Pakistan bans 60 radical groups from collecting charity during Ramadan

By Adeel Saeed

A Pakistani organisation last August in Chowk Yadgar collects donations to help survivors of an earthquake. Pakistan recently banned 60 extremist organisations from collecting funds during Ramadan. [Adeel Saeed]

A Pakistani organisation last August in Chowk Yadgar collects donations to help survivors of an earthquake. Pakistan recently banned 60 extremist organisations from collecting funds during Ramadan. [Adeel Saeed]

PESHAWAR -- Pakistan has banned radical organisations from collecting zakat and sadqa-e-fitr or fitrana, a donation specifically given during the holy month of Ramadan.

“The government has prohibited about 60 banned outfits across the country from receiving any kind of donations in the name of fitrana or sadqa-e-fitr during Ramadan,” the Interior Ministry announced June 2.

The ban took effect before the advent of Ramadan, which started in Pakistan June 7. Apart from that act, the government froze the bank accounts of the 60-some organisations to prevent any deposits of donations online.

The banned groups are numerous. They include Lashkar-e-Taiba, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir, al-Qaeda and many others.

Militant organisations raising money find the religiously mandated donations of zakat, usher and fitrana the most desirable avenue, according to a 2009 report by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).

During Ramadan, as devout Muslims donate to charity, militant groups jump in to maximise their illicit share of the pot, the report said.

After the devastating 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, the Taliban-linked Al-Rasheed Trust raised Rs. 950m (US $9.5m) in five months, the report disclosed.

Al-Rehmat Trust, a charity with ties to the militant Jaish-e-Muhammad, raised Rs. 600m (US $6m).

Choking off terror financing

Pakistani security analysts are hailing the decision to bar militant fronts from collecting donations as a timely way to maintain law and order.

"The banned organisations have three main sources of funds," Peshawar-based journalist and security analyst Aqeel Yousafzai told Central Asia Online. "They include zakat and fitrana collection during Ramadan, the collection of animal hides on Eid ul Adha and donations from abroad."

"Blocking a major line of funding ... is like choking an organism's respiratory system," he said. "The result will be obvious."

"The decision is in accordance with the implementation of the [counter-terrorism] National Action Plan [NAP]," Aqeel said, referring to a policy that Islamabad enacted after terrorists slaughtered more than 150 children and teachers at the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014.

Choking off terrorist groups' funding is a practical step to achieving the goal of NAP -- exterminating terrorism in Pakistan, he said.

"Every developed country has rules mentioning how charities may collect money, where they may use it and what their permissible objectives are," Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar-based security analyst and director of the Baacha Khan Trust, told Central Asia Online.

One of NAP's provisions is the implementation of existing Pakistani laws on charities' operations, Hussain said.

Because the Pakistani people are very sentimental about donating to charities during the holy months, they need to understand who is receiving their hard-earned money, Hussain said.

Police take action

Police are working to ensure the ban takes hold, Abbas Majeed Marwat, senior superintendent of police operations for Peshawar, told Central Asia Online.

Police officers deployed all over Peshawar for security reasons have orders to monitor charity collections during Ramadan, he told Central Asia Online.

So far, police in Peshawar have not received any reports of banned organisations setting up collection points for donations, he said.

NAP also prohibits anyone from using loudspeakers based in mosques, seminaries or vehicles to solicit donations.

At the same time, the Federal Investigation Agency and police are raiding local markets to arrest vendors conducting illegal money transfers. Those arrests do not specifically target abuses during Ramadan but help choke off funding for militants.

Marwat urged citizens to immediately report to the police any instance of charity collections for banned groups.

Police officials are urging citizens to take extra care in donating money so that their donations reach the right hands.

Marwat suggested donating solely to reputable charities with a known record of helping the needy.

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