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Pakistan book drive ceased as Dubai initiative tackles charity law

DUBAI // The 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 750kg of books that were to go to a library in Islamabad donated by former Dubai resident Ali Raza Jafry are now just gathering dust at TCS Express Worldwide.

TCS had offered to deliver the books for free but cannot do it due to incomplete paperwork.

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

He said TCS has asked the Dubai-based Pakistani organisers to supply the correct 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 will be shipped immediately.

Lawyer Yamini Rajesh, of Engy Nabeel Advocates & Legal Consultants, said only NGOs registered in Dubai or overseas can organise fundraising 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 charity cause should have prior approval through charity organisations licensed by 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 give donors peace of mind that their money and efforts are going towards reputable causes and not to crooks.

Maha Khan, an English teacher at the British Council and the founder of Kitaabie, said that they are in the process of getting registered and could not give further details until the work is done.

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

“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” in Arabic, was motivated by the UAE naming 2016 as the Year of Reading.

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The National