Pakistan Bans Islamist Aid, Even Though In Some Places It Is the Only Aid Pakistan to clamp down on Islamist militant charities

By Zeeshan Haider

August 20, 2010 – ISLAMABAD

(Reuters) – Pakistan said on Friday it will clamp down on charities
linked to Islamist militants amid fears their involvement in flood
relief could exploit anger against the government and undermine the
fight against groups like the Taliban.

Islamist charities have moved swiftly to fill the vacuum left by a
government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster and struggling to
reach millions of people in dire need of shelter, food and drinking

It would not be the first time the government has announced
restrictions against charities tied to militant groups, but critics say
banned organizations often re-emerge with new names and authorities are
not serious about stopping them.

"The banned organizations are not allowed to visit flood-hit areas,"
Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters. "We will arrest members of
banned organizations collecting funds and will try them under the
Anti-Terrorism Act."

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari warned on Thursday that militants
were trying to exploit the floods to promote their agendas — as they
did after a devastating earthquake in Kashmir in 2005.

More than 4 million Pakistanis have been made homeless by nearly three
weeks of floods, making urgent the critical task of securing enough aid.

In a sign of improving relations between the Pakistan and India since
the Mumbai militant attacks in 2008, New Delhi said that $5 million in
aid had been accepted after initial reluctance from Islamabad.

"We welcome acceptance of our offer by Pakistan’s government. It is a
goodwill offer for solidarity," India’s foreign ministry spokesman
Vishnu Prakash said in New Delhi.

The decision comes a day after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani on Thursday to
express sympathy and condolences.

Eight million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance
after around a third of the country was hit by floods, with waters
stretching dozens of miles (km) from rivers.

The floods have marooned villages and destroyed power stations and
roads just as the government had made progress in stabilizing Pakistan
through offensives against militants.

There were increasing fears of disease outbreaks.

"With over 38,000 reported cases of acute diarrhea already and at least
one confirmed cholera death, the specter of major cholera outbreaks is
real," Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta of the women and child health division
at Aga Khan University in Karachi wrote in the Lancet medical journal.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said millions of
livestock were at risk and at least 200,000 cows, sheep, buffalo, goats
and donkeys had already died.

"Livestock in this country are the poor people’s mobile ATM," said
David Doolan, Senior FAO Officer, in charge of FAO programs in
Pakistan. "In good times people build up their herds and in bad times
they sell livestock to generate cash."

Weather officials said floods could recede in Punjab province but there
was a danger of more rain in Sindh over the next week. These provinces,
where the majority of Pakistanis live, have been hit hardest by the

The United States led a stream of pledges of more funds for Pakistan
during a special meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday. U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised a further $60 million,
bringing to more than $150 million the contribution Washington would
make toward emergency flood relief.

The U.N. has issued an appeal for $459 million, of which about 60 percent had been pledged.

Highlighting the wider problems facing Pakistan, 14 people were killed
on Thursday in different incidents of targeted killings in Karachi
after a Pashtun political leader was gunned down, a sign of underlying
ethnic and political tensions in the country’s biggest city.

Pakistan officials are due to meet the International Monetary Fund next
week for talks on easing growth and fiscal deficit targets following
the country’s worst ever floods.

Pakistan turned to the IMF in 2008 for emergency financing to avert a
balance of payments crisis and shore up reserves, agreeing to a set of
conditions including revenue targets.

The IMF meetings will start on August 23 and were scheduled for even
before the floods began. In May, Pakistan received $1.13 billion, the
fifth tranche of a $11.3 billion IMF loan.

(Additional reporting by Augustine Anthony in Islamabad and Sahar Ahmed
and Faisal Aziz in Karachi; Bappa Majumdar in New Delhi; Louis
Charbonneau and Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations and Kate Kelland
in London; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Michael Georgy)


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