Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik vowed today to crack down on charities with links to banned Islamist groups, insisting that they must not be allowed to distribute aid to flood victims and that anyone caught doing so would be charged as a terrorist.
The logic behind this, according to officials, is that the prolific amount of aid being delivered by private groups with historical links to Kashmiri separatist groups is making the government look bad, and is fueling anger among flood victims who feel the government has not responded sufficiently.
And indeed Islamist groups like Jamaat-ud Dawa were among the first responders to the flooding, which has gone from simple disaster to a catastrophe of historical size. At the same time Pakistan’s civilian government has supplied comparatively little aid, relying instead on the military’s rescue operations and humanitarian goods supplied by NATO to fill in the gap.
But the private groups have also played a major role in helping the millions of flood victims, and even if this is making those victims resent the government it remains vital. Moreover, banning the groups and charging aid workers as terrorists will likely only serve to fuel more resentment.
The claim that Pakistani security forces will keep the charities out of the flood stricken parts of the nation is ultimately an empty one, as much of the nation is now under water. But if the government begins to round up aid workers and filing terror charges against them, it will surely have a disastrous effect on the relief effort, not to mention the harm it will do to the Zardari government’s already shoddy reputation.