It all started randomly at a group of friends’ casual meeting one day. What began as just another initiative three decades ago has grown into a full-fledged community organisation that has served the local Pakistani expatriate community with its cultural and educational activities.
Starting with philanthropic work, Pak Arts Society-Qatar (PAS-Q) gradually but steadily evolved into an organisation that has brought to Qatar the biggest names in literature and scholars from Pakistan and elsewhere.
Currently chaired by M A Shahid and presided over by Abrar Hussain, PAS-Q had humble beginnings with a different name in mid-1980s. And their first public participation programme was intended to raise funds for a school for the blind in Pakistan.
“We (a group of friends) met over tea one day and were discussing a news article where some philanthropist has donated sewing machines to women. Some of us criticised and disregarded it as a mere publicity stunt but then we paused,” recalls Adeel Akbar, the General Secretary of PAS-Q, while talking to Community in a chat recently.
“We said let’s put the news article aside. What are we doing to help people in need. So just like that it started and we planned our first programme and raised funds for a school for the blind in Pakistan. We named the organisation as Saday-e-Dost (A Friend in Deed),” he adds.
Akbar is the one man who has been actively working from behind the scenes in almost every PAS-Q initiative, and has been instrumental in its organisational success. He has multiple talents that he has demonstrated through his work over decades.
Akbar has been an event manager, a producer and a programme conductor. A literature buff, he has been instrumental in inviting scholars and writers such as Ashfaq Ahmed and Justice (R) Javed Iqbal to Qatar for lectures.
“I think I inherited the love for literature and poetry from my father. It has always been there with me from childhood and my early teenage years when I regularly used to attend literary and art programmes in Lahore’s National College of Arts in Pakistan,” says Akbar.
He attributes his passion for philanthropy and charity work to his father also. Akbar arrived in Qatar in 1979 as a teenager pursuing better future prospects. Working in a government department, it took him 5-6 years to settle down.
Once on his feet, Akbar turned to look for philanthropy opportunities and found like-minded friends. Not long after that, the foundations of PAS-Q were laid. The organisation that started as Saday-e-Dost changed names on different stages and finally became PAS-Q, known as a literary organisation and famous for its unique scholarly events.
“Our early few programmes were very different from each other. The first was charity and the second was about helping the community in different aspects. All of our work was completely not-for-profit,” says Akbar.
They organised a programme for the community where they introduced audio cassettes from Pakistan, programmed to teach the Qur’an to children. The initiative was meant to help members of the Pakistani community.
“It has always been a team work. All our members are die-hard social workers and selfless human beings. They have always been ready to help and support others and that is why PAS-Q has been so successful,” acknowledges Akbar.
He recalls organising an event promoting Pakistani tourism through a cultural programme held at Sheraton Doha Hotel more than a decade ago. Akbar says the event was visited by over 7,000 people and it showcased Pakistani arts and crafts with live demonstrations by goldsmiths and other craftsmen.
“It was a kind of record to attract this many people to a community event back then. More than 17 ambassadors from different countries attended it and it had the complete patronage of Pakistan embassy in Qatar,” says Akbar.
Following his passion, Akbar says his biggest achievement in life has been to learn to become a better human being who is always willing and ready to help others in need.
Qatar, he says, has been his second home. “I have spent more time of my life in Qatar than I have in Pakistan. I was 19-year-old when I first arrived here. I have never felt like a stranger in this country and all I have gained in my life was from here,” says Akbar.
Since 1989, Akbar has been a member of the Management Committee of Pak Shamaa School and College, one of the oldest expatriate schools in Doha established in 1958.
He has also produced many shows, including a musical programme held in Lahore named “Sham-e-Lahore.” The video of this programme was simultaneously released from Qatar and UK. The programme featured famous Pakistani vocalist Saira Naseem as a child star.
Some of the eminent scholars that PAS-Q has invited over the years include Allama Javed Ahmad Ghamdi, Amjad Islam Amjad, Ashfaq Ahmad and his wife Bano Qudsia, Bushra Rehman, Dr Fateh Muhammad Malik, Dr Ghulam Murtaza Malik, Dr Justice (Retd) Nasim Hasan Shah, Dr Justice (R) Javaid Iqbal, Dr Muhammad Munawar Mirza, Dr Rafique Ahmad and others.
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