I am currently in Washington DC, where I have meetings with various local personalities, including the overseas Pakistani community. The Pakistani community living in the United States is considered one of the most prosperous classes and is playing its dynamic role in the development and prosperity of the country.
Pakistani-Americans love Pakistan immensely and are always ready to help Pakistan in every difficult hour. Before Independence, a large number of people from the Subcontinent started migrating towards the US. Even today, the US is the most favourite destination for immigration.
According to the US Census 1970, Pakistani-Americans were considered “white” ethnically due to their Indo-European heritage. However, Pakistani-Americans were classified as Asians under the US Census in 2020. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used to classify people from Pakistan as being “White (Middle Eastern)”. According to a survey, the majority of Pakistani Americans prefer to associate their ethnic identity with Asians.
During my visit to the United States, I am observing that American society as a whole is a humanitarian and philanthropist society. Here, people park their vehicles aside to allow ambulances and fire brigade vehicles to move smoothly. American citizens are known for their large charity donations. Students are encouraged to participate in volunteer and community work from an early age.
Historically, welfare activities in the United States were started during colonial rule when Europeans began arriving on American soil. Various voluntary charitable organizations were established by ethnic and religious groups for the welfare of their respective communities.
Even today, the tireless services of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the modern American nation and the first US ambassador to France, are highly valued for promoting philanthropic activities. Being an activist and theorist of American philanthropy, he established a social club of like-minded people, called Junto, whose membership qualification included “love for mankind”.
Many of today’s richest successful businessmen in the US used to dedicate a large part of their wealth and time to philanthropy work. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with the active support of his ex-wife, to alleviate poverty, diseases and inequality around the world. Reportedly, Bill Gates provided aid worth 500,000 US dollars to the AJK earthquake victims in 2005. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is known for revolutionizing social media. He, along with his wife, Priscilla Chan, has donated 99 percent of Facebook shares to support charity work. Following in the footsteps of its founder, Facebook is also committed to provide financial support for the promotion of various noble activities globally.
A prominent feature of American society is old age homes where a large number of senior citizens spend the last days of their lives. During my stay, I visited various old age homes and saw the elderly people here spending their time happily in various positive activities. Senior citizens, some of them ranging in age from 85 to 100, said that they do not suffer from social isolation here. They make friendships with like-minded people. The timely presence of doctors and medical facilities is also a source of satisfaction for them.
In my view, it is the prime responsibility of a good human-being to play his/her due role for the betterment of society. After closely observing the welfare activities going on in American society, I have decided to launch a world-class charity initiative in Pakistan. In loving memory of my beloved brother Dr Prem Kumar Vankwani (late), I would like to establish ‘Prem Nagar’ in Tharparkar on several acres of land. Its doors will be opened for all homeless senior citizens, the disabled, and orphaned children. Similarly, education of local children will also be ensured there.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.