EVERY year in the month of Zil Hajj, all Muslims across the globe celebrate Eid-ul-Azha with religious fervour and fiesta. To remember the sacrifice made by Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) animals are slaughtered to mark this holy day on 10th of Zil Hajj. Large number of animals are slaughtered in Pakistan also and figures suggest that almost 35 per cent of Pakistanis who can afford do the qurbani of camels, goats, sheep and cows, put their share in this religious duty. This year Pakistanis are also expected to spend more than Rs150 billion on upcoming Eid-ul-Azha, sacrificing an estimated 2.5 million cows, bulls and buffaloes. An estimated Rs 60bn would be spent on purchasing 4m goats and Rs 12bn will be spent on purchasing 800,000 sheep. The sacrificial offering of around six million animals allow families not only to fulfil a religious duty, guarantee some much appreciated meat handouts to the poor and provide nearly half of annual requirement of the country’s leather industry. Apart from distributing meat shares among relatives, friends and poor families hides or left over animal skins hold a great business industry now. These charitable hides are meant at helping poor masses, beggars, needy orphans and widows and money generated by them is also spent on mosques, Madaris and preaching of Islam.
But unfortunately terrorist elements do not waste the chance of grabbing their malicious objectives through these animal casings and start collecting these hides in massive campaigns throughout the country. Across Pakistan one can see banners displayed alongside roads claiming that sacrificial hides be given to them as they are original in their cause and the money will be used in an appropriate and correct way. Many militant organisations collect hides of sacrificial animals on Eid-ul-Azha under various excuses including Madaris, Jihad and welfare of aggrieved and deprived Muslims. Unfortunately for the past many years it is noticed that the money generated by them is spent on many terrorist activities. Finely veiled front organisations have been again gearing up before Eid to compete against each other and legitimate charities to collect as many animal skins as possible, which can then be sold on for cash. It will also generate an extraordinary cash hand-out for some of Pakistan’s most dangerous militant groups. While Pakistan in its struggle to exterminate terrorist elements from its land, any kind of funding in any form gives strength to these nefarious elements to nourish their agendas and is definitely a setback to Pakistan’s struggle against militant organisations. Therefore, many Ulema have issued fatwa not only against terrorism but emphasised too, that it is not permissible to give hides of sacrificial animals to these anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan organizations.
It is worth noting that large number of Pakistanis living abroad in different non-Islamic countries if cannot make qurbani in their respective areas, they send a large number of amount to Pakistani charity organisations to do sacrifice of animals on their behalf. So many brand names of such organisations come forward to grab money from these foreign based nationals and get financed from this money where often contributors do not verify the legal use of their amount. Therefore, one must check and confirm about such false organizations, before making any contributions and charity. Government while knowing the motives of such organisations, devised a code of conduct on the hides of animals that they should only be given to those organisation who have obtained NOC (Non-Objection Certificate) from government or the respective administrative offices of their localities are allowed to collect hides.
It was observed that Sipah-e-Sahaba, one of banned organisations now operates as Millat-i-Islamia and Jaish-e-Mohammad as Alfurqan and Khuddamul Islam. Mainstream political and religious parties also collect animal hides where Jamaat-i-Islami uses its Al-Khidmat Foundation and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) its Khidmat-i-Khalq Foundation (KKF) for the purpose. Similarly donations for charitable hospitals are also taken and one can see posters and banners in every nook and corner of the country that hides be donated to them. For past years many banned groups were involved in snatching these hides in different localities and then involved in their illegal selling to earn profit. Particularly in Karachi, one of largest city of Pakistan such practice was common for past many years. Over the years initiatives by government and strict checking helped not only to have peaceful collection of hides but cleanliness and dumping procedures were followed too. Such practices need to be followed again with forthcoming Eid-ul-Azha falling in August.
Consequently it’s quite important that financing of terrorist networks must be disengaged because if they keep on getting finances and money to feed their groups, the menace of terrorism cannot be eliminated from our society. Government surely has taken a number of steps to strike down the funding of militant organisations but extensive media campaign and awareness is must so that people should know that even a small act of kindness on their behalf can actually be a big mistake if they unconsciously support such groups. Therefore media campaigns for public awareness before Eid-ul-Azha can help a lot to expose the manoeuvres of terrorists to raise funds through the collection of these hides. As the holy festival of Eid-ul-Azha is approaching, general public must ensure that their pious intentions and charity should not assist those people who are involved in lethal activities in the country. It is not only the responsibility of government to curb down militancy but it demands general public to share this commitment equally and responsibly.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.