Militant charities versus US aid

Published: August 12, 2010
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Flood victims look towards an Army helicopter while awaiting evacuation. PHOTO:REUTERS

Flood victims look towards an Army helicopter while awaiting evacuation. PHOTO:REUTERS

The US has announced another $20 million in aid for flood survivors, a day after the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) offered to match the amount if the Pakistani government rejects American aid.

A competition seems to have started between the US, which is stepping up cooperation to win support in Pakistan, and Islamic charities, who the US believes have links to militant organisations. The total amount in aid that the US has so far sent to Pakistani flood survivors is $55 million, including 436,000 halal meals and 12 pre-fabricated bridges as a number of bridges have been washed away in the floods, particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where the floods caused the most devastation and where Islamic charities are most involved in relief efforts.

“We are providing food, clothes, medicines, tents, utensils and Rs5,000 in cash to each family. So far, we have helped 250,000 people,” Atique Chohan, spokesperson for the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, said at a camp in Nowshera.

Banned in Pakistan and on a UN terror list, JuD is one of a number of Islamic organisations that have been highly visible in the battle to help provide relief to millions of survivors. The JuD has especially set up a welfare organisation called the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation. JuD chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is considered a terrorist in India and by the UN. He founded Laskhar-e-Taiba, the Kashmiri militant group outlawed in Pakistan and blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead.

These Islamic charities have moved faster than the government and the latter’s perceived failure seems to have increased support for the former.

“The government gave us tents and nothing else. All goods here have been supplied by affluent and ordinary citizens. We’re getting help from private organisations,” said Jahanas Khan, 50, who was uprooted from his village.

Younger people also seem to agree. “Local religious organisations like the JuD help more,” said 25-year-old taxi driver Ghulam Haider, whose home was swept away in Nowshera.

“Aid from the US and international NGOs can have a tremendous impact but can also go unnoticed by people on the ground who have no idea where it came from,” said Anthony Cordesman, an expert from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington who has advised the Obama administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This seems to ring true for civil servant Aurangzeb Khan, 43, who dropped money into a half-filled transparent glass donation box at the JuD camp in Peshawar. “I would have given it to the government had it done a good job,” he said.

The support seems to have rung alarm bells for the UN as well. The UN’s aid envoy to Pakistan warned on Wednesday that armed militants could take advantage of the country’s worst humanitarian disaster by operating among its displaced victims.

“We all hope that militants will not take advantage of the circumstances to score points by exploiting people driven from their homes by the floods,” Jean-Maurice Ripert, told Le Monde. “The people’s misery can always be exploited by those who have political or militant aims,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

His comment came in response to a question about reports that some local aid groups working for the victims in Pakistan had links to extremists. “For us, the essential thing is to help the Pakistani authorities to work together, set priorities and implement them,” Ripert said. “That is the best response to make to those who want to use the catastrophe for other purposes.”

Published in The Express Tribune August 12th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Realist
    Aug 12, 2010 - 10:49AM

    I guess these are what we call good “terrorists”. After all it has been said, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”.

    George Washington was also branded as a terrorist by the British and so was the IRA (now a part of the Government over there). We need to ponder on the word “terrorist”, who declares someone a “terrorist” and why?Recommend

  • ali hamdani
    Aug 12, 2010 - 12:18PM

    This seems to have become a competition. Where on earth can militants bring in 20 million dollars?? I fail to understand. Pakistan must take US aid and prevent the hungry victims from dying. Negotiation with the militants is like feeding a snake!Recommend

  • Eraj danish
    Aug 12, 2010 - 12:31PM

    The West is always being hampered so much in Pakistan. I praise them for the fact that they have contributed 45 million dollars for the flood victims. I did not have an idea that the figure was this huge. I hope it is utilized with transparency.Recommend

  • Copper
    Aug 12, 2010 - 2:05PM

    The victims will not first analyze from where it came, they just need it and will take it from anyone.Recommend

  • Farukh Sarwar
    Aug 12, 2010 - 2:24PM

    It’s true that people are concerned about the militant groups distributing aid among the affectees; but they are bound to get the aid because of the extent on which the damage is done. That’s why there is a need to streamline the aid distributing organizations, so that any further problems can be avoided.Recommend

  • Yasir Qadeer
    Aug 12, 2010 - 4:54PM

    After killing many now they want to help. We should not let these terrorist organizations exploit this natural disaster as a reason for their glorification.Recommend

  • IZ
    Aug 13, 2010 - 10:40AM

    Lets not get carried away, the militant groups are a drop in the ocean compared to the efforts of many local charities and NGOs – Edhi, Red Crescent and so on are doing much more and on a much wider scale.Recommend

  • Shayan Afzal Khan
    Aug 14, 2010 - 11:41AM

    “Good Terrorists” ?? If they have that sort of money available to them, they should be donating it towards flood relief in any case – and not making the much needed help a bargaining tool.Recommend

  • Mustafa
    Aug 17, 2010 - 4:37PM

    Anyone who is helping flood affectees, could not stop or intend to stop other helping hand whether religious or secular. We should always analyze before accepting any media game point. Recommend

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