generosity is ‘role modelling’. In Pakistan, many charitable projects like Edhi have strong appeal for people and inspire people to support the deprived as soon as they have resources.
Generosity has an encouraging socio-psychological effect on the society. While the destitute can make material changes from cash or in-kind giving, the rich enjoy the pleasure of mental satisfaction. Since our resource-starved government is unable to provide sustenance for thousands, the well-off help others on the lines of “Lighting a candle in the dark” and enjoy a sense of fulfillment.
Granted Pakistan is honorably positioned in the list of generous countries, we still need to shift our focus towards a more structured and productive approach called Philanthropy. Charity, by contrast, produces an empathetic and impulsive reaction to the poor and lacks sustainability. The NED University is a prime example of Philanthropy which has produced numerous professionals, without subjecting them to exorbitant expenses, who are supporting the economy while transforming their own fate as well. This way, Philanthropy streamlines the donations for long-term results-oriented projects and provides a more effective solution for poverty alleviation, rather than a recurring relief to the needy.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are the writer’s own opinion. Dunya News will not be held responsible for any kind of discrepancy.