Who Says Pakistanis Are a Cheap Bunch
By Dr S. Amjad Hussain
Toledo, Ohio

A civil society depends on the generosity of its citizens for the support and strengthening of its basic fabric. Charitable giving adds to the beauty and durability of the warp and weft of this fabric. Americans, considered the most generous people in the world, give away 240 billion dollars a year to charitable causes and a full 75% comes not from big corporations or foundations but from individual donors. About 86% of all American households share their blessings with others. America is not a monolith but a sum total of its numerous ethnic groups. Among this mosaic is a relatively small group, 500,000 by some conservative estimates, who lead the pack in charitable giving. They are the Pakistani-Americans. There is a general assumption that immigrants in general and recent arrivals in particular tend not to give as much or as often as the established ethnic groups. This assumption also considers Pakistanis as more clannish, more inward looking and thus not inclined to share their money with others in the society. Not true, says Professor Adil Najam, the director of Pardee Center for the Study of Long Range Future at Boston University. Professor Najam shared the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace with Mr. Al Gore and the scientists who served on Mr. Goreís International Climate Council. Recently Dr. Najam discussed the findings of an extensive survey of Pakistani expatriates in the US that was published in his 2006 book Portrait Of A Giving Community: Philanthropy by the Pakistani- American Diaspora (Published by Global Equity Institute of the Asia Center at Harvard University). Taking the colors and hues from the pallet of his methodical and extensive research Professor Najam paints a flattering picture of Pakistanis in America. There are approximately halfmillion Pakistanis in America who give away 250 million dollars in cash and kind every year in charity. In addition they contribute more than 43 million hours of volunteer work which, when translated in monetary terms, come to $750 million making the total giving at an impressive $1 billion. Forty percent this giving goes to charities in Pakistan and an additional 20% to Pakistani causes in this country. Forty percent is donated to causes that have no connection with Pakistan. In the post 9/11 climate while support of causes in Pakistan have declined due to fear of sending money abroad and a relative lack of clarity about restrictions on foreign remittances. The most striking findings however is that Pakistani Americans give 3.5% of estimated household income to charity whereas the national average in America is 3.1%. And yet, the researchers found, Pakistani Americans suffer from what Dr. Najam calls a misplaced sense of philanthropic inferiority. Some how Pakistanis believe that they do not give as much as some other ethnic communities in America. They also think that people living in Pakistan give proportionally more to charities than they do. The study also found some interesting idiosyncrasies. Most Pakistanis giving, for example, has a faith-based motivation. Pakistanis tend to give to individuals in need rather than to charitable organizations. This, in part is, the result of their general distrust of charitable organizations here in the US but particularly in Pakistan. Though they do appreciate and trust faith-based charitable organizations they still prefer to give to individuals and not to organizations. They just have no confidence in Pakistani government or the myriad Non Governmental Organizations (NGOís) to use their donated money wisely and prudently. It is a shame that because of historic distrust of the government and NGOís, Pakistani Americans are not helping institution building in their native land. Giving to individuals and families in need is a commendable trait that is gratifying in short term. One can see the results immediately and in real time. But future directions of a country or people are set not by feeding a hungry person but by building and nurturing institutions. I met Dr. Adil Najam last week in Detroit where he spoke at a fund-raiser for Human Development Foundation. The Foundation, based in Chicago, works in Pakistan to ameliorate poverty by improving literacy, providing micro credit, vocational training for women etc in rural and so-called backward areas of the country. In one evening the group, true to Dr. Najamís research, raised $250,000. Philanthropy is an attitude that is not dependent on the amount of wealth one has. People give because they want to spread the blessings around for the greater good of the society and humanity. .


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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