Fundamentalist groups running relief efforts in Pakistan IDP camp
The Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation was recently identified by the US as a front for terrorist groups
More than half a million people have fled the army offensive in North Waziristan (Photo: Dawn.com)
With a scorching sun above, barbed wires flanking both sides to maintain an orderly queue, and policemen patrolling with sticks and guns, Rizwanullah has been waiting for his turn for 10 hours. He is at this sports-complex-turned-relief-camp in Bannu to receive the government’s promised ration package. It’s 3pm, and he is nowhere near to getting his turn. The camp closes down at 5pm.
“I have eight family members to feed,” he says. “I left everything behind, and now I have to stand in this heat. I don’t even know whether my turn will come at all today.”
Normally a resident of North Waziristan, Rizwanullah is one of the over half a million locals that have fled the army offensive. His hometown is in the tribal belt known to be home to Afghan Taliban, members of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and their local and foreign affiliates.
As the line crawls along slowly, a young volunteer sporting a neon green jacket with the initials FIF (which stands for the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation) is giving water to the thirsty IDPs. Dozens of hands reach out to him at the same time, men with parched lips and clothes drenched in sweat, just like Rizwanullah. The FIF volunteer quickly serves one IDP after another, and then moves back to the relief camp set up just outside the sports complex — the only one in the vicinity — for a refill. There’s a huge banner which states: “In these tough times, we are standing with you [the IDPs] — Jamaatud Dawa.”
The Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), which changed its name to FIF after it was accused of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was recently identified by the United States as a front for one of the world’s largest terrorist groups. It was accused of carrying out an attack on an Indian consulate in Afghanistan in May. But in Pakistan, the group once also known as the Lashkar-e-Taiba continues to enjoy state patronage.
“The Pakistan Army is really cooperative towards us,” says Mohammad Sarfaraz, the chief organiser of the JuD camp. “We were the first ones to set up a greeting camp to receive the IDPs even though that area was in the red zone. This is the time to win the hearts and minds of these refugees, whom the government is failing."
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