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Arranging Iftar for the not-so-privileged

ISLAMABAD: Kamal Khan, 50, has lived in Rawalpindi for over a decade where he works as a painter. Originally from Mohmand Agency, he now sits at CDA Chowk looking for work, which he barely finds three to four days a week.

`Every year in Ramazan, the chances of finding work fall. But the holy month also brings good news for me, because I get iftar at CDA Chowk every day without having to pay a single rupee,` he said.

Mr Khan sleeps at a roadside stall near Raja Bazaar all year round. He wakes up before sunrise and travels to CDA Chowk on foot.

`I want to sleep on the green strip on I.J.

Principal Road, but I`ve never dared because a number of times people from Fata have been arrested from there.

During Ramazan, Mr Khan has a naan and Qehwa for sehri in Raja Bazaar, and then heads off to CDA Chowk around 4am.

`It takes almost an hour to reach there.

I wait for people, they come and hire me to paint their homes or shops, but I only find work one or two days a week,` he said.

`I sit there until evening, because the owner of a nearby CNG station provides free iftar to people. I have iftar and dinner at the green belt along I.J. Principal Road, and then I start walking toward Raja Bazaar again.

He added: `Whenever I find work people invite me to have iftar with them, but I prefer to go to the green belt because sometimes people just give me iftar and I don`t get dinner.

Mr Khan isn`t the only one who looks forward to Ramazan for this reason. A number of people, including philanthropists, arrange iftar all over the city. A similar arrangement is also made at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) for patients`relatives.

Rahim Bux, a Chakwal native, was sitting at the Pims green belt where he told Dawn that his relative was admitted to the hospital`s medical ward for complications from hepatitis, and he had to stay at Pims because the hospital staff occasionally demands medications.

`I have never missed fasting for the last 20 years, so I am also fasting this Ramazan. However, I don`t have to go out of the hospital or spend money on iftar.An organisation has been arranging meals for patients` relatives, so I get free iftar and not only do I save money but it also becomes possible for me to stay in the hospital so the Pims` staff can reach me any time,` Mr Bux said.

Some individuals and NGOs also distribute iftar boxes at various traffic signals, to ensure that travellers can break their fasts at the right time.

Munir Ahmed, who works in Blue Area and lives in Khayaban-i-Sir Syed, said he couldn`t make it home in time on Thursday and it was nearly time for iftar when he reached the intersection of 9th Avenue and LJ. Principal Road.

`A person approached my car and handed me an iftar box and a bottle of water. It had dates, apricots, a banana, a samosa and pakoras.Ali Nawaz, the accountant at the CNG station that provides free iftar on I.J.

Principal Road near CDA Chowk, said the owner began the practice in 2008 and has continued it every year since.

`In the past, a large number of Pakhtuns from Fata used to come and have iftar but during the last few years, the number of Pakhtuns has decreased, because a large number of people went back to Fata because the police used to arrest them,` he said.

He added that a number of people from nearby areas come for iftar.

`Some truck drivers, and other drivers, also stop their vehicles and have iftar. We have given a contract to a nearby restaurant which arranges the iftar and a few hundred people have iftar every day.When asked, Mr Nawaz said fruit and pakoras are served for iftar, and rice for dinner.

`We provide rice every day, with different recipes. One day we provide chicken rice, then gram rice, vegetable rice and rice with beef.

He added: `I have seen that people`s problems are continuously increasing, so every year the number of people who come to iftar is increasing.

Pims Christian Welfare Organisation President Jasper Gill, who provides iftar along with the Kumak Welfare Organisation, said he makes arrangements for 600 people every day.

`We provide iftar, which includes fruit, and then dinner, which includes chicken korma, pulses with beef, vegetables and so on,` he said. Ikram Junaidi