Masood Azhar and his terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed are having a free run in Pakistan, with Jaish collecting funds and carrying out well advertised recruitment drives. This poses a serious question mark on Pakistan’s commitment to fight terror, as the country has officially banned the JeM and Masood is currently under preventive detention.
Masood is raising funds by imposing “Ushr”, a tax that is roughly 10-20 % of the value of the total agricultural produce, levied on the local farmers who hold larger piece of land in Punjab province of Pakistan. Jaish last week organised a recruitment drive in and around Bahawalpur for which young people were selected for carrying out “religious and charitable activities”.
As per the Islamic laws, Ushr is collected at the rate of 10% of the total value of the produce that has been harvested from irrigated land and 20% of the value of the produce that is harvested from rain watered land.
Sources aware of the development said that Jaish, whose area of operation is in and around Bahawalpur in Pakistani Punjab, 670 Km south of Islamabad, is using its charity wing, Al-Rahmat trust, to collect money from the farmers for supporting the “fighters, prisoners and family of the martyrs”.
Sources said that the collection of the money was happening very openly with posters pasted in Bahawalpur, stalls manned by workers of Al-Rahmat and advertisements in local newspapers and magazines seeking money and men for “religious and charitable purpose”.
“In a recruitment drive that was held last week, around 25-30 teenagers were recruited, ostensibly for religious purpose. The speech of Masood Azhar was openly played in which he asked youths to devote themselves to the religious fight that the he has been waging. The whole exercise was done under the umbrella of Al-Rahmat trust. We all know that what will happen of these teenagers who come from very impoverished backgrounds and are more than happy to join such organisation as it gives them a sense of security. Many of them will be sent to India to be killed by our forces. This is a circle that never stops,” an official aware of the development said.
“The Jaish workers are openly soliciting, demanding, extorting money from anyone they can. In most cases, they do not need to threaten anyone as the locals know the consequences of this and since this extortion is done under the garb of ‘Ushr’ it assumes a veil of legality. Most of these terror organisations rarely feel cash crunch and most of the money that they receive is through the unofficial channels and means and, hence, it is very difficult to track the money trail,” the officer added.
Officials in the Intelligence community stated that the period leading to Ramzan is when the “charity front” of terror organisations gets active. As per unofficial estimates, Pakistan’s citizens donate close to $700 million every year to charitable organisations during Ramzan.
Al-Rahmat Trust (ART), which is registered as a charity organisation, was banned by the US government in April 2010. The US treasury department, while banning it, had stated that “Al-Rahmat Trust is an operational front for JEM and is designated for providing support to and for acting for or on behalf of JEM, and Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi”. Apart from getting funds from AL-Rahmat, Jaish also gets funds from another banned terror organisation, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is regarded as one of the most violent terror groups. It carried out the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009 and the attack on the police training academy in Quetta last year.
The first Muslim ruler to levy Ushr as a tax was the second caliph of the Muslims, Omar Ibn al-Khattab. Even though paying Ushr to the government is a legal requirement in Pakistan, its collection is very low but ironically it is one the biggest sources of funding for the terror organisations.