Eidul Azha: Billion-rupee hides and its middleman politics

Oct 16, 2013| Courtesy by : tribune.com.pk

By Rabia Ali / Noman Ahmed

This year, there is no middleman – Pakistan Tanners’ Association has decided to keep its hands off being the intermediary between buyers and sellers as a few seminary-run charities have ‘failed to honour their commitments’.

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If it’s not about meat on Eidul Azha, it’s about hides. Charities as well political parties advertise heavily, asking for donations of hides of sacrificed animals. In Karachi, where over one million hides are collected from animal sacrifices every year, tanneries are expected to pay around Rs3 billion for them.

Until last year, the association used to take up the responsibility of an arbitrator between its members and a majority of charity organisations by putting their hides out to tender and inviting sealed bids from tannery owners for fair and safe deals between the parties.

“This will not happen this time as the behaviour of some ‘maulvi sahiban’ had put the association into a difficult position for the last couple of years,” said Shaikh Afzal Hussain, a PTA central executive member, while talking to The Express Tribune. Now, all charity organisations will conduct their business with the tanneries of their preference and most of it will go officially undocumented from the public records, he explained.

Meanwhile, Gulzar Firoz, the vice president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) and a former PTA president, said that by reserving a specified security deposit, the association had compelled its member tanneries to conform to transaction procedures. “In this way, the association used to serve as the guarantor of the entire buying and selling hides,” he explained.

Meanwhile, going by the numbers put up by the leather industry, the rates for cowhides as well as goatskins have gone up by at least 15 per cent as compared to the last year.  “This year, a cow hide is expected to fetch as much as Rs3,600 while Rs625 is the expected amount for goatskin,” said Hussain.

The ‘political’ attitude

The two big players in the business, Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Jamaat-e-Islami’s alKhidmat Foundation, will also continue to follow their past practice of keeping themselves disassociated from the association’s intermediary role to, according to PTA officials, “keep their business dealings classified.”

For a last couple of years, charity organisations refused to make themselves liable by paying a security deposit to the PTA. “In absence of a security deposit from one party, the association had no way to ask the charity organisations to stick to the agreements that they had made with our members,” said an official.

Meanwhile, charity organisations associated with political parties received fewer hides as compared to seminaries and non-government charitable organisations like the Edhi Foundation. This had provoked the former to use other means, which are often characterised as coercive. “The beneficiary of most of the earnings will be political organisations through their welfare wings,” said the Edhi Foundation’s spokesperson, Anwar Kazmi.

Exactly how much each charity organisation earns through hides remains a mystery. MQM is the party that claims to have the highest number of skins collected during Eidul Azha and even declares to ‘break records’ without disclosing the figure of hides collected.

However, a party official vaguely told The Express Tribune that the MQM collects 60 to 80 per cent of all hides from the city.

A party’s spokesperson, Aminul Haque, however said that the MQM ‘break records’ because citizens of Karachi tend to trust the party while those who point fingers at the MQM have been thoroughly rejected. “Thousands of people donate animal hides to the MQM at their own will while our volunteers also go door-to-door to collect skins.”

Conversely, the spokesperson of Alkhidmat Foundation, the JI’s charitable wing, blamed the MQM for bringing in the violence and coercion in collection of hides. “This is very obvious as the party (MQM) wishes to have complete hegemony over anything and everything in Karachi,” said Syed Hasan Ahmed. “There was no such tradition of hides getting snatched or people being coerced into giving them to a specific political group before MQM’s inception.”

For the skins collected by Alkhidmat, explained Ahmed, a proposal is prepared around a month before Eidul Azha along with the organisation’s expected collection for the year. These proposals are then sent to a number of tannery owners to invite quotations and the organisation reaches an agreement with the tannery offering best rates. 

Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2013.