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"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: Amjad_Malik
Full Name: Amjad Malik
User since: 15/Jun/2007
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CHARITY COLLECTION & POLITICAL DONATION SEASON IN UK

BY Barrister Amjad Malik

 

It’s a charity season worldwide and specially in the UK and the sufferings of the Muslim Ummah make this exercise more spiritual. Recent media reports have forced me to write on the myth, law and work of foreign charities on UK soil. this article is not against any individual and or organisation and it’s not anti donations. Good causes are the heart and soul of mankind and all prophetic teachings promotes ‘good deeds’ as charity begins at home. It is the accountability and lack of regulatory robust oversight which breeds lawlessness, and misuse of not only of public funds but hurt public feelings. I care for human anxiety & public feelings more than the money.

 

A charity is a particular type of voluntary organisation - one that takes a distinctive legal form. Charities are expected by legal requirement to provide benefit to the public, and not to a specific individual. Their aims, purpose or objectives have to be exclusively those which the law recognises as a charitable ‘cause’. Registered charities have to obey a number of rules and regulations set out in Charity Law. Those that are registered as companies have to comply with company laws in addition.

 

A registered charity is not allowed to have political objectives or to take part in political lobbying (other than in a generally educational sense). 

Charity is defined by the Charities Act 2011 part 1 (1) as being :

“(1)For the purposes of the law of England and Wales, “charity” means an institution which— .(a)is established for charitable purposes only, and . (b)falls to be subject to the control of the High Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction with respect to charities.

(2)The definition of “charity” in subsection (1) does not apply for the purposes of an enactment if a different definition of that term applies for those purposes by virtue of that or any other enactment”.

 

The British Charities Act 2011 defines a charitable purpose, explicitly, as one that falls within the list of thirteen descriptions of purposes and is for the public benefit. To be a charity an organisation must have purposes or ('aims') all of which are exclusively charitable; a charity cannot have some purposes which are charitable and others which are not. Charitable purpose, is explicitly, one that falls within the following list of thirteen descriptions of purposes and is for the public benefit; they are:-

The prevention or relief of poverty ,  the advancement of education

the advancement of religion,  the advancement of health or the saving of lives,  the advancement of citizenship or community development , the advancement of the arts, culture, heritage or science , The advancement of amateur sport , The advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity , The advancement of environmental protection or improvement, The relief of those in need, by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage , The advancement of animal welfare , The promotion of the efficiency of the armed forces of the Crown, or of the efficiency of the police, fire and rescue services or ambulance services, Any other purposes currently recognised as charitable and any new charitable purposes which are similar to another charitable purpose.”

 

There are many excellent examples of registered charities that are extremely beneficial to our society in general, these include NSPCA, Christian Aid, RSPCC, Red Cross, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and many faith based charitable organisations such are Islamic Aid , UK Islamic Mission, Ummah welfare which are doing good work day in day out. But many in the recent years have not only come into the market but their claims are higher in achievement and physical actions are hollow. it is our collective duty to monitor, seek regulation and demand financial accountability from such outfits who are  using the name of a ‘good cause’ for personal gains and or profit. I am quite enthusiastic about a call made by ‘children in need’ on western media which collect millions in a day on television but that too holds itself to public accountability as to where the proceed goes. Abdul Sattar Edhi’s shelters and Cricketing legend Imran Khan’s cancer hospital (Shaukat Khanum) is a fine example of Pakistani oriented success story of a charity purely collected and spent on charity. Surely since his political endeavours his charitable aims have had a setback.

 

Any charity that raises more than £5000 annually has to be registered with the charity commission and to be a charity an organisation must be established for charitable purposes only. A 'political purpose' cannot be a charitable purpose. That means that an organisation cannot be a charity if it has a 'political purpose. When we use the term 'political purpose' we mean what charity law considers to be a 'political purpose'. That means any purpose, whether in this country or overseas, that is aimed at: a) furthering the interests of a particular political party; 2) securing or opposing any change in the law, whether in the UK or overseas, 3) securing or opposing a change in the policy or decisions of central government or local authorities or other public bodies, whether in the UK or overseas. The Political Activities and Campaigning by Charities (2004) states “a charitable may engage in political activity where to do so will enhance or facilitate or support its work.”

 

It provides for situations where political activity can be carried out, in order to support the delivery of its charitable purposes. There are some charitable purposes under which an organisation can gain charitable status for purposes such as the promotion of human rights. However it does stress that the political activity must only be done in order to support the delivery of its charitable purpose. It differentiates between activities of a charity which is aimed at “securing, or opposing, any change in the law or in the policy or decisions of central government, local authorities or public bodies” from an activity aimed at ensuring that an existing law is upheld - i.e. make a difference between campaigning and political activity. In general charitable status can be acquired if: the political activity was not the charities sole and continuing aim to change government policy, and if the purpose can be gained without a change in the law.

Government: A charity can seek to influence central or local government or public opinion issues relating to the charity’s purposes. A charity may also speak out on issues of relevance to the wider well-being of the charitable sector. These principles apply both to consideration of new and of existing public policy. They also apply at a national, regional and local level.

Supporting existing legislation: A charity can engage in campaigning activity which aims to ensure that existing laws are observed. We distinguish this from political activity, which involves trying to secure support for, or oppose, a change in the law or public policy; this includes activity to preserve an existing piece of legislation, where the charity opposes it being repealed or amended

Political activity, as above, it  must only be undertaken by a charity in the context of supporting the delivery of its charitable purposes. We use this term to refer to activity by a charity which is aimed at securing, or opposing, any change in the law or in the policy or decisions of central government, local authorities or other public bodies, whether in this country or abroad. It includes activity to preserve an existing piece of legislation, where a charity opposes it being repealed or amended. This differs from activity aimed at ensuring that an existing law is observed, which falls under (1), Campaigning. Political activity might include some or all of: raising public support for such a change; seeking to influence political parties or independent candidates, decision-makers, politicians or public servants on the charity’s position in various ways in support of the desired change; and responding to consultations carried out by political parties. The case of McGovern v Attorney-General case found that a trust for the relief of human suffering and distress is capable of being charitable, but if a direct and main object of the trust is to achieve the relief by securing a change in the laws of a foreign country, then the trust has a political purpose and is not charitable. Slade J cited two reasons why the Courts will not consider political purposes as charitable: first, the court will ordinarily have no sufficient means of judging as a matter of evidence whether the proposed change will or will not be for the public benefit. Secondly, even if the evidence suffices to enable it to form a prima facie opinion that a change in the law is desirable, it must still decide the case on the principle that the law is right as it stands, since to do otherwise would usurp the functions of the legislature.[18] This statement indicates that Parliament is responsible for making laws in the UK and it is not appropriate for the Courts, or Charities Services, to pre-empt that process by forming a view on whether a new law or a change to an existing law would benefit the public.

 

The Communications Act 2003, particularly for charities considering using broadcast advertising, prohibits political advertising in the broadcast media. The definition of ‘political advertising’ includes advertising aimed at influencing public opinion on matters of ‘public controversy’. The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, particularly for charities organising a demonstration about an issue; places new restrictions on campaigning, including demonstrations. Other legal requirements, including the civil law concerning defamation (slander and libel) and the criminal law concerning incitement. these are changing and developing all the time.

 

We are all well aware that foreign charities are everywhere in United Kingdom in the month of festivals, whether its Eid, Ramzan, Haj or during any disasters (such as earthquake or floods overseas). Helping those in needs is not just one of the sermons of Islam, but almost all the religions in the world preaches commonsense morality and kindness to others. We can see the ever increasing number of charitable organisations and NGOs which are successfully working towards numerous humanitarian & good causes. However among all these the (UNO) United Nations is nothing less than the Milestone. In the UK, On the one hand Father Christmas (those who believe in Christianity ) is found all around on Christmas spreading joy and happiness through distributing gifts, on the other hand during Ramzan there is a huge influx of organisations spreading love through collecting charity and Zakat at a ratio set on hard earned money.

Believers or not believers, all pay out charity out of responsibility, or fear or wrath of God, and their heart  bleed for those disadvantaged. There was a time when there were only a limited number of foreign working out of Pakistan, however now one can witness many such organisation at every nook and corner, mosques and community who have been widening their net beyond Pakistan and reaching out to the rest of the world. Unfortunately this work in the name of charity is spreading like a virus or a jungle fire and good cause and intention is fast taking over by an alternate of a profitable business, greed and alternative motives which is exempt of any losses. Some charities use UK as a safe heaven to launder their money and keep their families on trustee’s board to attain full control. Some use duplicating invoices to satisfy charity commission with dubious accounting.

 

 

Using a few examples, I will remind the readers of an article published by “The International News” Newspaper on the 13th September 2012 which gave us a great cause of concern. As the article alleges that a charity named “Trust Foundation” (registered charity number 143229), collected charitable donations of approximately £50,000 in the name of the late Arfa Karim (a star of the nation). Donations were apparently collected in Afra’s name to build an Arfa Karim IT Academy in Palandri, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. However Arfa’s family was neither aware nor involved in this campaign, and were not consulted. The newspaper article stated that “the adverts appeared in the print and web editions of a down market weekly Urdu paper called “UK Time London” during the month of Ramadan. The adverts appealed to over three million British Muslims to donate cash, zakat and alms”. It further states that, “the heartfelt appeal pledged that Arfa Karim IT Academy will provide education to the deprived and orphaned children but the investigations by The News show that there is no such academy built anywhere in Azad Kashmir”. It was claimed by the journalist in his article that the man behind the campaign, Mr. Haq, who is also the publisher and editor of “The UKTL”, said that his charity didn’t launch anything but plans to launch an Arfa Karim Academy in October this year”. Mr. Haq also went on to say that so far he has done nothing except develop Facebook pages of Arfa Karim IT Academy. The article also mentions that “The UK London Times” advertised the Arfa Karim IT Academy, and that Mr. Haq denied advertising the academy.  The article deeply upset Arfa Karim’s family and the community and was neither denied or challenged. Hence it was a great cause of concern for them and the public. Action was taken by lawyers in the public interest and I believe the last I know the matter was being settled by apology ( ‘maafi’ ‘talaafi’) with an assurance that ‘Arfa Karims’ name will never be used by those alleged with an apology. Arfa Karim’s family is running a high profile trust in Lahore in her own name which is making a mark promoting a good cause.

 

To my surprise, again in 2013, an article which was published by “The News International” on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 which gave a great cause of concern. The article alleged that a charity named (MuQ) Minhaj ul Quran International (charity number 1102801) and Minhaj ul Quran Welfare Foundation (charity number 1084057) (hereby collectively known as MuQ) collect a charitable donations and a bulletproof car was purchased for $69,000 allegedly out of those funds.  That article was not challenged in any court of law here and abroad. Donations were collected by the charity for the purposes of Gaza Appeal, Orphan sponsorship, School  student sponsorship , University student sponsorship, Education Initiatives, Hifz sponsorship, Orphan essentials pack, Help feed, Water pump, Emergency relief, Health care initiatives. The charity claimed that it aims to benefit the general public at large.  Muslims in UK are more benefited specially the youngsters and children as is claimed in the summary information which was submitted online by (Dawood Hussain) who is company secretary. The writer and the journalist failed to understand how the purchase of such an expensive (bullet proof land cruiser) vehicle with charity funding is benefiting the general public at large. The accounts submitted to the charity commission show that the MuQ, which, in its last reports in that year, showed a deficit of UK Pounds 200,000, an income of Pounds 1.6 million and expenditure of Pounds 1.8 million. The article also stated that the vehicle was purchased by and signed for by Mr. Dawood Hussain and there is no mention of this in any recent publications of the charity and MUQ denied in press whether any funds were used to buy such vehicle.  The donors to this charity are not aware of this campaign and were not consulted of the change in the nature of the charity; in fact there is no mention of this at all anywhere in accounts. All these various articles have been published in regards to MuQ and their disappointing actions and they have not taken any action against the newspaper which gives rise to a suspicion whether those articles are ‘telling the truth’ which needs a through probe to avoid deception, defrauding public on the name of human misery and misusing charitable funds and or money laundering. Another public interest intervention  has been made to Charity commission seeking regulatory oversight and financial audit of those outfits out there for a regime change than aiding those in dire miseries.

 

In July 14,  2014, news reported that Imran Khan collected funds for political purposes at a Hilton Park Lane on 12th July 2014 event and declared as was quoted that, “  Imran Khan declared that the funds raised in London on Saturday will go towards the August 14 march towards Islamabad. He thanked his supporters for arranging the fundraiser for the August 14 march”. The paper further quoted that, “The News has learnt from a PTI source that the total amount raised was being calculated and could easily reach £100,000. He was sure that “around £80,000” had been collected for sure “but that doesn’t include the direct donations for the party.”

 

In Britain individuals are given full religious liberty and great opportunity to if they are interested in doing a good deed. On numerous occasions though it has been noticed that people employ the services of these organisations to turn their black money into white. Money laundering too is a worrying aspect of such outfits if the money collected for good causes is used for negative actions, terrorism or regime change. Most of these so called charitable organisations do not even have a website, and if they do then there is no mention on these sites about their incoming and outgoing funds. They also have no details about the trustees of these charitable organisations. Audited accounts or the executives who are relatives of the trustees who sit on these projects and mint money. One must ask if these charitable organisations are actually working for the humanity or is there an ulterior motive behind their existence. Is there a possibility that these selfless claims are but just a profitable business. God forbid, I am wrong but media reports are increasing day by day. It will be a good practice if the government of Pakistan keeps checking these transmissions and monitor the working of these organisations and bans those outfits quickly who are bringing  shame to the name of the country and or involved in money laundering, regime change and terrorism. I would on the other hand request that the Pakistani community exposes such sham organisations in order to eradicate this profitable business from their society.

 

Coming to the topic, writer noted that at the time of such clamour in Gaza and Pakistan, PTI legendary cricketer is collecting funds at London’s ace hotels to fund his long march to topple an elected government in Pakistan. It was learnt from news that IK’s PTI collected thousands at local Hilton hotel for the intended long march protest  in Pakistan for regime change over the weekend for which Cricket turned politician travelled specially form Pakistan. “Not a single word” from Imran Khan whom people dearly admire was uttered on Palestinian plight is worrying. All public heard was rigging in a year old election in Pakistan at a time when British activists are protesting over Gaza outside Israeli Embassy depicts the silence and mood of many of our Arch leaders.

 

British Laws do not allow to use its soil for unregistered charities to collect funds for regime change and or for political purposes. British Government must not allow its soil to be used to collect funds for anti democratic movements and for purposes not covered by the scope of law. It was earlier complained MUQ to Charity Commission when they collected funds for orphans and their spiritual leader raised political slogans out of scope of the charity Act 2011. Apparently Imran Khan collected funds for his cause not for Internally displaced Pakistanis as a result of an operation Zarb e Azab or for people of Gaza., not even for (SKMT) Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust hospital which is a cancer hospital in Lahore but to fund his political activity which is disproportionate, immoral and callous and a lot of people are calling to register their protest at such practice.

This is extremely worrying as people put great trust in charities and charitable causes especially one’s which have been registered with the charity commission, and for the donations not to be going where they have been intended and indicated in the published ‘call’ claim or broadcast which is undesirable, unacceptable and worrying. In February 2013, the  Charity commission was again knocked for ‘crystal’ accounting and regulatory accountability. But one thing is for sure that the issue of Foreign Charities coming to UK and using it as a safe haven to collect funds and without accountability settling personal gains is not going to go away easily. It’s a big initiative or molestation of public feelings over natural disasters, or weaker economic situation back home is anybody’s guess. A collective ‘name and shame’ drive is required to detect, deter and defeat the ‘charity ‘mafia’ which is as strong as the land, sugar, property, and gun mafias  so that innocent donors continue donating for good causes which is the core difference between ‘good’, ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’.

 

Imran Khan is coming to Manchester again to continue the exercise of collecting funds for political purposes and a word of wise to him that to abandon his call for long march but to include call for collection for the IDP’s and people of Gaza for which people of Pakistani origin and of Palestine will praise him for denouncing the acts of the oppressor. A leader should not put a ticket of £100 for the public to see him but must be kind to offer himself to public as a role model and khan should use Ramadan fund for IDP’s and people of Gaza not for regime change outside the scope of his Charities under the Law.

 

Barrister Amjad Malik is a Solicitor Advocate of the Supreme Court of England and is a Chair of the Association of Pakistani lawyers and was named ‘young human rights lawyer of the year 2000’ by Liberty , Justice & Law Society Gazette in UK.  -

 

16 July 2014

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