Wahid Maskatiya may not be as well-known in Pakistan as the late Abdul Sattar Edhi, but he is getting there, and quite fast.
A self-made millionaire (or billionaire!), Wahid as he is known to friends, has made it his life’s mission to help the needy and poor.
This Ramadan, he launched a new scheme that is both imaginative and breath-taking.
Called Izzat ki Roti (roughly translated as dignified earning), the scheme aims to raise Rs 10 crore (Rs 100 million or just over US$600,000), to not merely feed people but enable them to stand on their feet .
Within the first five days of launching the scheme, about Rs 25 million were already collected or pledged.
The scheme involves purchasing motorbikes, sewing machines and fruit/vegetable carts.
These would be given to deserving people to help them start a small business.
Motorbikes can be used for delivering food or other services in Pakistan’s congested cities.
Sewing machines given to women would enable them to sew clothes at home for sale and gradually become self-sustaining.
Similarly, the carts would be given to people to start selling fruits or vegetables. This is quite common in Pakistan.
Initial order for 100 motorbikes (70 cc), 100 sewing machines and carts has already been placed.
These would be available for delivery on June 1.
According to Wahid Maskatiya, the plan is to provide support for 2500 needy people in the first year to enable them to stand on their feet. That means helping at least 10,000 people if we consider each family comprises four people.
The scheme will run from one Ramadan to the next.
It runs according to the old Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for life.”
This is not the first scheme launched by Wahid Maskatiya.
In this latest venture, his nephew Amir, whom he has adopted as his son because Wahid’s younger brother Amin died in a tragic car accident in 1977, is also involved.
Wahid has set up a family charitable foundation through which he provides free education to more than 8,000 students.
Each student gets free school uniforms, books, bag for books as well as free lunch at school.
There is also a medical room in each school where free medical care is available for students.
Further, during this Ramadan, he is providing free food to 3,000 needy people every evening.
The meal includes a large plate of rice and daal and zarda (sweet rice as dessert).
Poverty, unfortunately is widespread in Pakistan and it is through the work of generous people like Wahid Maskatiya that some of the desperately poor get some help.
It is important to know a little bit about his background.
Wahid’s father, a banker in Karachi, died when the children were young.
Their mother gamely struggled to raise the children and educate them.
Wahid was the second of seven siblings (five brothers and two sisters).
While the older brother Majid stayed with their mother in Karachi, Wahid and three of his younger siblings studied at Lawrence College in Murree.
After completing ‘O’ Levels, Wahid went to England to study accountancy in London.
Two brothers—Amin and Anis—followed him to England while the other brother, Karim, went to the US where he did exceedingly well in real estate.
Wahid took care of the two brothers’ education in England while Karim managed on his own in the US.
Not only his siblings, Wahid was always keen to help others as well.
When old Gallians (alumni of Lawrence College) wanted to study accountancy or get admission at a university in England, Wahid was there to help.
The tragic death of his younger brother Amin led to his returning to Pakistan where he started his own business.
He is exceedingly enterprising and has a flair for business. Whatever he touches turns to gold.
He has set up cosmetics factories as well as garment factories but has always been conscious of the needs of others.
Wahid raised all his nephews as his own children and gave them important responsibilities in the family business.
The social welfare work that he is doing should be the responsibility of the state but unfortunately the concept of caring for people is virtually non-existent in Pakistan, as indeed in many other societies.
Like the project to educate poor children to give them a chance to succeed in life, the Izzat ki Roti scheme will enable people to stand on their feet and start earning a decent livelihood without forever depending on handouts.
More power to Wahid and his enterprising and generous spirit.
(This writer and Wahid Maskatiya were classmates at Lawrence College and also shared a flat in London, England during our student days there.)