A young, bespectacled gentleman, self-composed but a little reticent, an administrator in the making with a background of medical education – this is what I observed in my maiden encounter with Dr. Amjad Saqib in the year 1990 when he was holding the office of assistant commissioner, Chiniot. What moved me most was his cultivated mannerism and chaste literary taste which found an ample demonstration in a mushaira that he innovatively arranged on riverboats near his place of posting.
The monotonous but cumbersome constraints of bureaucracy wouldn’t perhaps match the ebullience of his temperament whence his parting of ways with it (2003). It was not an ordinary decision. Only a man of firm resolve and commitment could take it. And that verily Amjad Saqib is!
With an ingrained proclivity for philanthropy, he gradually diverted to voluntary work in the vast field of social service with a focus on microfinance. He rendered consultancy to prestigious international organizations like the Asian Development Bank, the ILO, the Canadian International Development Agency, the USAID, the DFID, the UNDP, and the World Bank, and also associated himself at home with such social welfare institutions in the public and private sectors as the Punjab Educational Endowment Fund, the Punjab Education Foundation, the Health Care Commission, the Welfare Trust for Disabled, the Red Crescent and the Fountain House. Besides, he heads the International Islamic Microfinance Network too.
His brainchild Akhuwat (2001) translates his dream of Islamic Muwakhat into a model of microfinance loaning sans interest dedicated to serve the deprived, distressed and downtrodden section of the community. He has also authored Shahr-e-Lab-e-Darya, Gautam kay Dais Mein, Aik Yadgar Mushaira, Akhuwat aur Dasht-e-Zulmat, Ghurbat aur Microcredit,and Devolution and Governance – Reforms in Pakistan (OUP).
As a social activist Amjad Saqib has chosen to tread in the models of community service raised by two eminent men of his class namely Akhtar Hameed Khan (1914-1999) – pioneer of the Comilla Model and the Orangi Pilot Project, and Shoaib Sultan Khan (b.1933) – a noted development activist involved with the rural support programmes of Pakistan. However, his precursors in the field of microfinance may have been the Nobel laureate Professor Dr. Muhammad Yunus (b.1940, of Bangladesh (Grameen Bank fame) and anthropologist Dr. Stanley Ann Dunham (1942-95) – mother of President Barack Obama (b.1961) – who for a long time worked on some leading microcredit projects in the rural interior of Indonesia.
Akhuwat ka Safar is an engaging travelogue symbolizing Amjad Saqib’s quest for new avenues for activating and strengthening his ‘progeny’ Aukhwat so as to realize his dream of a poverty-free social order by empowering the poor have-nots who constitute the bulk of our woeful populace. Akhuwat is an NGO that operates from mosques, churches, and temples in order to disburse small interest-free loans to the indigent and needy with an enviable rate of recovery approximating to 99% plus.
The Akhuwat network has recently touched the watershed of 256 branches operating in 175 towns in the country with around 400,000 families as beneficiaries with a total credit circulation of PKR 5,994,666,000. The procedures, based on the following guidelines, are simple but transparent: the loan is interest-free; it is disbursed in mosques, churches, and temples; the administrative machinery of the system mostly comprises volunteers. And, the prime aim of this loaning is to self-sustain the beneficiaries.
The instant publication is, as it were, an odyssey to the cherished realm of philanthropy seeking to help the needy without offending their self-respect. It narrates the story of Amjad Saqib’s solicited voyage to the US to enlighten and motivate the local citizenry inclusive of university academics and a sizeable number of expatriates, on the wide-ranging functions of Akhuwat. lt was a highly rewarding exercise as his audience warmly lauded his efforts and proffered immense moral and financial support for the noble cause.
The Akhuwat march today continues unabated, rather it is gaining momentum day by day. The literary texture of the narrative makes it highly readable. Prologues to the book by Ata-ul-Haq Qasmi and Javed Chaudhry and its epilogue by Mujib-ur-Rahman Shami besides words of praise by Mustansar Hussain Tarar, Haroon-ur-Rashid, Maulana Tariq Jameel, Prof. Ahmad Saeed Akhtar, Dr. Ajmal Niazi, Shoaib Bin Aziz, and Dr. Saadat Saeed serve to enhance its appeal as a socio-literary document highlighting a veritable altruistic odyssey.
Dr. Amjad Saqib deserves kudos for his heroic mission to serve the cause of the teeming millions for whom earning their bread and butter in these days of a worsening socio-economic depression is a matter of life and death. Akhuwat is a glittering ray of hope for such people in the given situation.
Title: Akhuwat ka Safar
Author: Dr. Amjad Saqib
Publisher: Mavra Books, 60, Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam, Lahore
Pages: 307; Price: Rs.700/-