Charitable giving thrives despite economic slowdown.

Byline: Afshan Subohi

Despite her best effort, Mrs Sheikh says she is left with one-third of zakat that she wants to disburse to the last penny in the first half of Ramazan. She likes to dedicate the second half of the holy month exclusively to ibadat.

An ageing widow, Mrs Sheikh says she has already donated Rs1 million to Edhi Foundation, Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, Fatimid Foundation, Layton Rahmatullah Benevolent Trust and the patients' aid society of a public hospital.

She told Dawn that given her limitations she could not locate the families worthy of zakat and, therefore, donates to organisations serving the needy.

'Yes, I do try, but it is very hard to find people who are deserving of zakat. So I divert it to credible institutions offering services free of cost to the poor,' she said.

Like Mrs Sheikh, a notable percentage of upper- and middle-class households in Pakistan donate to help the needy, mostly for religious considerations.

The volume of donations in Ramazan this year is projected to be around Rs170bn, same as that of last year

On the other end of the economic spectrum, the poor are working their networks to make the most of this period. Online networks may still be inaccessible to the poor, but they have learned to use cell phones that ensure timely delivery of donation-related messages in Ramazan.

Shehnaz, a 45-year-old housemaid, works on Eid but takes two weeks off during Ramazan. She utilises her work break to collect donations from certain institutions, her past employers and other sources.

'Besides clothes and food for the family, I collect more money in these two weeks of Ramazan than what my husband and I earn in a month after backbreaking labour. As long as it meets our needs, I am indifferent if it is zakat or khairat. We cover Eid with this money and use the residue to pay for some longstanding heads, such as fixing the roof or a cot,' she explains.

Independent observers and people associated with charities did not notice any change in the scale of giving during this Ramazan. They do not expect higher funds mobilisation for charitable causes this year and hope it will be similar to that of last year. An informal...

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