Funding Pakistan’s Jihad
By Ali K Chishti
Karachi. While it may be true that over the years the militants have developed a vast and effective network for raising funds by taking as much as a rupee from a poor man to millions from the rich, donations are pouring in for jihad from every segment of society
All the commitment and fanaticism notwithstanding, terrorist operations cannot be run without funds. Funds for jihad are required for procuring weapons, financing training camps, providing logistical support, compensating the families of jihadis, paying instructors and also the wide networks of agents and running recruitment offices.
During the Afghan war, western governments were a major source of funding and weapons for the groups engaged in taking on the Soviet occupation army in Afghanistan. Much of these funds came from covert accounts of the states funding the Afghans. Islamic countries also poured in billions of dollars into the coffers of the jihadi groups. While the role of Saudi Arabia has been limited to the provision of funds to the Islamist and jihadi organisations, the Kingdom, to this day, is the biggest source of official and private funding to Islamist and jihadist organisations in Pakistan, and it is to their credit that certain Deobandi and Ahle-Hadith extremist organisations became so powerful with the growth in their size.
One also has to see the Saudi financial support to Deobandi organisations in the context of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran post the Iranian revolution where both these countries had supported militant sectarian organisations to organise attacks and counter-attacks on each other’s sects and fought a proxy war inside Pakistan.
So open was Saudi support to Sipah-e-Sahaba (now the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jundullah) that the Saudi government, in 2000, gave out Rs 17 million to fund hardcore militant madrassas in Jhang alone. Another Saudi charity, called the International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO), is an affiliate of the Saudi welfare organisation, Rabita Alam-e-Islami, which in turn helped to set up the Rabita Trust in Pakistan that was banned after 9/11 because of a strong bin Laden connection. The most interesting aspect of the Trust was that its chairman was none other than General Pervez Musharraf, the chief of army staff. To save embarrassment to a close ally, a state department official said, “We do not think the prominent people who have their names on it were aware of the infiltration.”
In fact, so murky is the source of funds coming from Saudi Arabia that the leader of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil said, “The US had instructed, through Rabita Alam-e-Islami that we should initiate jihad in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, to which I replied that we have grown up now. We do not do jihad at your bidding.”
Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s (LeT’s) parent organisation, the Dawat wal Irshad, initially also attracted the sympathy of certain Arab donors interested in purifying Islam in the subcontinent, which is considered to have been tainted by the influence of Hinduism. In fact, one such Saudi donor, Abu Abdul Aziz, who invested millions of dollars on LeT, LeJ and various jihadi organisations, even donated Rs 10 million to make a mosque at Markaz-e-Dawa’s headquarters.
And while it may be true that over the years the militants have developed a vast and effective network for raising funds by taking as much as a rupee from a poor man to millions from the rich, donations are pouring in for jihad from every segment of society. And while many jihadi organisations collect sacrificial hides to raise funds, many have started raising their capital from publishing magazines to even the property business, and now, as a jihadi told me sheepishly, “the national disaster business”. In a report published by the Aga Khan Development Network in 1998, approximately 50 percent of Pakistanis gave an estimated amount of Rs 770 billion in money, goods and time, of which 90 percent of the surveyed donors cited religious faith as the motivation for giving.
If all this foreign and local funding were not enough, the Pakistani government gives out an estimated Rs 20-35 billion in grants to madrassas and jihadi movements indirectly from government resources like zakat or iqra funds. Another funding source after the crackdown on Saudi sources and tighter monetary controls is the Afghan Transit Trade, which is a cash cow for jihadis and certain rogue establishment actors who exploit the trade for procuring weapons and narcotics smuggling, earning millions of dollars to be funnelled into proxy wars from Afghanistan to Pakistan. There was a reason why the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) offered $ 10 million to replace American aid. The hundi trade is another source that is ‘welcomed’ by the State Bank of Pakistan, as it has, over the years, been buying billions of dollars to shore up its balance of payment positions. The hundi trade helps launder money for jihadis but in the land of the pure, jihad is used as a weapon to further our so-called strategic plans.
Even after 9/11, much of what is happening inside the tribal belt is a bit of a charade. In fact, what earlier used to be taking place openly has now been pushed behind the curtain, otherwise it is business as usual. Every time the Americans start getting impatient, the Pakistanis make a show of launching an operation in the tribal belt. There are arrests of Afghan and Arab jihadis or the killings of certain individuals until everything returns to normal. One big reason why our own Pakistani government will never really close the funding source and cut the roots of jihadis is because doing so would have a direct impact on the various jihads it is involved with to suit certain foreign policy goals. Moreover, by shutting down these rackets, the Pakistani state will lose an important leverage over deciding affairs inside Afghanistan. Often, the Pakistani state has used smuggling as a carrot for the various Afghan warlords and agents, and in return has managed to get them to do Pakistan’s bidding inside Afghanistan. This currency of power will be lost if Pakistan were to curb the illegal rackets. But, in the process of taking action on this trade, what will happen is that the Pakistani state will try to regain total and complete control over this trade, something it was gradually losing out on with the increasing privatisation of jihad.
The writer is a political analyst. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org