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 percent of Pakistanis who can afford do the “qurbani” of camels, goats, sheep and cows. Statistics highlighted that in Pakistan in year 2014, nearly 7.85 million animals worth 270 billion rupees were sacrificed.
While in 2013, the hides of sacrificial animals generated 10 billion rupees on Eid-ul-Azha. 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 the annual requirement of the country’s leather industry. Apart from distributing meat shares among relatives, friends and poor families the hides or left over animal skins holds a great business industry now. These charitable hides are meant at helping poor masses, beggars, needy orphans and widows and the 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 inappropriate 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 but for the past many years it is noticed that the money generated by them is spent on many terrorist activities including suicide bombings, target killings, bomb blasts and other catastrophes. 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 snot only against terrorism but emphasised too, that it is not permissible to give hides of sacrificial animals to these anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan organisations.
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 organisations 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 organisations which have obtained NOC (Non-Objection Certificate) from government or respective administrative offices of their localities are allowed to collect hides. It was observed last year that many militant organisations changed their names and get themselves registered with new name in order to have their share. Therefore, verification and authenticity becomes necessary and the NOC is required because the prized hides generate a tough competition, and sometimes violence and their sale brings big money.
It was observed that Sipah-e-Sahaba one of banned organisation now operates as Millat-i-Islamia and Jaish-e-Mohammad as Alfurqan and Khuddamul Islam. Main stream 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 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. Last year initiatives by government helped not only to had 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 on Sept 13 in next week.
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 number of steps to strive 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.