through Interest-Free Microfinance
By C. Naseer Ahmad
Governor Khalid Maqbool and others
non-profit organization Akhuwat, led by Dr. Amjad Saqib
of Lahore, is using creative ways for poverty alleviation
through Interest Free Microfinance in Lahore as well as
some other cities of Pakistan. With its philanthropic efforts,
Akhuwat is providing a helping hand rather than a hand-out.
Akhuwat propagates, through its literature and field work,
that the needy need not remain forever “needy.”
The organization is the brain-child of Dr. Amjad Saqib,
a graduate of King Edward Medical College Lahore and a distinguished
public servant. Company documents show a high loan recovery
rate. Many borrowers, who are street vendors and small shop
keepers, have come back to Akhuwat for additional financing
to meet business needs.
Dr. Saqib claims that the key to his organization’s
success is the low cost structure. Akhuwat avoids high office
rents by operating out of mosques. Although, mixing business
and religion can be troublesome, Dr. Saqib feels positive
about Akhuwat’s operating procedures.
Dr. Saqib’s low-key style belies his vast experience
as a public servant, as a Hubert H. Humphrey fellow with
a graduate degree in public administration and as a consultant
to World Bank and other international lending institutions.
He has found easy access to senior public officials, including
the Governor of Punjab and President Musharraf for his cause.
Despite his connections, Dr. Saqib seems to lead a simple
life. An old Honda Civic, without an air-conditioner, carries
him around town for meetings at the Governor House or wherever
Akhuwat takes him.
Akhuwat’s financial resources come from philanthropic
donations from individuals, industrialists as well as institutions.
Among its supporters is Punjab’s Governor Lt Gen (Retd)
Khalid Maqbool, who recently listened to the personal testimony
from some of the beneficiaries of Akhuwat’s interest
free micro loans. During a meeting at the “Durbar
Hall”, Governor House on September 28, 2006, pledges
were collected from Akhuwat’s industrialist supporters.
Some of the loan amounts are as little as Rs 5,000. To the
borrowers, such amounts can make a big difference creating
a fighting chance to face grinding poverty. To those more
fortunate in Pakistan, this amount could be merely the cost
of air-conditioning a room. To those living in the West,
this could be just the cost of lunch for two at a fine restaurant.
In addition to other applicants for micro-loans, Akhuwat
provides financial assistance to selected candidates from
the “Fountain House”, an established philanthropic
mental health institution started by the renowned (late)
Dr. Rashid Chaudhry. It is a commendable effort to provide
mental health patients a chance to fight social stigmas.