Villains for UN, heroes for quake-hit

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Villains for UN, heroes for quake-hit
Workers of Jamaat-ud-Dawa load relief aid for earthquake survivors onto a truck in Lahore on Friday.

Rehankot - Dubbed as a terrorist, Jamaat-ud-Dawa is on the front line to help quake victims.

By Reuters

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Published: Fri 30 Oct 2015, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 31 Oct 2015, 11:15 AM

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 Islamist aid workers are heroes.
About 2,000 Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) volunteers fanned out across northern Pakistan after Monday's quake, highlighting the organisation'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, some of which the government says are involved in anti-state activities.
It also spotlights Pakistan's continuing reluctance to reign in anti-India militants, a potential flashpoint between the nuclear-armed neighbours. India says Pakistan uses militants as proxy forces to attack India, charges that Pakistan denies. India has also given a free hand to some state actors to attack Pakistan and the treatment meted out to some Pakistani dignitaries recently by the extremist Shiv Sena in that country has not been condemned by the BJP government. This week, 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 is 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.
"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 organisation, the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, because they exploit disasters to raise volunteers and funds for militants.
They say JuD is a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, which carries out attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir. The disputed Himalayan region is divided between Pakistan and India and claimed by both. Lashkar-e-Taiba had been busy fighting Indian rule in Kashmir for decades.
In three hours after this week's quake, a single Lahore-based JuD worker, Mohammed Zubair, said he raised Rs1,000,000 (nearly $10,000) for relief supplies. JuD declined to say how much it had raised in total. JuD members say they are unjustly accused and targeted.
"This is a propaganda. The UN put sanctions on Jamaatud 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, under Indian influence, offered $10 million for information leading to Saeed's arrest and conviction. Charities such as JuD are growing in strength as Pakistan cracks down on international aid groups, accusing some of being spies.
The clampdown began after it emerged that the CIA had used a doctor who had contact with an international aid group to hunt for Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, killed in a 2011 raid. Pakistanis have long complained that many of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are involved in anti-state and anti-social activities.
Recently, the interior ministry announced plans to vet all international NGOs. The ministry will cancel registrations of any group carrying out work contrary to the "national interest". The government imposes few restrictions on JuD, Rauf said.
"Everyone is co-ordinating and collaborating," he said, referring to his teams, the government and military.
Many of the group's medical camps across the region were set up in government hospitals. - Reuters

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