UN helped Jamat-ud-Dawah gain foothold in Pakistani Kashmir

By Lalit K. Jha, IANS,

United Nations : The Pakistan-based Islamic group Jamat-ud-Dawah, which India wants the UN Security Council to brand as a terrorist outfit, was ironically helped by the UN in gaining a foothold in Pakistani Kashmir following the 2005 earthquake.

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India claims the Jamat-ud-Dawah is a front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was branded a terrorist organisation by the UN in 2002, and was involved in the Nov 26 Mumbai terror attacks that claimed at least 179 lives.

On Tuesday, India urged the UN Security Council to declare the Jamat-ud-Dawah a terrorist group.

“The Jamat-ud-Dawah and other such organisations need to be proscribed internationally and effective sanctions imposed against them,” Indian Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed told the 15-member council.

However, in the aftermath of the devastating October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, the UN had engaged Jamat-ud-Dawah for quake relief efforts.

A BBC report, a year after the earthquake, had quoted Jamat-ud-Dawah leaders as saying that the relief efforts they carried out with the UN’s assistance had helped them in boosting their position in the region and recruiting children.

“Jamat-ud-Dawah and Al-Rashid Trust and their brand of extremist Islam never had a big presence in these areas before the earthquake. But their relief efforts – and the aid they got from international agencies – have really boosted their position locally,” a BBC investigative report said on Oct 5, 2006.

The Al-Rashid Trust, banned by the Security Council, is accused of being a Al Qaeda financier.

“One Jamat leader told us that people were now trusting them with their children – they hadn’t before the earthquake – and they had actively recruited hundreds of children left orphaned or fatherless,” it added.

“He (Jamat-ud-Dawah leader) said they had already sent 400 such children under the age of nine to board at their madrassas, or religious schools, some hundreds of miles from their homes,” the BBC had then said.

The worst ever earthquake in Pakistan in recent history had killed more than 79,000 people, while over two million people were left homeless. According to an estimate, more than 11,000 children were left orphaned.

Carrying out relief efforts with millions of dollars worth of international relief effort being passed on to them through the UN, Jamat-ud-Dawah made a permanent support base among the quake-hit areas of PoK.

When mediapersons asked questions following the BBC report, the UN insisted that the decision to take the Jamat-ud-Dawah’s help was taken by the Pakistan government and it only sent relief material to the camps set up by the federal government.

UN officials had justified their approach to seek the help of fundamentalist outfits in carrying out earthquake relief operations in Pakistan.

“If you work in Kashmir, there will be people given aid that belong to organisations with fundamentalist beliefs,” Jan Egeland, then head of the UN’s Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters on Oct 10, 2006.

“I’m sure we did cover people with many different beliefs and many different political orientations. We do not ask hungry people if they do have this or that political belief,” Egeland responded when asked why the UN was engaging organisations that have been placed on the UN’s sanctions list or were known for their links with terrorists groups.

The then UN spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said on Oct 6, 2006 during a press conference that the top priority of the world body was to get aid to the people through any group which can deliver it.

“The UN’s focus is on working with and through the group who can get aid to those who need it,” he said.

Another UN humanitarian official Kristen Knutson had then said, responding to reporters’ questions on this issue, that “determining who can set up a camp is entirely up to governments of member states”.