Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Rich Misers in Desi Community

By Saeed Qureshi

Some time ago a poor lonely Pakistani Junaid Khan died of a heart attack. While the dead body of Junaid was kept in Rahma funeral home, a fellow Pakistani Ali Rizvi appealed to the Pakistani community to donate for sending his dead body to Pakistan. The cost was estimated to be between four to five thousand dollars. Apparently this appeal was uncalled-for as the deceased could be buried here in a Muslims’ graveyard.

But the poor family back home wished that the body of the late Junaid Khan be sent to Pakistan. With due deference to the request of the late Khan’s family, Mr. Rizvi floated the appeal for donations. The appeal was patently addressed to the affluent and well-to-do among the Desi community both from India and Pakistan.

 As far I know that this was for the first time that a dead body of a destitute Pakistani was to be transported to Pakistan, for which financial assistance was solicited. Such rare and uncommon emergent requests carry the pathos of humanitarian sympathy and therefore ought to be responded overwhelmingly from less-privileged and privileged alike. But distressingly only three philanthropists offered to foot the relatively heavy bill for sending the dead body of Junaid Khan to Pakistan.

Now this case serves as a stark eye opener. This year in the month of March, the Pakistan Society of North Texas (PSNT), the sole representative body of the expatriate Pakistanis, celebrated the Pakistan Day in a posh hotel with lot of fanfare and gusto. That evening must have cost the PSNT a good amount of money and this money must have been collected from the members or shared by the PSNT executive body. No one knows about that.

The point that I want make is that while a grand gala function fits into the priorities of the PSNT, a humanitarian appeal, first of its kind, was ignored under the pretext of regulations. It is a public knowledge that the PSNT has a sizeable amount deposited in its account.

The funds are sometimes raised for such causes that fall out of the constitutional rigmarole and regulations. It is so because social or humanitarian emergencies cannot be condoned or conducted by strict observance of laws even in the best of societies. There are deviations and discretions to be exercised for such pitiful causes such as that of late Junaid Khan. But funds apart, the bigwigs of the PSNT did not even bother to issue a statement of condolence.

Only three good hearted and compassionate persons offered to foot the heavy bill for transporting the dead body of Junaid Khan. Someone from the PSNT or at the behest of this society could have argued that condolences are not allowed under the constitution of the society. But we hail from a cultural and traditional background that exhorts us to pray for the departed souls, offer Fatiha or express our sorrow on sad occasions such as the demise of a human being.

We all are aware that we have filthy rich individuals in our community whose income swells by the day and by the hour. The streams of money keep joining their ocean of wealth. We have a heavy presence of the community members who are literally sitting on the heaps of money.

There are physicians, the business tycoons, the fast food franchise owners, the importers and exporters, the commission agents, the real estate moguls and so. May God give them more wealth and material gains!

Did you notice that what to speak of giving charity or donations; they come in our social gatherings, cultural unions and fairs. They have a world of their own. These are only the ordinary individuals who readily respond to the needs of indigent and poor members and families of our community.  

I may narrate an account of myself. Way back in 2001 when I came to Dallas as a newcomer with a rudimentary understanding of how our Desi people live here. Incidentally, I met a high profile doctor of our community who I later came to know examines a score of patients daily. I was jobless and was trying to hold on to some occupation here to “pay for the bills”, as the expression goes.
As part of the social chat and out of sheer simplicity, I casually asked him what the job possibilities were for a newcomer like me. Lo and hold your breath! Later that worthy doctor met me on innumerable occasions in social get-togethers especially in poetry sessions but always avoided me.

Such people lavishly spend on personal glorification and publicity but seldom spare a dime for legitimate causes. Now I have served in eminent positions in Pakistan. I basked in the diplomatic galore and held the prominent position of an editor of newspapers including my own English tabloid “Diplomatic Times”. But God is a witness that I was never haughty, nor suffered from vanity or avoided those who needed help by way of a job or financially. 

Why the present PSNT celebrities and those from previous tenures never thought of creating a charity fund to provide succor to the financially handicapped people in our community. There are many among us whose incomes are meager and they live from hand to mouth. There are sick who cannot fully pay their medical bills.

There are others who for want of money cannot hire a lawyer to pursue their legitimate judicial cases. There are also many who are caught in immigration whirlwinds and are suffering at the hands of the cutthroat and greedy non-Desi attorneys.
In all the deserving and genuine cases our attorneys can find time to act as pro-bono for distressed Desi immigrants. The doctors can set aside their time for indigent patients. For those who cannot eat two square meals, a charity fund can be floated for their sustenance. If there are Catholic Charities helping all irrespective of the creed, color or race why can't we have for the Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs?

For such funds or charities, the well off from among the respective communities can set aside 2 per cent of their income on monthly or yearly basis. The Muslims can give their Zakat (religious tax) or Fitrana (a donation given on Eid festivals) in such relief funds.

We know that the people from the Desi communities donate generously for religious causes such as arranging a feast on special occasions, for building a new mosque or paying for the utilities in a temple, mosque or Gurdwara. While those gestures are laudable, it would be equally desirable and praiseworthy to donate for social and humanitarian relief and services.

I am aware of several covert and overt good Samaritans and noble hearted persons who are generous donors and help the needy people among us as best as they can. I shall mention only three persons who are thoroughly selfless yet shun ostentation and publicity of their divine work of generosity and philanthropy.

Though not rich monetarily, esteemed Mike Ghouse is disbursing the intellectual wealth to our community and promoting the most vital objective of fostering goodwill and bonhomie among various religions. Then there is Mr. Farooq Khan and his illustrious wife who follow the shariah injunction that one should help the needy in such a way that “while giving from one hand, the other hand should not know”. This remarkable couple is patronizing a school of poor children in Pakistan exclusively with their own finances.

But before I conclude let me have the honor of mentioning the name of Mr. Khaliq Qureshi, a true model of humility, humanity, self denial, generosity and an inimitable philanthropist in his right. He has helped a whole lot of families and needy persons here and in Pakistan out of his life time savings all these years.

If anyone can be termed a benign icon it is Jinab Khaliq Sahib. If anyone comes near to the model of a good Muslim, a symbol of magnanimity and benevolence, in our community, it is certainly Khaliq Qureshi Sahib.

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