Dubious Jihadis: Funding Terrorism through Crimes, Alms and Extortion

Dubious Jihadis - Funding Terrorism through Crimes, Alms and ExtortionBy Iftikhar Hussain Jazib

According to recent media reports, terrorist organisations and the criminal networks are gathering millions in foreign currency as ransom from people without facing any resistance in the twin-cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Top industrialists, business tycoons, ministers, politicians and lawyers are frequently receiving threatening letters and phone calls from the terrorist network demanding heavy amount of ransom. Allegedly Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is steering this network of extortion that further utilizes this extorted money to perpetrate attacks in the country.

TTP and its affiliated banned jihadi and sectarian outfits are pursuing various agendas in Pakistan and their sources of funding are diverse. Assisted by domestic and foreign financiers, these groups also transfer funds to each other for the attainment of common goals. These groups keep their financial details secret and use informal modes of transactions. Therefore, it is very difficult to estimate the funds received from a specific source. These organisations are becoming increasingly immingled with criminal networks for raising funds which is a worrisome development and a challenge for the law enforcing agencies.

Terrorists’ use of criminal activity to raise funds ranges from low-level fraud to involvement in serious and organized crimes. Bank looting, robbery, kidnapping for ransom, car stealing, smuggling of weapons / ammunition, narcotics trafficking, extortions from business community and goods transport vehicles have given a huge boost to the terrorist financing.

TTP’s collaborator LeJ is extensively  involved in bank robberies in Karachi. According to police, its arrested member Saleem Qaiser Baloch conducted 50 bank robberies in the city. He conducted bank robbery at Memon Goth, in which Rs 3.2 million were stolen. Kidnapping for ransom is also a source of funding for this group. The group demanded 130 million rupees for the release of Amir Aftab Malik, son-in-law of Gen retd Tariq Majid. It has received massive ransom money in various kidnappings of businessmen and foreigners. Plundering of NATO containers and sale of looted items in the local markets has also been a big source of funding for LeJ and TTP.

Another source of terrorists’ income is the illicit drug trade.  The United Nations estimates that various terrorist organizations in Af-Pak region siphon off about $3 billion from narcotics trade. The media reports have revealed direct links between various terrorist and drug trafficking organizations that frequently work together out of necessity, convenience and mutual benefit. Additionally, Taliban receive money, vehicles, and weapons from drug lords in exchange for protection in the territory that they control.

The uncheck foreign funding of religious groups is a major factor of terrorism and sectarianism in the country. Banned extremist organizations receive huge donations from Arab States under the garb of educational assistance and anti Shia / Iran activities. The Middle Eastern countries also give donation of 100 million USD annually to Deobandi organizations in Pakistan for anti-Iran and Shia activities. Moreover, Western countries are providing funds to moderate religious groups as part of their strategy to counter radicalization in Pakistan. These foreign interventions are major agents of terrorism and sectarianism in the country eventually causing harm to national security and interests.

Through propaganda, banned terrorist organizations project their leaders as saviors of Islam and they are able to attract money in the forms of alms, donations and hides of sacrificial animals. The Punjabi Taliban are also making money through advertisings and pamphleteering. The profit generated from sale of religious literature and books is a big source of cash for these outfits. This helps miscreants not only in collecting funds but also facilitates them in promoting their ideology through CDs, internet, newspapers, weekly or monthly publications and electronic means as well.

We cannot mitigate terrorist threat to the country without keeping affecting control on the financial resources of banned outfits. The concerned state institutions should dismantle criminal and other networks of financial support of terrorists with utmost focus. The increased collaboration of security agencies could help in denying funding to these organizations through drugs trafficking. Law Enforcing agencies need to collaborate with the Financial Monitoring Unit of State Bank of Pakistan for timely identification of suspicious transactions as well. Anti-money laundering laws of the country need to be improved and should be implemented effectively; hawala networks should be dismantled. The customs intelligence should place effective measures to deny funding to these organisations through exploitation of Afghan Transit Trade. Finally, the foreign funding of religious groups should be regulated and Arab States should be persuaded to officially share the details of donations made to religious groups with government of Pakistan.

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