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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pakistan: Relief Aid Used to Recruit Militants?

ISLAMABAD: As voices are being raised in different countries against extremist groups using flood assistance to lure recruits for militancy, the US overseas aid chief created on Wednesday a sort of storm by visiting a Sukkur relief camp supposedly run by Falah-i-Insaniat (FI), the latest reincarnation of Jamaatud Dawa, the humanitarian arm of the banned terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Rajiv Shah, administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), was in Sukkur to witness relief efforts when he visited the FI camp set up in a school.

JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid claimed that the camp Mr Shah visited was run by Falah-i-Insaniat and that he donated two trucks of relief goods.

The FI started functioning openly last year by providing aid to people displaced by the military operation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata. It was formed after the UN imposed sanctions on the JuD in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks on Nov 26, 2008.

Senior military officials have claimed that LeT has expanded to the West since the Mumbai strike and posed a serious threat to world peace.

However, the purported visit by the US official is being described by the JuD as an endorsement of its relief efforts.

A statement issued by the group quoted Mr Shah as saying that “JuD is actively taking part in relief operations. The work being done by the group is appreciable.”

Falah-i-Insaniat chairman Hafiz Abdul Rauf claimed in the statement that his group was collaborating with a number of international organisations and vowed to continue its work till all the displaced people were rehabilitated.

The US embassy, however, rejected the claim and insisted that Mr Shah had visited a camp run by the government in a school.

US Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire said the camp housed displaced people and was being served by the World Food Programme and Save the Children -- both partners of the USAID.

He also said that the camp was being administered by the school headmaster who was a government employee.

Justifying the distribution of food by Mr Shah, the spokesman said people in the camp needed food and Mr Shah did what he thought should have been done.

However, Snelsire did not completely rule out involvement of JuD or FI in relief work at the camp and said that other groups might have also distributed food at the camp in the past.

Some people in Sukkur told Dawn on phone that a large banner reading ‘Relief Camp -- Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation’ hung over the entrance.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit expressed ignorance about Mr Shah’s visit to the JuD camp.

Last week Mr Basit had appreciated relief work being carried out by religious charity organisations many of whom have links with extremist groups. He had said that NGOs backed by political or religious organisations needed to be lauded for the ‘commendable job’ instead of being stigmatised with ‘nomenclatures’.

$50M AID: Mr Shah announced in Sukkur that the USAID would provide an additional aid of $50 million under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill for the flood-affected people.

He said the additional funding would support early recovery programmes like rehabilitation of community infrastructure and livelihood recovery activities.

From here.

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