UN: Militant-linked charity on front line in Pak quake relief

Jamaat-ud-Dawa volunteers distribute free medicine to people affected by the earthquake in the Rehankot village in district Upper Dir, Pakistan.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa volunteers distribute free medicine to people affected by the earthquake in the Rehankot village in district Upper Dir, Pakistan.

The United Nations says Pakistani charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a front for a deadly militant group blamed for a bloody 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai. But to survivors of this week’s earthquake, the group’s aid workers are heroes.

About 2,000 Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) volunteers fanned out across northern Pakistan after Monday’s quake, highlighting the orgadisnization’s well-oiled disaster response and ability to work alongside the military.

JuD’s freedom to operate despite US and UN sanctions contrasts sharply with an intensifying crackdown on international aid groups.

It also spotlights Pakistan’s continuing reluctance to reign in anti-India militants, a potential flashpoint between the nuclear-armed neighbors. India says Pakistan uses militants as proxy forces to attack India, charges that Pakistan denies.

This week, Pakistani Information Minister Pervez Rashid told media that banned groups would not be allowed to provide aid.

But 50-year-old herbal healer Najib Alam, whose mud-and-stone house was damaged by the 7.5 magnitude quake, says the JuD are the only charity in his mountain village of Rehankot in the Upper Dir region.

“JuD are the only people here,” Alam said, the floor of his wrecked home trembling as he pointed out missing chunks of wall.

The village’s winding alleys were littered with rubble; atop one pile lay the remains of a Qur’anic inscription from the wall of a mosque.

“Maybe those who preach humanitarianism like the US should come here and help us,” Alam said.

The United Nations and United States say they sanctioned JuD and its sister organization, the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, because they exploit disasters to raise volunteers and funds for militants.

They say JuD is a front for Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, which carries out attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The disputed Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Lashkar-e-Taiba was also blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attack in which 166 people were killed.

In three hours after this week’s quake, a single Lahore-based JuD worker, Muhammad Zubair, told Reuters he raised 1,000,000 Pakistani rupees (nearly $10,000) for relief supplies. JuD declined to say how much it had raised in total.

JuD members say they are unjustly accused.

“This is propaganda. The UN put sanctions on Jamaat ud Dawa but we were never told what terrorism we do, and neither has anyone ever proven any allegation of terrorism against us,” said Abdur Rauf, head of JuD’s humanitarian relief operations.

Rauf was designated a “global terrorist” by the United States in 2010.

The JuD has 30,000 volunteers and hundreds of workers, paid between $100 and $200 a month, Rauf and other JuD officials said. It also pays for about 500,000 copies of weekly publications and runs 300 seminaries.

JuD publicly disavows armed militancy. It promotes conservative Islamic rule and calls for Pakistan to retake Indian-administered Kashmir.

On Wednesday, JuD founder Hafiz Saeed, who also led LeT before it was sanctioned, issued a statement blaming Pakistan’s “un-Islamic” government and “public vulgarity.”

After the Mumbai attack, the United States offered $10 million for information leading to Saeed’s arrest and conviction.


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