In Refugee Aid, Pakistan’s War Has a New Front
QASIM PULA, Pakistan — Islamist charities and the United States are competing for the allegiance of the two million people displaced by the fight against the Taliban in Swat and other parts of Pakistan — and so far, the Islamists are in the lead.
Although the United States is the largest contributor to a United Nations relief effort, Pakistani authorities have refused to allow American officials or planes to deliver the aid in the camps for displaced people. The Pakistanis do not want to be associated with their unpopular ally.
Meanwhile, in the absence of effective aid from the government, hard-line Islamist charities are using the refugee crisis to push their anti-Western agenda and to sour public opinion against the war and the United States.
“The Western organizations have spent millions and billions on family planning to destroy the Muslim family system,” said the aid director, Mehmood ul-Hassan, who represented Al Khidmat, a powerful charity of the strongly anti-American political party Jamaat-e-Islami.
Yet Islamist and jihadist groups openly work the camps.
Read more here. What is going on here? Is the United States paying for decades of pursuing a military first pollicy? Or is it that the radical groups more effectively combine aid and intimidation? Or is it a combination of aid, intimidation, employment of locals, bribery of tribes? Or is it the Pakistani intelligence, again, that does not want Western aid to work, preferring to encourage a divide and conquer approach to the region, attacking Taliban when they get out of hand, and rewarding when they do their bidding? I don’t know, but it seems clear that the United States under Obama is still not figuring out a way forward in this region. The other lesson is that religion, combined with aid and extremism is a potent combination that Western governments still may not be able to compete with. I have always felt that religious forms of aid giving are accompanied by an endless supply of well-intentioned co-religionists who are really there to serve, whereas Western aid is mostly self-serving in its motivations and delivery, and everyone knows it. This too may be a decisive factor.© Marc Gopin