Muslim NGOs take part in Pakistan flood relief

West worries militants exploiting Pakistan flood victims


Muslim charities, many of them banned by the United States for supporting Taliban or al-Qaeda, have taken major part in Pakistan’s flood relief to fill the vacuum left by a government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster and struggling to reach millions of people in dire need of shelter, food and clean water.

Like the massive earthquake which hit the country in late 2005, Muslim NGOs and Islamic trusts have once again overtaken the government and global agencies in responding to the flood catastrophe and reaching out to victims with rescue and rehabilitation operations.

The situation has sent waves of concern among Western countries, especially the United States, which fears that militant groups could exploit relief efforts to recruit more fighters and worsen the security situation in the region.

Top government officials in Islamabad confirmed the presence and operations of Muslim NGOs in flood-affected areas, particularly in the Pakhtoon dominated province of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and northern tribal areas.

“These NGOs have been there for over many decades and enjoy mass support, therefore, their presence can’t be instantly removed,” said a top official.

Among the Muslim aid groups busy in flood relief operations prominent are Jamaat-ud-Dawah, Al Rasheed Trust, Al-Khidmat Foundation, Al-Akhtar Trust and over a dozen smaller ones. Though Jamaat-ud-Dawah is not legally banned by Islamabad but the group was outlawed by the UN under India’s pressure in connection with the allegations of its involvement in Mumbai attacks and patronizing Kashmiri freedom fighter groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Al-Rasheed Trust was also banned by Washington for helping out Taliban government in rehabilitation and reconstruction works. It was also banned by Islamabad and is believed to be working under a new name. Similarly, Al-Akhtar Trust and other smaller NGOs of the likes were accused in the past of supporting Taliban and Al-Qaeda operations.

Though Al-Khidmat Foundation is not banned by Washington, yet it is considered as potential supporter of Islamic militants because of being affiliated with country’s top Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

These NGOs have been there for over many decades and enjoy mass support, therefore, their presence can’t be instantly removed

A top local govt official

Government response

Responding to Washington’s concerns, the government of the affected region, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, issued notices to all local NGOs requiring them to register with army dominated National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) or wind up their activities within next 72 hours.

But Lashkar-e-Taiba groups rejected the call saying: “We are not terrorists and the High Court has exonerated us of terrorism charges since neither government nor Washington had proved anything against us in the court,” said a spokesman for, adding that “the West, specially Washington always act against us upon New Delhi’s prompting because of our moral support to Kashmiri freedom struggle.”

Pakistani officials feel that Washington and western countries have been slow and tightfisted in responding to Islamabad’s help appeals, but quick to issue warnings against resurgence of Islamic militancy which was finding its way only because of west’s abstinence from leading the relief activities generously.

Washington has also warned Islamabad against western aid falling into the hands of Taliban, forcing Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik to furnish assurances that such concern will be taken care of.

Former U.S. presidential candidate Senator John Kerry who is on a visit to Pakistani flood hit areas sounded concerns that vacuum left by hesitating western governments would be filled up by Muslim NGOs that would give rise to Islamic militancy out of the flood catastrophe.