October 2005 News

Waging Jihad Against Disaster

19 October 2005
Asia Times Online
Syed Saleem Shahzad

Muzaffarabad: 'Suddenly, tall and strongly built youths with long beards emerged and spread out all over in an organized manner, starting relief operations within an hour of the tremors,' recalled Shaukat, a graduate in computer science, of the earthquake that stuck South Asia last weekend. But Shaukat, a member of one of the richest families in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, was not talking about ordinary rescue workers. The men he referred to are mujahideen, whose usual pursuit is to China Business Big Picture wage jihad across the Line of Control in Indian-administered Kashmir. The men are based in a number of refugee camps in Muzaffarabad and its environs. 'They were our mujahid [holy warrior] brothers who are still working round the clock and going wherever they receive a call. They have been the only organized help since the first hour, and they are still standing despite all the odds,' said Shaukat, who now has to sleep on the pavement as his house, like much of Muzaffarabad, was destroyed in the 7.6-magnitude earthquake that to date has claimed approximately 40,000 lives. 'Jihad has many meanings - it's not just picking up a gun. It means helping, duty, passion, serving the people who cannot serve themselves. If you're serving the people in a natural disaster, that's a jihad,' one bearded young man is quoted by Agence France Presse as saying. Ironically, Ghulam Nabi Lone, education minister of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, was shot dead inside his home in the state's summer capital of Srinagar on Tuesday. One of his attackers was shot dead. Officials had expected a lull in militancy during the earthquake crisis. There are several refugee camps in Pakistani Kashmir, where people started arriving after the 1989 uprising. They now number about 30,000. However, casualties in the camps are said to be light as most of the houses were built of wood and tin sheets - there were few heavy concrete structures. These camps include the Jammu and Kashmir Affectees Relief Trust run by the Hizbul Mujahideen, which India has branded a terrorist organization for its activities in Indian-administered Kashmir. 'That was actually God's blessing, that the mujahideen remained unhurt in this crisis and our physically fit and trained teams carried out massive rescue jobs before anybody came,' explained Hafiz Abdul Rauf, chairman of the social welfare wing of the Jamaatut Dawa, formerly the Lashkar-i- Taiba, which also has extensive operations in the region. Jamaatut Dawa has set up a makeshift town of tents, and also handles the distribution of food and medical aid. It has even established an operating theater in one of the tents, including X-ray facilities, as well as dispensaries, dental clinics and a full squad of 'vigilantes' on motorbikes. These impressively tall and sturdy youths with long beards carry wireless sets and move around in nearby villages in search of people sleeping rough. They provide them with blankets, sheets and pillows. Having a modest dinner of boiled lentil and bread in his tent, Abdul Rauf explained that not only has Jamaatut set up hospitals, it also has mules to carry out relief operations in areas inaccessible to vehicles - and there are many such places. 'We have hired 100 mules beside boats [for the river] which move all around and provide food and clothes to affected areas in far-flung villages. We have 1,100 selfless, trained and strong men who do not care about weather conditions. They don't require hi-tech machines to break rubble and take out people. They work with nails and hammers and have saved hundreds of lives so far.' Speaking to Asia Times Online, a spokesperson of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Saleem Hashmi, said that most mujahideen were safe and sound. 'Some were in Indian-occupied Kashmir at the time of the earthquake and they were not affected.' Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief, Pakistan Asia Times Online. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com.


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