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No checks on banned militant organisations collecting donations – by Ammar Shahbazi


KARACHI: Camouflaged under different names, a number of banned militant organisations are operating in Karachi with impunity — ravenously pocketing Zakat and other Ramazan-related charities in the country’s financial hub.

The banned al-Rasheed Trust and Al-Akhtar Trust and the charity wings of even Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba are openly collecting donations in Karachi. Some of these organisations are allegedly linked with the Taliban and al-Qaeda — and are operating under different names to evade identity.

“The practice has been going on for years but recently there has been a surge in their activities in the city,” believes Col (retd) Tauqirul Islam, a security analyst. “These organisations are also assiduously working at the micro level by sending seminary children door to door and pushing donation boxes at mosques after the Friday prayers.”

An organisation by the name of Maymar Trust is allegedly working as the welfare front for Al-Rasheed Trust while Al-Rehmat Trust is reportedly the charity wing of JeM. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) is the visible face of the LeT, while the Al-Akhter Trust has morphed into Pakistan Relief Foundation.

“Most banned organisations working with impunity in Karachi and other parts of the country are mainly Kashmir-centric,” says Amir Rana, the director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS). “But they are banned and dangerous certainly as some of them may have extended ties with al-Qaeda.”

Rana agrees that almost all of them have some sort of charity work going on. “But you cannot really tell if the money is totally being used for charitable purposes or not.”

The welfare organisations insist they are operating within the legal framework. “We do not have any political affiliations or agenda,” said Farooq Shah, a spokesperson of the Maymar Trust. “The reason the media maligns us is because the organisation is being run under the supervision of Ulema.”

The trust is a progressive social organisation with umpteen examples to show, he claims. “We have never differentiated between people even in the name of religion.”

Shah went on to say that during the recent floods in Sindh, the trust had even distributed relief goods among the Hindus. “We encourage women empowerment. I do not know why the media is so critical of our organisation.”

Anas Mufti, the spokesperson of Al-Rehmat Trust — the alleged charity wing of JeM — admitted that his organisation worked for the rehabilitation of the families of Kashmiri freedom fighters among other social activities.

“That’s one of our major areas,” he said. “We have a network of more than 40 seminaries across the country, which we run through these funds and Karachi is one of our key financing hubs.”

“The Kashmir cause sells in Pakistan,” explains PIPS director Rana. “People do give money to these organisations, if not for militancy at least for their [militants] rehabilitation.”

But Nadeem Ahmed, the JuD spokesperson, denies any links with the Kashmir cause downright. “JuD is a registered organisation with declared [bank] accounts dedicated for all sorts of humanitarian work,” he asserts.

The Lahore High Court has dropped all kinds of charges against the welfare organisation. “[So] we are operating on the ground legally,” he said. “It’s the Indian media that propagates lies against us, and which the Pakistani media swallows.”

The provincial home ministry seems clueless about these “morphed” organisations and there is no mechanism to deal with the issue. “I think the Sindh government needs to have a meticulous look at the situation and screen out organisations that are collecting funds for vested motives,” said the adviser on home affairs to the Sindh chief minister, Sharfuddin Memon.

He added that these organisations should not be allowed to collect money in cash. “Each and every penny they collect should be referred to a bank for a proper check on scrutinising the cash inflow of the organisation,” Memon recommended.

He suggested that the public should also be made aware of the risks of donating money to these organisations. “The government should launch campaigns to inform the public about the risk associated with donating money to banned organisations,” the adviser said. “At times we get carried away because somebody is asking for it. Don’t do it. The money may get back at you.”

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Shahram Ali


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