Philanthropy Around The World: Spotlight On Pakistan

Pakistan is a generous country when it comes to philanthropy, contributing more than one percent of its annual GDP to charity, despite rating poorly as taxpayers.  This culture of generosity if fueled by the Islamic emphasis on giving and a deeply rooted sense of compassion for members of the community.

Most donations, however, go directly to individuals rather than via charitable organisations. According to a survey conducted by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, 67% of respondents give to individuals while 33% preferred giving to organisations. The reason Pakistanis prefer giving to individuals over socially minded organisations is that spur of the moment giving is motivated by compassion for those less fortunate and a lack of trust in charitable organisations.

The survey found that wealthier people give to both individuals and organisations. The Stanford Social Innovation Review found that the prevailing charitable impulse in Pakistan needs to be redirected towards more impact-oriented philanthropy. The first step in achieving this is to build trust in civil society organisations, while philanthropic organisations need to ensure transparency and accountability.

The Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy was established in 2001 as a not for profit government support organisation. Its vision is to ensure that business, civil society and government work together in a strengthened partnership for social development in the country.

Pakistan hosts an annual National Forum on Philanthropy which convenes donors, social investors, social and tech entrepreneurs, multilateral agencies, policymakers, government and business leaders. In 2019 the theme of the forum was ‘Unlocking Philanthropy’s Potential: The Power of Partnerships. Speakers at the more recent event discussed how philanthropy works most productively when it supplements the welfare agenda of the state. There is a realisation in Pakistan that in order to become a more integral player in the sustainable development agenda it needs to institutionalise the tendency of giving and redirect it to more structure efforts.

The annual forum culminates in an awards ceremony which recognises the most prolific philanthropic givers. For the 14th consecutive year Pakistan Petroleum Limited won the award for the largest corporate giver. The company spends a minimum of 1.5% of pre-tax profit on its corporate social responsibility programme which focuses primarily on need-based interventions in education, healthcare, livelihood generation and infrastructure development for underserved communities.

Prominent Pakistani philanthropists include Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife, Bilquis Bano Edhi, each of whom have their own foundation. Abdul founded the Edhi Foundation, the largest non-profit social welfare organisation globally. His 250 centers across Pakistan take in orphans, the mentally ill, unwanted newborns, drug addicts, the homeless, the sick and the aged. Bilquis, also called the ‘Mother of Pakistan’, founded the Bilquis Edhi Foundation which runs many services in Pakistan including a hospital and emergency service in Karachi.

Current prime minister, Imran Khan, is also a prominent philanthropist. His charitable trust established Pakistan’s first and only cancer hospital, constructed using donations raised by Khan from the international community.

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