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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Pakistan book drive ceased as Dubai initiative tackles charity law

More than 1,000 books set for Pakistani children have been held up for nearly seven months due to bureaucracy.
Maha Khan, founder of the Kitaabie initiative, second left, says the process of registration is under way. Antonie Robertson / The National
Maha Khan, founder of the Kitaabie initiative, second left, says the process of registration is under way. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // Delivery of more than 1,000 books for children in Pakistan has been on hold for almost seven months after the shipment was caught up in red tape.

In April the first batch of books in the Kitaabie initiative, which aims to establish libraries every 100km in Pakistan, were due to leave the UAE but they have been held up in the courier’s storage space as organisers of the drive have still to be licensed as an official charity and provide the correct paperwork.

About 750 kilograms of books that were to go to a library in Islamabad, donated by former Dubai resident Ali Raza Jafry, are now gathering dust at TCS Express Worldwide.

TCS had offered to ship the books free of charge but could not because of incomplete ­paperwork.

“It is correct that we have been unable to ship the books to ­Pakistan,” said Mark Woodcock, managing director of TCS International. “The charity does not yet have the legal right to bring the books to Pakistan. In the meantime, TCS is storing a considerable number of boxes of books safely, at no cost.”

He said TCS had asked the ­Dubai-based Pakistani organisers to supply the licences, an income tax certificate, an undertaking letter that the books are not for commercial purpose and a letter for customs officials in Pakistan for waiving duty and tax charges. Once supplied, Mr Woodcock said, the books would be shipped immediately.

Lawyer Yamini Rajesh, of Consultants For Advocacy And Legal Affairs, said only NGOs registered in Dubai or overseas can organise fund-raising events or collections and only after acquiring permission from the authorities.

“According to the new law issued in April this year, anyone who wants to do anything to raise funds or wants to collect goods for any charitable cause should have prior approval through charity organisations licensed by the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (Iacad). Failure to do so can result in a jail sentence of up to one year or a fine of up to Dh100,000,” she said.

Ms Rajesh said that the purpose of the new law was to reassure donors that their money and efforts were going to reputable causes.

Maha Khan, an English teacher at the British Council and the founder of Kitaabie, said the process of registration was under way but declined to share further details.

“Keeping in mind the laws of the UAE, I have to ensure that it does not cross the guidelines,” she said.

“I have been approached by many people who want to give me more books but all have been put on hold until we get ­licensed here.

“As far as the books collected before are concerned, they are packed and stored at TCS’s ­office and will remain there until we come to a conclusion. In the meantime, if any schools from here require books, I am willing to donate.”

Kitaabie, which means My Book, took shape after the UAE declared 2016 as the Year of Reading.

akhaishgi@thenational.ae

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