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In Pakistan, Ramadan Charity Donations Benefit the Taliban

8:31 AM, Aug 8, 2012 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan began on July 20 and will end on August 17 or August 19 (depending on lunar observations around the world). Muslims will donate for relief of the poor during Ramadan, but they will be especially generous after its end, during the first three days of the succeeding Islamic month of Shawwal, in a holiday called Eid Al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking).

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In Pakistan, unfortunately, the benevolent intentions of Ramadan charity (zakat and fitrana—money and food) have been and are being used to support operations and recruit combatants for jihadist terror in their own country as well as in Afghanistan and Kashmir. On July 23, Pakistani authorities prohibited collection of donations by banned radical Islamist factions during the fasting month and Eid Al-Fitr.

Pakistan’s jihadists, however, evade official sanctions by renaming themselves unceasingly, adding a bewildering array of occasionally-redundant acronyms to the South Asian terrorist spectrum. If the situation is confusing, that is clearly intentional. Pakistani officials appear stymied by the versatility with which terrorists reinvent themselves, at least by title.

On July 28, the al Qaeda-allied Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD—Community of Preaching) appealed via a Twitter account for donations of cash, ambulances, medicines, and food. JuD is a front for the powerful and world-spanning jihadists formerly known as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT – Army of the Righteous). LeT was classed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government in 2001, a decision reaffirmed in 2003. It was active in the United States through the so-called North Virginia “paintball jihad” network, whose participants were sentenced in 2003-05 to federal prison for violations of weapons and terrorism laws.

In November 2008, the Mumbai terror attacks in India were blamed on LeT, and LeT was again listed by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The United Nations Security Council named JuD as LeT’s public facade, subjecting JuD to a freeze of its assets and travel ban on its leaders, in December 2008.

LeT is also outlawed in Pakistan, India, and the European Union. But JuD, supposedly independent of LeT, claims its activities were not prohibited in Pakistan. In 2011, Pakistan acted to limit charity donations for extremists during Ramadan. Officials in the province of Sindh suppressed 25 illegal organizations, and in the province of Punjab closed 22 jihadist entities. JuD’s intake last year was described as “comparatively feeble.”

Still, the game of renaming had already begun. LeT and JuD reappeared as Tahreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool (THR—Path of the Prophet’s Honor) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF – Human Welfare Foundation). FIF was added to the list of LeT terrorist cover names by the State Department in 2010.

Then, last November, the Difa-e Pakistan Council (DPC—Defense of Pakistan Council) was established, grouping 34 Islamist parties against transit of NATO supplies to Afghanistan and opposing improvement of Pakistani relations with India. LeT/JuD is a leading force in the new alliance, and the jihadist parties clearly feel confident they can resume their financing and enlistment of terrorists with impunity. DPC excludes women from its political activities, and has threatened secularists and media. It shelters most of Pakistan’s radical religious forces, notwithstanding that many of them are supposedly illegal.

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