Putting a squeeze on funding terrorism
Courtesy:- MALIK MUHAMMAD ASHRAF
The phenomenon of terrorism is probably the biggest challenge to the humanity in the 21st century, which has affected almost the entire world and more so the countries of the Islamic bloc, including Pakistan, with all the debilitating consequences for the economy and law and order besides traumatic impact on social harmony and peace. It is a challenge that apart from the coordinated efforts of comity of nations at the global level, also needs the support of their respective populations to subdue and eliminate the scourge. Dealing with the faceless terrorists, who have no religion but masquerade as its champions, is an extremely arduous undertaking. Apart from the legal and military muscle to quell them, the most effective way of scuttling their ability to carry on with their inhumane activities, is to deprive them of the fuel for their enterprise i.e., the money to finance their activities.
The terrorist outfits finance their operations with money raised through drug trade, smuggling of weapons and goods, fraud, kidnapping for ransom and extortion, state sponsorship and charitable organisations. It is a proven fact that the money raised through charitable organisations with a façade of humanitarian causes is one of the major financing avenues for the terrorist activities. Through bilateral and multilateral joint efforts and the initiatives taken through UN, 18 NGOs and nearly 300 other charitable organisations have been found involved in providing financial support to terrorist groups in different parts of the world. In the US, the largest Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, has been banned for providing financial support to Hamas.
Terrorist financing, unlike money laundering, is often clean money being used for lethal purposes. The source of money used to propel the wheel of terrorism is often legitimate—as in the case of charitable donations or profits from businesses diverted from their ostensible use—and the ultimate goal is not necessarily the attainment of more funds but destruction. Terrorists employ a wide range of terrorist financing mechanism, both to raise and move money. The means used by particular terrorist organisations vary from group to group. Some groups in Europe, East Asia and Latin America rely on common criminal activities including extortion, kidnapping, narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting and fraud to support their terrorist acts. Other groups in Middle East rely on commercial enterprise, donations and funds skimmed from charitable organisations to not only fund their activities but also to move material and personnel. Still others rely on state sponsors for funding. To move their funds, terrorists use the formal banking system, informal value-transfer systems,hawalas and hundis and, the oldest method of asset-transfer, the physical transportation of cash, gold and other valuables through smuggling routes.
Pakistan has more than 50 terrorist groups operating under the umbrella of TTP and a few of them carrying on the baton on their own. They also use kidnapping for ransom, extortion and drug trafficking as a source of financing for their terrorist activities. Some of them are also supported by the outside powers hostile to Pakistan. However their main source of money comes from charitable donations collected through seminaries and other welfare organisations sympathetic to their cause. During the last decade such organisations have mushroomed in Pakistan. The unsuspecting people of Pakistan give their zakat which is an obligatory religious charity and donations to such entities not knowing that they are financing their own deaths and destruction.
On Eidul Azha a myriad of groups in the garb of serving the cause of religion come up to collect hides and skins of the sacrificial animals and people do not use their discretion in giving away the stuff to anybody who knocks at their door. The people therefore need to be made aware of this clandestine business and urged to be a little more circumspect about whom they give the charity money or donations. They also need to be told that zakat is payable only to the needy and indigent individuals and not the organisations operating with a façade of humanitarian causes. Quran is very clear about who deserves or is entitled to zakat. Similarly other charitable funds are also required to be doled out to the outfits with a proven record of spending the money for the purposes for which it is collected.
The government therefore must launch an awareness campaign about this crucial aspect of terrorism and also take action to stop such organisations from collecting money from people unauthorisedly. In this regard media can also play a very vital role through organising discussions and programmes which highlight this aspect of the enterprise of terrorism. The ulemas, intellectual and celebrities from different fields of national life can also be associated with the effort to emphasise the importance of charity and its appropriate use. Now that the government has launched a military campaign against the terrorists with the resolve to eliminate them, the people can lend support to this effort by not only backing the army but also squeezing the finances that go to fuel the enterprise of terrorism, by being a little more discreet about whom they give zakat and charitable funds.