Pakistan: Civil Conflict, Natural Disaster, and Partisan Welfare

and 07.14.15

Pakistan: Civil Conflict, Natural Disaster, and Partisan Welfare

and 07.14.15
Barry Loo/U.S. Air ForceBarry Loo/U.S. Air Force

The earthquake that hit Pakistan’s Kashmir on October 8, 2005 lasted for 5 minutes, killed more than 73,000 people, and left 3.3 million people homeless. The victims criticized the government harshly for not responding adequately. Social welfare associations, non-political and political, many operating in the name or the spirit of Islam, moved rapidly to assist traumatized people. The Pakistan army’s operations against anti-government militants in Swat and South Waziristan in 2009 displaced more than two million people. Welfare associations provided the displaced people with vital welfare services, including emergency transport, food, water, and shelter, medical treatment, and funeral services. The heavy rains and floods of 2010 submerged one fifth of the country, led directly to the death of 1,750 people, and rendered 8 million people homeless. Again, welfare associations organized in the name or the spirit of Islam provided most of the aid that the victims received. What can we learn from the work of these welfare associations about the nature of society, government, and state in Pakistan?

This chapter describes the work of three welfare organizations that were involved in aiding the victims of the 2005 earthquake, the 2009 military operations in Swat and South Waziristan, and the 2010 floods. The chapter places these organizations within the broader context of social welfare work, most of which are not related to party politics or to a specific religion or school or denomination of a religion. The three organizations considered each have a different relationship to party politics. As political party is a group of people who ostensibly seek to become a ruling party and to thereby form the government, the relations that each organization has with a political party might reflect differences in aspiration for state control.

The three social welfare organizations considered here are the Jamaat ud Dawa (Assembly for Propagation), affiliated to the Lashkar I Taiba (Army of the Pure), a banned militant organization; Al Khidmat Welfare Foundation, associated with the Jamaat i Islami (Islamic Assembly), one of the oldest ‘Islamic’ political parties in Pakistan; and the Minhaj (the Path) Welfare Foundation, associated with Brelvi, sometimes referred to as Sufi, thinking and the progressive Pakistan Awam i Tehreek (Pakistan People’s Movement).

Jamaat ud Dawa, Al Khidmat Welfare Foundation, and Al Minhaj are each related to a specific political party, but in different ways. Syed Abu A’la Maududi, a prolific theologian, co-founded the Jamaat i Islami in 1941 largely to oppose the All India Muslim League’s claim to represent all Indian Muslims. It established its welfare wing, Al Khidmat Welfare Foundation, only in 1992, 50 years after the Jamaat i Islami was established as an ideological party. In 2004 the Shura of the Jamaat i Islami voted to officially separate Al Khidmat Welfare Foundation from the Jamaat i Islami. But the leadership of Al Khidmat Welfare Foundation remains the same after the legal separation of the party and the welfare organization. The Jamaat ud Dawa, co-founded by Mohammed Hafiz Saeed during the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-88), is affiliated to what has since 2002 been an illegal organization. It is not easy to distinguish the humanitarian work of Jamaat ud Dawa from its political work, which allegedly includes political violence outside Pakistan, in Indian Kashmir and Afghanistan. The Pakistan Awami Tehriq, in contrast, was created after the Minhaj Welfare Foundation was established. Tahir ul Qadri is the leader of both the political party and the welfare foundation. But the party’s work is dwarfed by the social welfare organization’s work.

These three organizations are each related to different masaliq (denominations) of Islam. Pakistan’s five major masaliq are Ahle-Hadith, Brelvi, Deobandi and Jaffria, and Jamaat i Islami. Jamaat ud Dawa is inspired by Ahle-Hadith, otherwise referred to as Wahabian thinking. Al Minhaj is associated with the Brelvi maslaq (denomination), often referred to as Sufi. And Al Khidmat Welfare Foundation is affiliated with the Jamaat i Islami, which claims to be above maslaqi (denominational) differences but has its own government-approved board which parallels the four dominant masaliq of Pakistan: Brelvi, Deobandi, Jaffri, and Ahle-Hadith. The Jamaat i Islami is often described as revivalist.

It must be emphasized that the organizations considered are not representative of social welfare associations in Pakistan. We have focused on ‘Islamic’ political party affiliated welfare organizations. But the vast majority of welfare work in Pakistan is non-partisan and not professedly ‘Islamic.’ Indeed, the vast majority of social welfare work in Pakistan is by individuals not organizations.

This chapter’s focus on the most political and some of the allegedly most militant organizations should not lead the reader to conclude that the vast majority of Pakistan’s social welfare associations are not opposed to violence and effectively committed to ameliorating indignities and suffering of millions of people.

Government versus the State in Pakistan

It is important from the outset to have clarity on the distinctions between key concepts used here that elected leaders, media professionals, and scholars often conflate. The concept of the state, to have sufficient clarity to be used meaningfully, should be distinguishable from other related concepts, specifically those of the government and the nation. The state is a collection of institutions; government uses these institutions to exercise control over a territory and the people residing on it. The state is a complex but inanimate object, incapable of initiating action. The state can act, but only in the way that a knife can cut. The state is an instrument. Martha Rosler describes the distinction between the state and the people who manage it with clarity.

…the state and individuals must never be confused with one another. The state is not a person. It does not have an unconscious, a spouse, feelings, children, a house, pride, a body, sex organs. The state feels no pleasure, no pain. It does not experience ecstasy, love, depression, or hatred. It has neither rage nor passions. The state is not biological but social and historical. The state is not a worried, sleepless man. It is not a frantic mother. It is not a person or even a group of persons. The state does not have a right to do this or that. It has no right to seek revenge or retribution. The state has no personal rights. It has no personal opinions.

A government, on the other hand, is animate; a government act. Indeed, a government is a group of people who manage a state. To model the world as if states were actors, often referred to as nations or as nation-states, is a theoretical exercise that might have heuristic benefits. But a model should not be confused with an empirical fact. The assumption that states are like very large individuals with their own preferences, thoughts, and wills, produces not only nonsense jargon, such as ‘non-state actors, ‘ phantom phenomenon, such as ‘national consciousness, ‘ but also justification for the denial of individuals’ rights in the name of the greater rights of the nation.

National versus Human Security

It is also important from the outset to have clarity on the distinction between national security and human security. The concept of human security distinguished explicitly between the security of the state, ironically referred to as ‘national security,’ and the security of those, the population of a country, from whom government derives its legitimacy. The concept of ‘national security’ conflated the security of the state and of the people who live in the territory under the nominal writ of the state. The concept of ‘human security’ was designed to disentangle two senses of ‘nation’ — the human element and the mechanical apparatus, or the state.

Human security is the capacity of individuals and groups, such as families, to protect themselves from harm. Physical security refers to the integrity of the body; human security refers to the capability of individuals and groups to maintain that bodily integrity. Such capacity requires, foremost, the knowledge that one has a right to protect oneself. Knowledge of rights is thus vital to human security.

The Pakistan army’s operations to fight the Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Seminary Students’ Movement) and Al Qaeda reveal a conflict between national security and human security. The attempt to protect the state itself (‘national security’) undermined peoples’ ability to protect themselves from harm (‘human security’). The more than two million people displaced in the Pakistan army’s operations against anti-government militants in Swat and South Waziristan were not well equipped to accommodate the social and physical destruction and indiscriminate violence. As a result of the operation to ensure national security, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes. Many died as a result.

Islamic Charities and Muslim Philanthropies

A third conceptual clarification needed before discussing the three selected associations is that we avoid the phrases ‘Islamic’ or ‘Muslim charities’ and ‘Islamic’ or ‘Muslim philanthropies’ because these are potentially misleading, for two reasons. The use of the adjective ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ tends to suggest that there is some authority that can determine decisively who is and who is not Muslim and what is and what is not in accordance with Islam, even as the Quran itself repeatedly cautions people to avoid assigning such authority to anyone other than God. Indeed, those associations that make public pronouncements about their ‘Islamic’ credentials are very often the least faithful to the spirit of Islam. Second, the donation of money or assets to the poor, charity [khairat] and philanthropy in the spirit of Islam is not merely to aid the needy but also to please God. Indeed, most funding for social welfare associations derives from zakat and infaq. Zakat is the obligation on Muslims who have a requisite amount of accumulated wealth to give 2.5% of those assets annually to designated eligible people [mustahiqeen]. Zakat is an obligation to God [ibadah] not an obligation to humanity [mu’amalat]. Accordingly, scholars of Islam discuss it as jurisprudence related to worship [fiqh ibadah] rather than as jurisprudence related to contracts [fiqh mu’amalat]. Infaq is an obligation to humanity. Failure to provide infaq cannot be forgiven by God but only by those whom one is denying God’s blessings. ‘Philanthropy ‘ (from the Greek φιλοσ ανϕροποσ), literally ‘brotherly love of a human’ does not capture in its entirety the concept of infaq, spending to please God.

The Swat-Malakand Operation

The military operations began in May 2009 after a deadlock between the government and the largest insurgent group, the Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan, regarding the enforcement of Shariah in the Swat-Malakand region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The military decided that for the operations to be successful the population of Swat, where Tehreek i Taliban insurgents had established a huge militant network, had to be displaced. The rationale of the military was that without such displacement insurgents could not be separated from the civilians. Consequently, the entire population of the mountainous Swat started moving towards the low-lying districts. The federal and provincial governments of the Northwest Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) established makeshift camps for internally displaced persons in the districts of Mardan, Charsadda, Swabi, and Peshawar. In Mingora, the main city of the region, alone, more than 700,00o people registered with authorities as internally displaced people.

The arrangements for the internally displaced persons at the camps were relatively satisfactory but only because of the participation of private welfare associations. The government contributed in the setting up of camps and provision of electricity and water. The government was able to make this contribution with the help of international humanitarian agencies. Visits to these camps revealed that their dwellers faced many problems, including lack of food, clean drinking water, medicine, and sanitation facilities. Government authorities were incapable of meeting the needs of the displaced people.

One could see numerous volunteers associated with different welfare associations helping the affected people with enthusiasm and alacrity. One could see hordes of Jamaat ud Dawa workers busy in providing care to the internally displaced people just opposite Al Khidmat Foundation volunteers, who could be seen doing their utmost to reach out with food and other necessities to the affected people. Not far away, volunteers of the Edhi Foundation, the Umma Welfare Trust, Islamic Relief, and other welfare associations, would try to provide for the needs of internally displaced people lined up in long queues. Although secular political parties also had their kiosks at the relief camps for internally displaced people, the lack of enthusiasm among their workers could be plainly observed. Perhaps this was the reason that few of the internally displaced people thronged their desks at the camps for relief.

The military operation in Swat against the Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan continued from May to August 2009. During this period, private welfare associations provided rescue and relief to internally displaced people. Once the military defeated the insurgents and eliminated their command and control structure in the Swat valley, which the military had early allowed to be set up, these welfare associations also took the lead in helping the internally displaced people return to and rebuild their homes.

Jamaat ud Dawa

The militant Lashkar I Taiba and Jamaat ud Dawa have the same roots. General Pervez Musharraf, who took power in Pakistan and declared himself Chief Executive of the country in 1999, banned the Lashkar I Taiba and the Jaish i Muhammad in January 2002, as militants with alleged links to these groups were alleged to have been behind the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. Jamaat ud Dawa is the name that the Lashkar I Taiba took when it was banned. Early in 2002, the founder of Lashkar I Taiba, Hafiz Saeed, adopted the name of Jamaat ud Dawa for his organization and took up charity work. The motive behind this seems to have been to distance itself from the militant Lashkar I Taiba and to evade the 2002 ban on the Lashkar I Taiba.

Jamaat ud Dawa again changed its name, to Falah i Insaniyat [ Welfare of Humanity] Foundation, in 2009 lest Jamaat ud Dawa also be banned. After the November 2008 attacks in India’s financial hub, Mumbai, which the Indian government blamed on Hafiz Saeed, Islamabad vowed to extend cooperation to New Delhi to apprehend the accused. Pakistani analysts believe that the Jamaat ud Dawa, fearing that its leadership would be arrested and its network dismembered, thought it necessary to change its name to Falah i Insaniyat Foundation. In this way the resources of the organization could be saved from confiscation. Pakistani authorities arrested and tried Saeed in connection with the Indian Parliament attack in 2001, the Mumbai railway bombing in 2006, and the Mumbai city bombing in 2008 in the face of mounting Indian pressure; courts released him each time for insufficient evidence to prosecute. The Jamaat ud Dawa and Falah i Insaniyat Foundation claims that it activities are entirely humanitarian.

‘The Cup, the Gun and the Crescent’ by Sara Ashencaen Crabtree, Jonathan Parker, Azlinda Asman. 358 pp. Whiting & Birch

According to journalist Amir Mir, Jamaat ud Dawa predates the Lashkar I Taiba, and can be thought of as the original organization, formed in 1986. Jamaat ud Dawa was formed by teachers at the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, to participate in war against the Soviet occupying forces in Afghanistan. These teachers were associated with the Saudi-influenced Ahle Hadith sect. The motivation behind formation of Jamaat ud Dawa for the first time in 1986 seemed to be the promise of aid to the University of Engineering and Technology teachers from Madina University, Saudi Arabia. The Jamaat ud Dawa also known by its full title Markazul Dawa Wal Irshad formed Lashkar i Taiba to send young men for the Afghan war.

Leaders of Falah i Insaniyat deny that the name of the organization Jamaat ud Dawa has been changed to Falah i Insaniyat to disguise the group’s militant identity and operations. They argue that there has been no change of nomenclature.

In fact, Falah i Insaniyat is a long-registered welfare organization in Pakistan and its head is Hafiz Abdul Rauf. We have not changed its name. Jamaat ud Dawa is in fact an organization for Dawaat (invitation to Islam). Falah i Insaniyat is meant to carry out the work of falah (welfare) and rifah (reformation) and to respond to the needs of disaster-stricken people.

Jamaat ud Dawa was a leading agency in the emergency aid to the victims of the October 8, 2005 earthquake, which left hundreds of thousands of people seriously injured or homeless. Jamaat ud Dawa also served the internally displaced persons from the civil conflict in Swat-Malakand in 2009 and the flood-affected people in the summer of 2010.

The Spokesperson for the Falah i Insaniyat Foundation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa claims that the work of the foundation is entirely humanitarian.

It is the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) that in the hour of trial every Muslim must respond to the woes of his Muslim brother. So as we are Muslims in this way it is a God-ordained entrusted duty to us to help people in disasters and catastrophes.

Some analysts see political objectives behind the humanitarian work of Jamaat ud Dawa and Falah i Insaniyat Foundation.

These so-called Islamic organizations in particular Jamaat ud Dawa or whatever other names it has definitely have a political agenda of winning a large number of supporters. To attain this aim the organization uses charity work as tool to reach out to these people.

The criticism that Lashkar i Taiba, Jamaat ud Dawa, and Falah i Insaniyat Foundation have political objectives is true but not true only of these organizations. Many professedly ‘Islamic’ associations claim to want Pakistan to be ruled by Shariah, according to their own sectarian and doctrinal interpretation of the construct. Each group’s leadership seems to want to be the sole spokesperson of Shariah and justifies this through verses of the Qur’an in which God commands that Muslims are vicegerent of God on Earth and they would exercise state power as a sacred trust. The leadership of ‘Islamic’ political parties in Pakistan argues that they and not the leadership of ‘secular ‘ political parties, who they accuse of having no understanding of Islam and Shariah, meet the criteria for being the Vicegerent of God on Earth. Thus the ‘Islamic’ party leaders lay claim to and take upon themselves the responsibility to rule Pakistan in accordance with the tenets of Islamic Shariah.

Irrespective of the motives behind the charity work of the Jamaat ud Dawa and the Falah i Insaniyat Foundation, discussed further below, these groups contributed significantly to improving human security for many vulnerable Pakistanis. These groups have been active in several sectors.

At the moment one of the main focuses of Falah i Insaniyat Foundation is on health. In this regard we have built hospitals, dispensaries and have developed a vast network of ambulances. We also hold medical camps where people cannot afford medical treatment and medicines; we try to cater to their health needs. We also hold special camps for disaster-affected people. Apart from this our foundation is working on drinking water projects in areas like in Balochistan province, Tharparkar and D I Khan. In this regard we install water pumps, water tanks and hand pumps.

Al Khidmat Welfare Foundation

Al Khidmat Welfare Foundation is a registered charitable society. In 2004 it separated itself from the Jamaat i Islami. In response to the July and August 2010 floods, Al Khidmat Foundation attracted more than 20,000 volunteers in its 104 relief camps, according to Al Khidmat General Secretary Ahsan Ali Syed.

Al Khidmat Foundation has the largest social welfare network of the ‘Islamic’ political parties in Pakistan.

We have units of our Foundation in all districts of Pakistan; in FATA and Azad Kashmir we have separate units. Al Khidmat Pakistan is organized at the provincial, district, and union council level. We have both paid workers and volunteers at all these tiers. Al Khidmat has a separate organizational structure and is totally independent in its operations.

According to the foundation’s leaders the initial and continuing motivation behind the organization’s charity work is the large-scale miseries of people in Pakistan.

There are certain things which are beyond the state’s potential in Pakistan. So the private charities like ours have had to play their role in alleviating the woes of the common man. The vision of Al-Khidmat is to serve the nation; the priority sectors are health, education and emergencies or national disasters.

Some critics of the Jamaat i Islami argue that the party started Al Khidmat because it failed to gain power through elections; because other political parties, such as its chief rival, the Muttahida Quami Movement, have their own social welfare programs; and because the government’s unwillingness to meet the health and educational requirements of most Pakistanis and to address the miseries of disaster and civil strife affected people gave the Jamaat i Islami an opportunity to gain public support through social service activities.

The Jamaat i Islami since its inception in 1941 has been taking part in Indian and subsequently Pakistani politics but it failed to win a significant number of parliamentary seats. It only reached the echelons of political power by getting some if its leaders inducted as ministers in the cabinet of martial law ruler General Zia ul-Haq (1977-88) and joining the government with Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) (1990-1993). Again when the alliance of Islamic parties won a majority in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in elections of 2002 and formed the provincial government, Jamaat i Islami was the junior partner of Jamiat i Ulema i Islam. Since the 1970s the Jamaat i Islami also formed an alliance with the country’s military in a bid to Islamize Pakistan from within. It has largely failed. But in the process has radicalized the military and the state’s policy-making.

It appears that the Jamaat i Islami set up Al Khidmat Foundation with political objectives. The failure of state institutions to respond to the victims of natural disasters and civil strife or lack of government commitment to the educational and health needs of the population allows Al Khidmat, run by accomplished Jamaat i Islami leaders, or to win public sympathy.

Nevertheless, Al Khidmat Foundation has provided vital services to desperate people. In particular, its contribution in the rescue, relief and rehabilitation work won the foundation many admirers during the 2005 earthquake during the internationally displaced people problem of Swat in 2009 and floods of 2010. Looking after the dire needs of thousands of displaced devastated people was made possible by the services to Al Khidmat of hundreds of volunteers and donors.

We have paid workers in routine times and we give them transport and daily allowance for the services they carry out in the fields. However, in emergencies we have many volunteers who take part in the rescue, relief and rehabilitation work.

Al Khidmat Foundation officials claim to receive generous donations.

We have local donors. We organized provincial and district level donors conventions. In these conventions we present our programmers, plans and projects to the donors and tell them about their costs and impact. In this way we convince the potential donors of the needs of such projects. In one instance one donor gave Rs. 0.8 million (US$ 9,000) for the orphanages named as Aghosh Orphanages run by Al Khidmat Foundation.

Like other welfare associations, Al Khidmat Foundation also depends heavily on the zakat from their own communities. The hides and skins of animals, which are sacrificed on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, is also given to the foundation in a large number and through this it raises large amounts of money.

At the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, Al Khidmat Foundation especially organized skins collection points at every Union Council level in the country. Al Khidmat Foundation also runs independent hospitals. These hospitals charge the patients at the most the paltry sum of Rs. 50, which includes medical examination, laboratory tests and medicines. These hospitals are run on no-profit and no-loss basis while the additional costs are covered through charity money. We also receive cash and kind from international donors. To these donors we submit project proposals and then they assess and provide funds. In this connection we have especially receive donations from Saudi Hilal-e-Ahmar [Saudi Red Crescent], Japan Government, UK Islamic Mission and Islamic Relief. Islamic Centre for North America and Islamic Centre for Canada have also provided significant funds to Al Khidmat Foundation. [The] Pakistan Army started using our data for rescue operations in Bamako after the 2005 Earthquake. In fact, Al Khidmat Foundation was the first to conduct surveys to assess needs of the affected people. Through this door to door and somewhat systematically carried out survey assessment we got the real situation on the ground.

The Minhaj Welfare Foundation

Mohammad Tahir ul Qadri is the charismatic center of the Minhaj Welfare Foundation. Tahir ul Qadri is a passionate, animated, and full-throated speaker. He draws large crowds who are frequently moved to tears. Qadri’s fatawas (religious opinions, plural of fatwa) about suicide bombings being contrary to Islam have made him the target of assassins. Qadri is a prolific Islamic scholar and broadcast personality. He founded Al Minhaj University in 1981 and the Minhaj Welfare Foundation and a political party, the Pakistan Awam i Tehreek, in 1989. The party won one seat – Qadri’s seat – in the 2002 national elections. The Pakistan Awam i Tehreek boycotted the national elections in 2008.

The Minhaj Welfare Foundation maintains four societies in Lahore, each registered under the Societies Act. The Foundation provided relief services to the internally displaced people from the 2009 military operation in Swat. Al Minhaj ul Quran Foundation includes a maternity hospital. The Foundation also operates an FM radio station, Awaaz [Voice]. The Minhaj Welfare Foundation has installed 1500 water pumps across the country costing Rs. 7 million. The Foundation performs collective weddings and wedding receptions, for one dozen families at a time. The Foundation thereby saves families from a considerable financial commitment. The Foundation has married three hundred couples.

Al Minhaj Foundation has offices at the tehsil and union council level, the lowest tiers of administration, in the four provinces of the country and in Azad Kashmir. The foundation also claims to have constructed 1000 schools and colleges in the country; the Minhaj Education Society has set up 572 schools including 42 colleges and informational technology centers imparting education to 120,000 students through 5,000 teachers all over Pakistan.

For the past 20 years, thousands of Qadri’s followers have assembled in Lahore for the last 10 days of Ramadhan. In 2010, with much of the country under floodwaters, Qadri requested those who were intending to attend to instead celebrate Eid by working with for victims of the floods. He mobilized 15,000 volunteers. A day of training in emergency aid was given to the volunteers in Lahore, Faisalabad, Karachi, Multan, Rawalpindi, and Abbotabad. The Rs. 30 million that would have been spent on the itikaf [spiritual retreat within a mosque] was instead spent on emergency relief. The level and reach of rescue and relief work provided evidence of the organization’s ability to mobilize volunteers.

Punjab and Sindh, where the 2010 flooding was worst, are the first and second most populous provinces and have Barelvi majority populations. As a result, the organization has run most of its activities in these provinces. The conflict and disaster-hit provinces, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, have attracted relatively less attention from the Minhaj Welfare Foundation because the people of the Barelvi maslaq are in a very small minority in these provinces.

Comparative Reflections

The cases considered here are not representative. It must be emphasized that the better-known social welfare associations in Pakistan do not profess to be ‘Islamic’ and are not related to political parties. The Edhi Foundations, the best known and most extensive social welfare association in the country, maintain a studied distance from party politics. Its founder, Abdul Sattar Edhi, has often been asked by political parties, in and out of government, and by the military, for support. He has occasionally agreed, only to later regret his decision and leave party politics.

But when the October 8, 2005 earthquake struck, many were convinced that Judgment Day had arrived. Survives were convinced that God was punishing them for their distance from Islam. Under these circumstances, ‘Islamic’ welfare associations have a special appeal and a unique opportunity to win supporters to their theology.

The Minhaj Welfare Foundation services for the relief, rescue, and rehabilitation of 2005 earthquake, 2009 civil strife in Swat, and 2010 floods were extensive but not as conspicuous as that of Jamaat ud Dawa and Al Khidmat Foundation. This might be attributed to the Minhaj Welfare Foundation’s concentration on education rather than relief to the victims of conflict and disaster. Moreover, the parent organizations of Jamaat ud Dawa, Falah i Insaniyat, and Al Khidmat Welfare Foundation have run militant training camps in Azad Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As a result, they had a ready local workforce to operate in those areas. The militant background of some of the volunteers of Jamaat ud Dawa and Falah i Insaniyat and their familiarity with the areas of the civil strife and natural calamities might have better placed them to help affected people. Al Minhaj and the Edhi Foundation did not have that kind of experience.

The bid by Falah i Insaniyat Foundation and Al Khidmat Foundation to distance themselves from their parent organizations might have been taken with an eye to the general aversion of Pakistanis to politics, particularly to ‘Islamic’ parties taking part in politics. However, in the process of establishing their social welfare arms, ‘Islamic’ political parties have extended valuable services to the people affected by the October, 2005 earthquake; the military operations in Swat-Malakand of 2009; and countrywide floods of 2010. These welfare organizations after having the experience of working in these natural and man made disasters have matured as true welfare organizations. Herein lay their greatest merit. Perhaps first-hand experience of addressing people’s sufferings and indignities can reconfirm the commitment to social service work and neutralize organizational political agendas.


What have we learned about the nature of the Pakistani state and Pakistani society from the work of these Islamic social welfare associations? Some general conclusions can be drawn.

First, the scope for faith-based welfare associations to emerge and work has been huge because the state in Pakistan has largely failed to provide human security to the majority of the masses particularly the vulnerable sections. The government’s failure to adequately address the human security needs of the people during national emergencies such as civil strife and natural disasters have raised questions about the capacity of the state and the commitment of the government. Various state institutions particularly the civilian bureaucracy and military command and above all the governments themselves have been unable to rise to the occasion. This created a vacuum, filled by ‘Islamic’ welfare associations. The capacity of the Pakistani state regarding national emergencies could be gauged from the fact that before 2005 there had been no disaster management authority in the country. It was only in 2007 that the National Disaster Management Authority was established.

Pakistan has built the seventh largest military in the world and a nuclear weapons program. The state has enormous capacity and an emphasis on national security. But it not clear how the institutions for national security can be made to look after the human security needs of Pakistan. The biggest issue regarding human security in Pakistan is not state capacity but government will. Colossal allocations to national security both failed to address what are now grave educational and public welfare challenges and undermined the security of state institutions. Pakistan is now faced with two large-scale insurgencies, the insurgency of the Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan waged in the name of Islam and the insurgency of the Baloch nationalists for an Independent Baloch state.

Regardless of motivations and objectives, representatives of each of the welfare organizations considered here claim that they are involved in social welfare work because the government has failed to adequately respond to people’s needs.

Basically in Pakistan the government is not solving the problems of the people, thus shunning its primary responsibility. As Pakistan has been facing both internal and external threats therefore, all the Muslim NGOs are working with human spirit to alleviate the miseries of people.

Second, reported motivations are diverse. It is difficult to confirm from behavior or words alone others’ intentions. And intentions are often mixed and changing. We asked our interview subjects about their motivations. We often heard that the work suited a person or that the leader of an organization was an inspiration. We often heard that a Muslim should have a social consciousness, that it is an obligation to God to help the suffering, and that God would look kindly upon ones deceased parents if one did philanthropic work. At the same time, the philanthropic activities associated with ‘Islamic’ movements and political parties do seem to suit the aspirations of these movements and parties to secure the power of the state.

Our third finding is closely related to this point about diverse motivations. The commitment to the social teachings of Islam power many social welfare associations in Pakistan. It is only possible for Pakistani social welfare associations to provide services to millions of people in Pakistan because of the commitment of hundreds of thousands of social workers inspired by Islam, a sizable portion of which is female. The leadership of the organizations that we have examined is male. But women do the bulk of the work in these organizations.

Disaster-stricken people tend to accept aid from any who can provide it. As so-called Islamic welfare associations were in the forefront to provide vital services with apparent sincerity and a sense of purpose, disaster-stricken people gravitated towards them. The political objectives of the charity organizations that attend to them might not be of central concern to people in dire need. And the state institution could not provide adequate rescue and relief. Pakistan’s recent disasters created the opportunity for the cultivation of goodwill by ‘Islamic’ welfare organizations. At the same time, whatever the long-term objectives of these charities might be, in the short-run they outperformed every other state and non-state institution to help affected people. With the continued indifference of the government towards human security and with ever growing and complicated disasters, the role of ‘Islamic’ social welfare associations would increase as would people’s reliance on them. Significantly, this dependence of people on the religion-based charity organizations would further erode the legitimacy of the state.

The Islamic parties have established welfare organizations after playing an active role in politics for decades without much success. They might have come to realize that they were more acceptable to the Pakistanis in the role of extending welfare services rather than as political parties. Generally, Pakistani politics are not about political ideologies but about loyalty to the leaders who can provide jobs, roads, and other resources to his or her supporters. To many Pakistanis, Shariah means good governance and speedy justice. In this context, the Islamic political parties’ involvement in charitable activities is quite understandable. It might provide the support base for Islamic political parties to gain political power.

At the same time, if governments fail to provide essential social welfare services but rather privilege the security of state institutions (misleadingly referred to as national security) and the security of those who control these institutions (as well as any can control an institution) over the security of ordinary citizens, then non-governmental organizations, including religious groups, will step in. They will provide public services not only to meet real and dire need but also to challenge the government’s claim to legitimacy. ‘Islamic’ political parties are not merely using social welfare activities as a tool to gain political legitimacy as to gain control of the state. They are also striving to transform the state.

Excerpted from The Cup, the Gun and the Crescent by Sara Ashencaen Crabtree and Jonathan Parker, eds. Copyright © 2012 by Sara Ashencaen Crabtree and Jonathan Parker, eds. Excerpted with permission by Whiting & Birch.

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