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Militant groups:The 140-billion charity business

By Aizaz Baqir
August 22 2012




Two years back it was disclosed that 17 banned militant groups were openly raising funds through religious gatherings, certificated award ceremonies, and meetings held in the name of social welfare

There were at least 162 registered charity organizations in Pakistan up to 2009 besides a host of NGOs, and un-registered charities run by political parties. Approximately Rs10 billion are collected in Zakat annually, while some estimated rupees Rs140 billion are given by Pakistanis as donations to different charities. However, this business largely remains un-regulated hence, beyond accountability by the concerned authorities.

As this is the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, the advertisements seeking funds/donations in the name of Zakat and Sadqa etc. are appearing daily in newspapers/magazines by social, religious organizations and other N.G.Os (even pop singers, politicians and other glamorous personalities have joined the foray).

No proper figures are available as to how much money is given in charity because people mostly give to un-regulated charities. However , as per a report of the daily Dawn (, March 25, 2012) the prime minister approved distribution of an additional amount of Rs. 4.3 billion zakat fund, while government had already released Rs. 3.67 billion zakat fund to provinces and federal areas during the 2011-12 financial year.

This makes a total of nearly rupees eight billion a year zakat collected (by deducting at source from saving accounts of people in the banks).

However, Mr. Shams Kassim Lakha, the chairman of the Pakistan Center for Philanthropy (PCP), in an interview with The News (1) disclosed that Pakistanis’ donations to different charities (probably annually) may easily have swelled to Rs 140 billion (mostly un-regulated charities) since 1998-99 when the first household survey was carried out by PCP. That survey showed people giving away a total of Rs.72 billion. [From his words: “were giving away,” it appears that this money is given annually].

Dr. Lakha, further stated that 162 (figures of 2009) charitable trusts have been issued accreditation certificates and that a minimal amount of total charity goes to these institutions, even though they are exempted from tax. He further said that, despite the exemption, thousands of N.G.Os operating across Pakistan fail to disclose the amount they receive in charity and the way it is used. From departmental store owners to businessmen no one wishes to pay taxes but they still give rupees Rs140 billion as charity (it is not confirmed if one billion dollars contributed by the Pakistani diaspora in the U.S.A. alone as per information given by PCP on its website are included in this figure or not).

It is also a surprising fact that all the public listed companies donate Rs2.4 billion only (as per information available on the website of PCP) that is not just a fraction of the unregulated charity of Rs 140 billion but almost equivalent to the donations received by Shaukat Khanum Hospital alone.

However, a more interesting point to note is that as the reason for almost all the charity can be traced to (Islamic) religion (Zakat and Sadqa being an important component of charity), therefore, with some exceptions, charity mostly goes to religious organizations. Two years back it was disclosed in an intelligence report that 17 banned militant groups were openly raising funds through religious gatherings, certificated award ceremonies, and meetings held in the name of social welfare. The same report said that militants were spreading out across Punjab and other areas because of military operations targeting their bases in tribal areas (2).

Ahmed Rashid, a writer and political analyst, while responding to a query regarding the source of funding for the Pakistan Taliban, mentioned as main sources: a) the profits of the drug manufacturing and trade; b) private donations from Pakistan and the Arabian gulf (according to WikiLeaks; financial support estimated at $ 100 million a year was making its way from Gulf Arab states to fund “Holy War.” Islamic charities from Saudi Arabia and U.A.E financed a network in Pakistan that recruited children as young as eight to wage jihad. ( article); and (c) criminal activities (Source: The News on Sunday , Special Report, June 21, 2009. page 33).

Mr. Rashid’s point (c) is also supported by a news item, which said that a number of custom officials including a superintendent have been kidnapped for ransom by the Taliban. First Rs 200 million were demanded, but ultimately they came down to demand Rs 40 million (3). It is generally believed that most of the funds given to religious/militant organizations are for the purpose of fighting the jihad or holy war. But JUD, or JamatulDawa (an affiliate of banned outfit Lashkar-e-toiba), which is a Deobandi jehadi organization (having the support of Saudi Arabia) also claims to serve the cause of humanity. It manages a network of vast health-care and educational facilities. A special report published in The News on Sunday says: As a matter of fact the Markaz-e-Toiba compound of the Markaz Dawat ul Irshad spreads over 200 acres of land and houses both teaching and residential facilities complete with its own farms, mosques, fish breeding ponds and stables (4).

JUD is a Deobandi organization, but, now it also claims to serve even non-Muslims such as Hindus and other minorities, said Hafiz Abdul Rauf, head of the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation in an interview to Aoun Sahi of The News. Although the U.N. Security Council has declared it the ‘front of’ LeT, and the U.S. State Department calls it a terrorist outfit and places it on the terror watch list of the Pakistani Government, this foundation has its charity operations in almost all parts of the country including 126 dispensaries, 152 blood donor societies, 139 ambulances in 173 cities and 140 schools and 40 madrassas (5).

The above facts show that JUD is successfully managing a large network of charities and due to its welfare activities for the poor masses, it enjoys popular support [according to a 2008 edition of Ghazia, a weekly of JUD printed simultaneously from Lahore and Karachi , some 4500 mothers had donated one son each while 83 of them two sons each to JUD for the cause of promoting, preaching, and defending Islam against infidels] (6).

The funds/donations are given generously by the poor as well as (corrupt) obscenely wealthy individuals who want to purify their money, by adding an element of spirituality to the otherwise ill- gotten wealth. For instance, Malik Riaz, a real estate tycoon, also claims to be generous in charity and as per information given on the website of Bahria Town, ten air conditioned Dastar khwans (food serving centers) have been opened by him in all the big cities (while six more are in the pipeline), where approximately 35000 poor people are served two meals a day. And all this costs Rs 30 million annually.

Malik Riaz was also recently requested by the president to donate Rs 130 million as ransom to Somali pirates for the release of MV Albedo’s crew (The News, May 16, 2012).

As the holy Islamic month of Ramadan approaches, this activity of giving and receiving charity gains momentum and remains in full swing until the 10th of Zilhajj (when goats, cows and camels are slaughtered and their meat and skins are given to poor as charity).

After religious organizations, come social organizations (of whom the largest are run by certain political parties). For instance, the former cricket star and now chief of the Justice Party (PTI), collects billions in charity and in addition to a trust hospital also has opened a University (affiliated with a foreign university) in his home town, Mianwali.

Last year when his political party was touching a new heights of popularity, he received (according to some un-confirmed estimates) Rs 500 millions of hides from Lahore alone, defeating a rival religious party in this race. According to information given on its website, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center (SKMCHRC) received a total of Rs 1343 million Zakat and Rs 908 million donations. Hence its total receipts were (up to December 2011) Rs 2251 million or Rs 2.25 billion in comparison to 1994-95 collections of Rs 46 and Rs 85 million respectively.

This fact proves that economic interests are promoted and secured at the same time by gaining political clout and this also is true the other way round. With an increase in political popularity, donations are also pouring in rapidly breaking all previous records. PTI, re-named Jihadi organisations and faith-based charities have donation boxes in every departmental store and big shop in all small and big cities as well as accounts for this purpose in all the branches of a big bank that has an Islamic name and is owned by a big industrialist. Evan a student or poor person who can donate as low as Rs5five is welcome to reserve a place in paradise by just donating so small an amount.

Similar is the case of Jamat Islami and MQM, which have social welfare departments such as the Al-Khidmat Foundation and Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation respectively.

As per information given on the website, Jamat Islami’s Al-Khidmat Foundation was registered as an NGO in 1990. Its welfare services include Rescue and Relief, Rehabilitation and Development, Education, Healthcare, Community Services, Microfinance and Care for Orphans. Although no proper figures are available regarding its annual collection of Zakat and other donations, but one of its Orphan Care Programs intends to take care of and reach out to no less than 10,000 children. And, as per estimate of the foundation, one child will need, at least, Rs 30,000/- per annum, which means that it will have to spend rupees Rs 300 million on this project alone. There are also other big projects such as education, health, clean drinking water etc. Hence, it supposedly receives billions in charity.

M.Q.M. also has its charity organization called Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation (KKF) that was established in 1978. It mostly receives donations from traders of Karachi that is the financial hub of the country. Although there is no proper information available on the foundation’s website, however as it has a huge support from Karachi’s Urdu speaking people that is in the majority in the population of more than 15 million. Hence, it has an edge over all other organizations working in Karachi not only in zakat and donations collection, but also in hide collection. One also hears about the use of terror to seek ‘donations’ in the name of charity by MQM activists.

A former federal minister and an active politician, belonging to a religious party has been operating a trust in Karachi and claims to help ailing humanity with medical, educational, and financial problems. The achievements of the trust were highlighted in a newspaper article (The News, July 16, 2102) just five days before the start of Holy month in a very effective and prominent way by a renowned scientist of the country.

In a most interesting advertisement published in The News on July 08, 2012, an owner of a hospital in Gulberg (Lahore’s posh locality) has straightforwardly demanded an amount of just Rs 30 million for treating deserving patients. Another non-religious liberal organization has given an advertisement (The News, July 16, 2012) projecting its claim of serving 115000 students (deserving, of course) in 830 schools across the country ( I haven’t seen any of its schools in my native town Multan, yet).

The notable point is that most charity given individuals are real estate tycoons, corrupt and greedy businessmen, and other looters and plunderers of resources belonging to humanity.

Seeing the boom in charity business, everyone seems to be jumping on the social welfare bandwagon. After the success of Sahara, Zindagi etc (trusts run by pop singers like Abraul Haq, Shahzad Roy and Jawwad Ahmed), now TV and film star Umer Sharif has also started a trust hospital in Orangi ( Karachi) , and is requesting all the generous people to donate for his (great cause) too through an advertisement appearing just before the Ramadan ( The News, July 20, 2012)

The notable point is that most charity-given individuals are real estate tycoons, corrupt and greedy businessmen, and other looters and plunderers of resources belonging to humanity.On the other hand most of the receivers (I am not blaming any particular organization, because there may be sincere individuals/organizations too) also maintain no proper record. And as most charity that is given is unregulated, hence it is difficult to say that all the charity is spent on the welfare activities as claimed by these champions of ailing humanity. In this context, It is also interesting to note that recently PML(N) has levelled serious allegations against PTI chief Imran Khan and claimed that claimed that Mr. Khan has used the zakat funds to invest in the real estate business abroad. However, Mr. Khan has vehemently denied these allegations (7).


1. People give Rs. 140 billion to mostly unregulated charities, said Mr. Shams Kassim Lakha in an interview to Saad Hasan (The News, April 28, 2009, page, 18)

2. Taliban ‘openly raising funds’ in Punjab: BBC, The News , June 24, 2010 (front page).

3. Taliban kidnap customs officials for ransom, Report by Ikram Hoti, The News, November 11, 2009.

4. In the name of God (Special Report) by Amir Mir, The News on Sunday, December 07, 2008, page 31.

5. Dawa, jihad, charity or all ?Aoun Sahi, The News, April 15, 2012.

6. Back with a ban by Waqar Gillani, The News on Sunday, December 21, 2008, p. 33.

7. Zakat not transferred abroad or used in Business: Imran , report by Mumtaz Alvi and Muhammad Anis, The News, August 03, 2012.

Originally published by View Point

The writer is a freelance journalist and professional translator
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