There is something to be said for the charitable spirit of Pakistanis in crisis situations

KARACHI: On April 6th, the Pakistani community in Japan joined hands with the staff of the Embassy of Pakistan in Tokyo to distribute masks and other essential items among people at a busy thoroughfare in the Japanese capital to help in the fight against the spread of the deadly coronavirus. 

In just a few hours, thousands of face masks and other items of need that help in protection against the virus were distributed among Tokyoites. Since charity is a novel concept in the highly organised society of Japan, the photos and videos of the distribution quickly went viral on the internet.

On social networking platform Twitter, Japanese users shared the photos for political point-scoring against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A few hours prior to the distribution, PM Abe had imposed a state of emergency in the country to fight the pandemic, promising delivery of protective masks to citizens at their homes.

However, the masks never arrived, and the Japanese public took out their anger on PM Abe by sharing photos of the distribution in Tokyo as evidence that he had failed to keep his promise. Overnight, the Pakistanis, who form a very small part of foreigners present in the Pacific nation, became mini-celebrities. 

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The bizarre episode also went viral on the internet in Pakistan, for different reasons. Prior to the distribution, a member of the Pakistani community recited the Azaan out loud. The spectre of a Muslim man reciting the call to prayer on a busy Tokyo street, without being harassed for it, stirred the believers across Pakistan. 

“The Pakistani community is helping the people of Japan in their time of need. Times are tough in Pakistan, but they are equally tough in Japan, and we want to tell the Japanese that Pakistanis stand by them during this crisis,” Hafiz Mehar Shamas, a Pakistani businessman in Japan, said.

“Charity is a novel concept here. I think that is why pictures and videos of the distribution of masks went viral,” he added. When asked to comment on what drove him to charity work, Shamas said it was patriotism and religion. “We want to improve the image of Pakistan. We also thank the Almighty for helping us do the right thing,” he said. 

The statement by the businessman and the importance given to the recitation of the call to prayer before charity work began highlights the motivations behind the giving spirit of many Pakistanis. In their home country, and across the globe, Pakistanis have been leading virus relief efforts.