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Despite FATF warnings, terror financing is still up and running in Pakistan through madarsas: Report

The report by Marino suggests that the US government seems to have been deceived by Pakistani military establishment on the issue of terror financing and support to Jihad groups in Pakistan.

A few weeks ago President Donald Trump tweeted about the so-called ‘arrest’ of Mohammed Hafeez Saeed in Pakistan after a 10-year search. The tweet by Donald Trump came just days ahead of the visit by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to the US, indicating the beginnings of a possible thaw in the relations between the two countries.

According to a report Italian Journalist Francesca Marino, US President Donald Trump has probably and purposely overlooked the fact that terror groups Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) or the Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) have not gone out of business at all, despite Pakistani government claiming that they have taken severe measures against the terror outfits.

The Jaish-e-Mohammed has been still successful in carrying out fundraising activities,  mainly coordinated through its front NGO, Al Rehmat Trust (ART), headquartered in Bahawalpur. The trust, which was launched by Masood Azhar in 2002 after Jaish-e-Mohammed was banned in 2002 and has been flourishing since then. It has regional centres in Muzaffarabad, Peshawar, Quetta and Hyderabad apart from smaller branches all over Pakistan.

The NGO officially claims that its objective is to obey Islam, to serve Islam, to spread Islamic education and to help others. However, the true objective of the Islamic NGO is to support Lashkar-i-Taiba and Mohammed Hafiz Saeed. It funds the operations of the LeT through fund collection to wage ‘jihad’ and to assist families of those who are killed while ‘waging jihad’ or in more simple terms to carry out terror acts and assist families of dead terrorists.

In the past, the organisation has been providing services to the Taliban as well. Reportedly, on May 10, the Pakistan government had banned the Al Rehmat Trust in order to demonstrate their compliance with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.

According to Marino, the Pakistani authorities had allegedly released notices asking the general public to refrain from donating to these terror outfits. But, interestingly these terror groups were permitted to collect donations under different pseudonyms or under the cover of religion throughout Ramzan.

The Jaish-e-Mohammed has also reportedly continued their fund collection in Pakistan without issuing receipts to donors. This leaves out the trails that funding was still continuing to these banned groups. Apart from donations, the JeM has collected funds from the collection of hides of animals sacrificed on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha, which provided them large sums of money. In 2018, the JeM generated Rs 700 million (approx. Euro 3.9 million), just by selling these animal hides.

During Ramzan, these Islamic terror outfits had appealed to Muslims to spend generously in the name of Allah and to donate for the cause of jihad in Kashmir and to support the jihad in Afghanistan against US/NATO forces. The Al Rehmat Trust’s advertisements and writings on different issues like jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan, regularly appear in Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Al Qalam newspaper, edited by Masood Azhar’s younger brother.

The ART also receives a large part of its funds from overseas, especially Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, apart from collections within Pakistan reports Marino. These funds are collected in the name of ‘Zakat’ or for charity work and often the donors are Pakistani diaspora living in these countries. In 2018 alone, the JeM is reported to have collected donations approximately Rs 600 million (approx. Euro 3.3 million) just from these donations.

In the report, Marino argues that banning a group or freezing the bank assets and announcing it weeks and months in advance is just an eyewash. It is a fact today that Jihadi groups in Pakistan have continuously received funds from both inside Pakistan and from abroad as well.

Further, many madarsas inside Pakistan function not only as centres of ideological propaganda, sorting and training for jihad of all kinds but they also finance groups of Jihadi fighters. Karachi in Pakistan stands highest in fundraising these Jihad groups, closely followed by Lahore, Faisalabad and Sialkot. The Islamic terrorism, especially in Pakistan is financed through religious schools addition to state funds like in the case of Muridke or Haqqania but also by individual donations.

Addition to that, every jihadi group and madrasa in the country has very close ties with the local mafia with which it manages the business of large estates in connection along with the Army. The operating checks on the transfer of funds by banks or any legal means are ineffective as the funds are usually transferred mainly via hawala or delivered in their hand luggage. Sometimes, clerics and mullahs returning home from some triumphant tour abroad also act as a courier for these funds.

It seems that the problem of terror financing is aggravating as these Jihadi groups have found new ways to fund their terror apparatus. Often, to defeat the terror network, the first action to be taken is cutting the financing channels of these groups, which has not been done in case of jihadi terror groups present inside Pakistan. For example, in the case of the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, once the fundraising abroad was completely stopped, the guerrilla war ended.

However, Pakistan-a state that sponsors terrorism, does not seem to have any intentions of giving up the so-called ‘strategic assets’ constituted by terrorists operating in India or Afghanistan. The ‘Jihadi terror’ has been part of the country’s foreign policy for years now and consequently, no one is trying to investigate and trace the origin of the funds of seminars and religious schools.

The report by Marino suggests that the US government seems to have been deceived by Pakistani military establishment on the issue of terror financing and support to Jihad groups in Pakistan. With Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-E-Taiba still actively involved in the state policy of Pakistan, there seems to be no action taken by the Pakistanis against these terror group despite the US government’s clear warning to Pakistan.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent trip to the United States of America had made headlines for various reasons. However, an interesting revelation was also made by a  Sunday Guardian report on how Wahhabi lobby in the US played laid the trap to Donald Trump by fixing a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in White House on July 23.

According to the report, US President Donald Trump decided to meet Imran Khan as a consequence of an intense lobbying effort by the well-funded Wahhabi network in Washington. There is also an active lobby putting lot of efforts to link Kashmir with the situation in Afghanistan has continued to the present, especially within the National Security Council and the State Department echoing the GHQ argument in favour of a robust US role in ensuring that India make concessions on Kashmir that would put at risk our country’s interests and security.

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