In The True Face of Jehadis, Amir Mir, Pakistan’s well-known investigative journalist, focuses on the militant Islamic groups, their links with the military and intelligence establishment of Pakistan, and how terror charities are thriving in the aftermath of the earthquake in October 2005

Despite being decl- ared as terrorist support organisations by the United States and having their bank accounts frozen by Pakistan for their alleged al-Qaeda links, three banned Islamic charities — Al-Rashid Trust, Al-Akhtar Trust and Ummah Tameer-e-Nau — took full advantage of the October 8, 2005 earthquake in the Pakistan-administered Azad Kashmir, using it as an opportunity to come out in the open, revive themselves and resume their so-called social welfare activities. The banned Islamic charities actively participated in the relief operations in the quake-hit areas as a result of the Pakistani government’s failure to get aid to the most remote areas.

Kashmiri children carry relief supplies in earthquake-hit Muzaffarabad, PoK
Kashmiri children carry relief supplies in earthquake-hit Muzaffarabad, PoK. — Photo by Reuters

Islamic charities in Pakistan collect billions of dollars every year, much of which, they say, is used for the benevolent causes these charities openly support. But as a matter of fact, large sums are overtly and covertly channelled to many of the leading militant groups still operating in Pakistan, despite being banned by the government.

Over the years, most of the Pakistan-based jehadi groups established an efficient network to generate as well as transfer funds from one place to another. The most common sources of their funding include donations from well-off businessmen committed to the cause of Islam, donations collected through zakat (the compulsory 2.5 per cent of their annual savings that every Muslim has to donate as charity every year) and collection from places of worship. But, lately, Muslim charity organisations have become a major source of financing for militant groups in many countries, especially Pakistan.


However, after the American intelligence agencies came to know that the World Trade Center bombing was financed through money coming from a Muslim charity organisation called the Alkifah Refugee Centre in Brooklyn, New York, they immediately turned their scrutiny to Muslim charities, resulting in the eventual closure of several operating from Pakistan, including Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, Al-Rashid Trust and Al-Akhtar Trust.

Al-Rashid Trust, a Karachi-based charity, now active in Azad Kashmir, was the first one to be outlawed by the US Treasury Department after it found a clear link between the trust and al-Qaeda. According to the US intelligence findings, the trust was directly linked to the January 23, 2002 abduction and subsequent murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The abductors, linked to a mixed crew of Pakistani Islamic militant groups, including Maulana Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad, held Pearl in a two-room hut in the compound of a commercial nursery in Karachi owned by Al-Rashid Trust, where he was finally murdered.

Founded by Mufti Rashid Ahmed in 1996 in Karachi, Al-Rashid Trust was one of the twenty-seven groups and organisations which were black-listed by the US on September 22, 2001, for their involvement in financing and supporting a network of international Islamist terrorist groups. A day after the US announcement of the ban on the outfit, the State Bank of Pakistan issued a circular, asking banks to freeze the accounts of Al-Rashid Trust. The trust documents indicate that it secures most of its finances from zakat and overseas donations.

According to US intelligence findings on the basis of which Al-Rashid Trust was banned, it is one of Osama’s many sources of income and is closely linked with the Taliban and Jaish-e-Mohammad.


During his detention in Jammu & Kashmir, JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar used to send articles clandestinely to the Rashid Trust, which were published by Dharb-e-Momin. The trust in charge in Islamabad, Mohammed Arshad, says that they have asked the Pakistan government to de-freeze its accounts so that it could resume its welfare activities. Yet, the fact remains that despite being banned, Al-Rashid Trust continues to freely operate in Pakistan.

The Karachi-based Al- Akhtar Trust is the second charity active in Azad Kashmir despite being designated by the US Treasury Department as a terrorist support organisation in October 2003. Earlier, US Treasury Department’s secretary John Snow had stated: ‘Today’s designation strikes at the lifeblood of terrorists — the money that funds them. Shutting down the Trust will cripple yet another source of support for terrorists and possibly help undermine the financial backing of terrorists staging attacks against American troops and Iraqi civilians in Iraq. The activities of the Trust demonstrate the dangerous alliance between corrupted charities and terrorists’.


The third al-Qaeda-linked banned charity active in Azad Kashmir and running its relief camps is Ummah Tammer-e-Nau (UTN)-(Reconstruction of the Muslim Ummah), led by the Pakistani nuclear scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. The purported aim of the organisation, launched in 2000, was to conduct relief and development work in Afghanistan. The charity was founded by Mahmood after he left the Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission in protest against the government’s intention to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).


The Islamabad agreement between India and Pakistan in January 2004 came as a blow to even the most optimistic among the Pakistan-based militant groups waging an armed struggle against India in Jammu & Kashmir. But the leaders of the most feared among these, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), and its parent organization, Jamaat-ul-Dawa, are still hopeful about the future of jehad and are keeping their fingers crossed.


As the world applauded the sagacity of the two nuclear-armed neighbours in signing the Islamabad accord in January 2004, most of the jehadi groups bristled with rage at Gen Pervez Musharraf’s agreeing not to permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used for carrying out acts of terrorism of any kind. Interestingly, however, unlike other militant leaders, Saeed, the most vocal proponent of the Kashmir Jehad, decided to abstain from issuing any further statements criticising the Islamabad accord.

According to those close to Hafiz Saeed, he was asked by the establishment to remain silent in order to avoid possible action against Jamaat-ul-Dawa and LeT. He was also promised that there would be no restriction on the activities of the two groups, be it the collection of funds and organising public rallies or the recruitment of jehadi cadres.


According to Hafiz Saeed’s close aides, the Islamabad agreement between India and Pakistan would not greatly affect their activities in the Kashmir valley as they had sufficient arms and ammunition in the valley to resist the India security forces for at least the next six months. They further claimed that young jehadis from various parts of Pakistan continue to throng their training camps in Azad Kashmir before being pushed across the Line of Control into Jammu & Kashmir. LeT is the only jehadi group operating from Azad Kashmir, which still keeps a comparatively larger number of activists at its Muaskar-e-Toiba and Muaskar-e-Aqsa camps in Muzaffarabad where young jehadis are reportedly sent after having been trained at Jamaat-ul-Dawa’s Muridke headquarters.

Even before the Islamabad agreement, activists of Dawa and LeT had never been obliged to observe the ban imposed by General Musharraf himself, which prevented the jehadi groups from collecting funds and holding public rallies. While banning LeT and a few other militant groups in January 2002, General Musharraf had declared he would remain firm in his stand against terrorism and extremism. However, in practical terms, no step had ever been taken to dismantle or even disarm LeT which carried out the infamous 22 December 2000 attack at the Red Fort in New Delhi.


Those close to Hafiz Saeed are convinced that General Musharraf will neither abandon the militants nor the military option until there is a formal resolution of the lingering Kashmir dispute. They pointed out that the last time General Musharraf had promised to put an end to cross-border infiltration to the visiting US deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, in May 2003, the militants were held back for only a couple of months before being allowed to resume infiltration across the LoC.

Excerpted from:
The True Face of Jehadis:
Inside Pakistan’s Network of Terror
by Amir Mir, Roli Books. Pages 310. Rs 395

Musharraf’s real face

Pervez MusharrafAccording to those close to Musharraf, he is always conscious about projecting himself as being very liberal and modern. His critics say he is a conservative in his approach and liberal only in his attitude.

Four years since the 9/11, the outlook on General Musharraf’s liberal credential is less than that of complete optimism. A March 2005 study carried out by the Washington-based Cato Institute, a leading American think tank, said ‘the Musharraf regime is unlikely to evolve into a long-term US ally in the war against terrorism.’ According to the American think tank, the US policymakers should consider an alternate interpretation of Pakistan’s behaviour. ‘Since 9/11, General Musharraf has been opportunistic. But there are no signs that Musharraf and his political and military allies had made a strategic choice to ally themselves with the US long-term goals in the war on terrorism by destroying the political and military infrastructure of the radical and violent anti-American Islamic groups in Pakistan,’ the study said.

The Cato Institute report goes on say: ‘It is highly probable that Musharraf is not strong enough to do so. From that perspective, the partnership with the United States and Musharraf’s willingness to negotiate with India over Kashmir are nothing more than short-term moves aimed at winning US assistance and preventing India from emerging as Washington’s main ally in the region. If this alternate interpretation is correct, the current American relationship with Pakistan is, at best, a short-term alliance of necessity. Over the medium and long term, the US policymakers should distance themselves from Musharraf’s regime, seek out ways to cultivate liberal secular reforms in Pakistan, and engage in more constructive relations with India.’