By Sajjad Shaukat
In the holy month of Ramadan, people of Pakistan prefer to offer Zakat and Fitrana to the poor. These charity and various other donations, significantly, increase the funds of various militant outfits, as under various disguises, they collect this money which is ultimately used for purchasing weapons and financing terrorism in the country. Hence, preventive measures need to create awareness in the general public on this issue to deny funds to the militants in the month of Ramadan.
In this respect, Individual Land (IL), an Islamabad-based advocacy group spearheading a safe charity awareness campaign said, “Private donations in Pakistan amount to about Rs. 554 billion ($5.3 billion) annually, mostly going to seminaries and mosques and to the poor and homeless.”
ILO Director Gul Mina Bilal said in a charity seminar, “About 78% of Pakistanis give charity, while 69% give charity in the form of money…During our research; we found that it was difficult to know whether the public donations were going to authentic organizations”.
In this context, Abubakkar Yousafzai who works with the Karachi-based Sustainable Peace and Development Organisation (SPADO), which is also holding safe charity awareness campaigns stated, “Pakistani Muslims annually donate billions of rupees in the form of zakat, usher and fitrana…The main challenge is that donors do not know enough about the fundraising group or what their money supports…Militants have found ways to circumvent the government’s admittedly effective ban on their fundraising. For example, they pose as charities to solicit money door to door from businesses and in residential areas. It is high time to educate the people.”
However, general public must ensure that their aims and charity do not aid those people who are involved in murderous rampage in the country. Those mosques, Madaris (religious seminaries) and charity organizations should not be given Zakat and Fitrana which have any association with the terrorists groups like Al-Qaeda, DAISH and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or their affiliated organizations. Different organizations are linked with these banned groups and other extremist organizations which are operating under the guise of welfare organizations.
It is notable that the major terror and sectarian outfits such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan etc. are clandestinely, operating, but still there is no appropriate move from the government to prevent them from collection of Zakat and Fitrana, incuding other charity-donations.
Last year, the Pakistani government prevented the banned radical organizations from collecting Zakat, Sadqa-e-fiter or Fitrana, a donation specially given during the holy month of Ramadan. But militant groups devised new ways to deceive the faithful.
In this regard, people should know that these terrorist groups and their linked religious organizations use social media and mobile phones to collect charity-donations. Notably, in metropolitan cities like Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar; various banned outfits changed their names to continue collection of Zakat and Fitrana, including other charity-donations.
It is mentionable that the National Action Plan (NAP) is essential part of Pakistan’s war against terrorism, as it has co-relationship with the military operation Zarb-i-Azb against the militants, including other related-issues of Madaris. One of the important points of the NAP is stop funding of the militant groups, while introducing registration and reforms of Madaris.
Public must be aware of the fact that Pakistan Army has given countless sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. In this respect, majority of terror attacks have been foiled/averted and it is only the odd incidents which manage to succeed.
Being responsible citizens, we should be alert and refrain from unknown charity-collectors who could collect Zakat and Fitrana, under the guise of the banned groups. People must know that this will make them equally responsible of terrorists’ sins and crimes.
Particularly, there should be a strict watch from government side on all charitable organizations. Action must be taken against illegal charity-collectors and their financial channels must be traced to avoid or deter the terrorist groups from executing their activities which we have witnessed in the country.
Disrupting terrorists’ financing network is essential to combat terrorism, as without effective check on terrorist financing—fight against terrorism may not produce desired results. Although the government has taken a number of steps to curb flow of terrorists’ funds, yet it requires extensive media campaign to create awareness in general public regarding terrorists’ fund-raising system. The real faces of terrorists must also be unveiled to deny their monetary support.
People must be informed, especially through the electronic media that Zakat, Fitrana and other charity-donations are actually aimed at helping poor masses, beggars, needy orphans and widows. Militant organizations collect money under various pretexts including Madaris, Jihad and welfare of aggrieved and deprived Muslims. But the money generated by them is spent on suicide bombings and other terrorist activities. While, many Ulema (Religious scholars) have issued Fatwas (Religious verdicts) that it is not permissible to give Zakat and Fitrana to these anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan organizations. Again such Fatwas must be issued.
The government must instruct the law-enforcing agencies that if banners and posters are fixed on the walls or prominent points—appealing the people for these donations which will, directly or indirectly, benefit militant outfits must be removed. Otherwise, such charity organizations will remain a serious concern, because many of them are responsible for spreading militancy by means of enormous financial support they receive from public as charity.
Now, this ‘different war’ demands cooperation of the people with the security agencies, which is essential to win this war against terrorism. Therefore, public must be bewared, while donating Zakat and Fitrana, including other charity-donations to the deserving people and institutes, as the militant groups can again avail the opportunity in this holy month of Ramadan.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations