KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday expressed surprise over politicisation of zakat distribution and ruled that the provincial authorities could not utilise such funds to gain political mileage.
A single bench of the SHC headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar directed the secretary of the zakat council to produce record and submit a detailed report as to when they introduced the Guzara allowance under the name of “Benazir Muawinat Cards” and what was the necessity for renaming.
The court asks officials to explain why Guzara allowance is renamed as Benazir Muawinat Cards
In the last hearing, the bench had expressed serious resentment over the method to disburse zakat funds and directed the Sindh Bank to immediately block all open pin code zakat cards and ensure that the amount was paid through biometric verification system as agreed with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).
At the outset, Advocate General Salman Talibuddin filed a compliance report in the light of the last order.
It stated that the finance department had released funds for biometric verification of the “Benazir Muawinat Cards” to 100,000 beneficiaries. It also maintained that the old Guzara cards had been cancelled.
The bench observed that zakat was individuals/citizens’ money and deducted every year from their accounts and it could only be given to those who qualify for it and the criterion was prescribed in the Sindh Zakat & Ushr Act, 2011.
Therefore, neither the zakat council nor anybody else including the government could take an exception to this criterion and giving such funds to unqualified persons not only be illegal but also exposes the delinquent to legal consequences, it added.
The bench further observed that the distribution of zakat funds under the title of “Benazir Muawinat Cards” was very shocking since it plainly gave an impression that such muawinat (assistance) was being made by a political government.
“Accordingly, province of Sindh may issue a new scheme by their other budget/funds in the welfare, however, province cannot utilize zakat funds to gain political mileage, thus Secretary Zakat Council shall produce record and submit report with details that since when they have introduced this Guzara Allowance with the name of ‘Benazir Muawinat Cards’ and why necessity arose for converting guzara allowance into ‘Benazir Muawinat Cards’,” it added.
About the Jahez funds, the provincial law officer submitted that any girl/woman nestled in Darul Aman or any other shelter home would approach directly or through the official in charge to receive such funds, which will be paid through a crossed cheque.
The zakat council secretary submitted that in compliance with the court’s earlier order a website had been launched.
While referring to another report, the bench said it’s alarming that the zakat council was providing funds to universities, but the universities have failed to utilise it.
The court added that the universities were required to open a window on their website and constitute a committee for proper utilisation of such funds for deserving students.
The bench also summoned the Sindh Higher Education Commission secretary and its registrar after it was informed that the Auqaf department had written several letters for provision of assistance of zakat funds for deserving students in government/public sector universities, but no positive response had been received from the provincial HEC.
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2021