USAID head Rajiv Shah today toured one of the private aid camps popping up across Pakistan to deal with the enormous humanitarian crisis from the flooding. But the visit is causing controversy in Pakistan because the camp is run by the Jammat-ud Dawa (JuD), a banned organization the Pakistani government and others have claimed are in league with terrorists.
Though the JuD itself is strictly a humanitarian organization it has close ties to the Lashkar-e Taiba, a Kashmiri separatist group that has been blamed for a number of major terrorist attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Though officially banned, the JuD operates more or less with impunity in the Punjab Province, where it is based, and the group is also operating across the nation under the name Falah-e Insaniyat (FeI), which is the name it was using in the camp in question.
But FeI’s origins are a poorly kept secret, and the group has been operating since late 2008 under this name, including helping displaced Swatis during the Pakistani government’s last military invasion.
The Pakistani government’s own relief efforts have been embarrassingly slow, but as concerns grow about Islamist groups using their own aid to build support Pakistan’s government is threatening to shut down such charities and arrest their aid workers as “terrorists.” Though the move seems to have some popular support among the areas of the nation not yet devastated by the flood, the prospect of shutting down aid camps will likely not sit well with the millions of Pakistanis desperate for such aid.