Friday, December 12, 2008
Residence of Hafiz Saeed where he was placed under house arrest. Inset, the organizations offices sealed by police.
The International Crisis Group
"Earthquake Jihad: The Role of Jihadis and Islamist Groups after the October 2005 Earthquake"
24 July 2006
Pakistan’s jihadi groups and other Islamist ‘humanitarian’ groups played a prominent role in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in the aftermath of the 8 October earthquake. They conducted relief and reconstruction work, provided health services, organised and managed displacement camps and carried out needs assessments. This article explores the part these groups played, reviews how international humanitarian actors engaged with them and outlines the political consequences of their activities, locally, nationally and regionally.
The jihadi and Islamist ‘humanitarian’ response
Pakistan has 58 Islamic religious parties, and 24 known Islamist militant groups operate in the country. At least 17 Islamist groups banned by President Pervez Musharraf’s government undertook relief and reconstruction work in the aftermath of the earthquake. These jihadi and Islamist organisations were also prominent in camp management, running 37 out of the 73 organised camps in and around Pakistani-administered Kashmir’s capital, Muzaffarabad. These groups had a presence in every affected district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) in the Neelum and Jehlum valleys, including Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Hattian, Dhir Kot, Rawalakot, Haveli and Athmuqam. In their response to the earthquake, jihadi and Islamist ‘humanitarian’ groups drew on their existing infrastructure in AJK, their knowledge of the local terrain and their close cooperation with the Pakistan army, which provided logistical support and other facilities, including helicopters, to enable the jihadis to continue their work.
Prominent Islamist ‘humanitarian’ foundations and jihadi groups
The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) and the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) are the two largest Islamist political parties in Pakistan. Both have prominent social wings. The JUI is in a coalition government with Musharraf’s Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-I-Azam (PML-Q) in NWFP and Balochistan provinces. The JUI is an ardent supporter of the ousted Taliban regime in Afghanistan, while the JI controls the Hizbul Mujahideen, a major militant organisation operating in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Al Khair Trust, which is connected to JUI, has been heavily supported by the Pakistani military in its relief and reconstruction work, especially in AJK. The Al Khidmat Foundation, set up by JI, was one of the main organisations coordinating, collecting and distributing goods in the earthquake-affected region, and also coordinated manpower from other international organisations. The Al Khidmat Foundation’s subsidiary organisations include the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, the Pakistan Engineers Forum, the Ghazali Education Trust, and the JI’s Islami Jamiat Talaba (student wing) and Tanzeem al-Asataza (teachers’ wing).
Other prominent jihadi groups conducting relief work include:
• The Al Rasheed Trust, a Sunni organisation based in Karachi which grew out of the banned Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammad. Jaish-e-Mohammad was proscribed by the Pakistani government in 2002. The Al Rasheed Trust is banned by the United Nations Security Council, but the Pakistani government has not outlawed it.
• Jamaat-ud-Dawa grew out of the banned Islamist militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is known to have militant training camps in AJK, and has been at the forefront of the fighting in Indian-administered Kashmir. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s ‘humanitarian arm’, the Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq, maintained a field hospital in Muzaffarabad and Balakot. It also operated ambulance services and surgical camps, constructed 1,000 shelters and provided electricity through generators.
Jihadi and Islamist groups were the first to conduct rescue operations, establish initial medical emergency camps, surgical units and dispensaries for earthquake survivors and send assessment teams to isolated areas. They raised a volunteer army of thousands of madrassa students. Jihadi outfits and Islamist groups provided doctors, clinics, x-ray services, dental care, reconstruction materials, ambulance services, burials and mosque rebuilding. They also cared for orphans, the displaced and widows. They organised mule transport for relief goods to isolated areas, and commandeered lifting equipment and tents. In the reconstruction phase, these groups have established programmes providing cheap reconstruction materials and subsidised saw mills.
Interaction with international humanitarian actors
Whether knowingly or out of ignorance, international humanitarian actors (NGOs, the UN and foreign military assistance teams) established working relationships with some of the banned jihadi groups and other Islamist ‘humanitarian’ groups, either supplying relief goods to jihadi camps or coordinating distributions with Islamist groups. UNHCR supplied camps managed by the JI and Al Rasheed with shelters, Jamaat-ud-Dawa distributed US relief aid and an American surgeon operated in a Jamaat-ud-Dawa relief camp. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is reported to have worked with the ICRC, WHO, UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR and Khalsa Aid (a pan-Sikh humanitarian agency). Jamaat-ud-Dawa claimed that it received funding from Indonesia and Turkey, and Indonesian and Turkish doctors worked as volunteers in hospitals and clinics that it sponsored. Meanwhile, non-sectarian organisations like the Edhi Foundation were overlooked by the UN and international NGOs.
There is no reason why international NGOs, regardless of the urgency of the earthquake, interacted with these banned jihadi groups or Islamist humanitarian actors. The jihadis were brought in from outside the region in the aftermath of the earthquake, although options existed in secular mainstream civil society groups or NGOs, which were instead marginalised or not engaged by the international NGOs. This has contributed to building the capacity and legitimacy of Islamist groups in AJK, and has raised their profile as humanitarian actors. A number of possible consequences flow from this.
The ramifications of the role of jihadi and Islamist ‘humanitarian’ groups in the earthquake response
The most important implications of jihadi and Islamist involvement in the earthquake response are likely to be felt in the education sector. AJK is one of the country’s most literate regions, and the earthquake destroyed almost all of its education institutions. Integral to jihadi and Islamist relief efforts was the establishment of schools and madrassas for young people in AJK. The Deobandi Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabiya (Pakistan’s largest union of madrassas) plans to build 1,500 mosques and 300 madrassas in AJK and NWFP. The purely Islamic education that these institutions will provide will inevitably sideline provincial/state curricula. In the medium and long term, if the jihadis and Islamist groups are allowed to continue with their rigid religious curriculum this will radicalise the young in AJK, and will form a convenient recruiting base for the militant activities of these organisations. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa has openly called for all orphans to be handed over to the organisation for an ‘Islamic education’. ... more ....
It remains unclear whether the educational facilities run by Jamat-ud-Dawa including the 5,000 student complex in Muridke will be seized and shut down, or taken over by the Government, or handed over to some other charity or NGO. Most likely these will be allowed to run by the Wafaq-ul-Madaris or another such body under Government sponsorship because if shut, the students will have to be accommodated elsewhere when no Government run school infrastructure exists providing not only free tuition but free boarding & lodging as well.
That will not solve the problem though. As Hafiz Saeed said yesterday in a televised phone conversation "Jihad is a religious obligation, and we cannot stop teaching our children that". If Jihad equates terrorism, shutting Jamat-ud-Dawa will not stop that being taught even if the Government takes over the Dawa-run institutions.
Second problem will be the charity-funded and volunteer-staffed relief facilities. With the parent organization out-lawed, the charity collection and volunteer work by its thousands of members would become illegal. Who will then fund or staff these? It remains to be seen.
Third problem is where will the out-lawed workers go and what will they do? My own feeling is now that they'll no more be occupied with the harmless 'Jihad' activities of welfare work, many will drift off to the active 'Jihad' outfits with an AK-47.
Have we then exacerbated the problem by banning Jamat-ud-Dawa or solved it?
Posted by Zeemax at 2:50 PM