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Pakistani Clerics Raise Funds For Afghan Taliban’s War

FILE: Pakistani supporters pray for late Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar in Quetta, August 2015.
FILE: Pakistani supporters pray for late Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar in Quetta, August 2015.

Pakistan has always pushed back against accusations that it orchestrates the Taliban’s violent campaign in Afghanistan, instead saying stability in the neighboring country serves its interests.

But in an apparent violation of the country’s counterterrorism strategy, clerics in Pakistan’s western borderlands adjoining Afghanistan are openly calling for donations to the Afghan Taliban.

Maulavi Allah Dad, an influential cleric in southwestern Balochistan Province, said he is proud to have spent years contributing to the Afghan Taliban’s war chest.

“The central financial commission of the Islamic Emirate (formal name of the Afghan Taliban) calls on us to help with fundraising every year during the holy month of Ramadan,” he told Radio Mashaal. “This year is not the first time we are doing it.”

Dad, now in his 70s, runs a large mosque in Balochistan’s northern city of Zhob. As a senior leader of a faction of the Islamist group Jamiat Ulema-e Islam, he wields considerable influence over the predominantly Pashtun region where he has championed various warring Afghan Islamist factions since the 1980s. Locals say one of his nephews was killed fighting for the Taliban in northern Afghanistan in the 1990s.

According to Dad, clerics across Balochistan help with fundraising during Ramadan, when Muslims offer charitable donations. “It is not a secret,” he said. “We are doing it openly.”

He confirmed that he wrote a letter late last month calling on a fellow cleric in the region to help with the campaign.

“The [Taliban] Islamic Emirate has single-handedly defeated 42 infidel powers,” he wrote in an apparent reference to the NATO-led international military mission called the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Some 28 NATO members and 14 non-NATO countries contributed to ISAF, whose mission ended in December 2014.

“The Taliban’s finances are in dire straits, so it is our moral and religious obligation to help them,” he argued in the letter, widely circulated on social media platforms. “We typically raise between 200,000 and 300,000 rupees ($2,000 to 3,000) every year,” he said of his congregation’s contribution to Taliban coffers.

Dad is not the only cleric engaged in fundraising. He said there are at least 15 donation collection centers for the Taliban in the city of Quetta alone.

The teeming capital of Balochistan Province has served as the de-facto headquarters of the Afghan Taliban following the demise of their regime in late 2001. By 2003, the Taliban leadership and a large number of cadres had retreated to the city to launch an insurgency. Last year, Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur was killed in a remote Balochistan region while traveling to Quetta from Iran.

His letter identifies Mullah Abdul Manan as a main figure of the Taliban financial commission engaged in fundraising across Balochistan.

Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy, formally called the National Action Plan, calls for “choking financing for terrorism and terrorist organizations” and “registration and regulation of religious seminaries” where clerics such as Dad operate without government oversight.

But authorities say they are unaware of his fundraising. Sarfraz Bugti, Balochistan’s interior minister, said no one reported the fundraising activities to him.

“I am taking note of this because of your reporting,” he told Radio Mashaal. “We will inquire into this, and we will not allow any fundraising for a terrorist organization. We will punish those involved in such activities.”

Kabul has frequently accused Pakistan of sheltering and bankrolling the Taliban. After a massive truck bomb killed more than 90 people in Kabul’s diplomatic area on May 31, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security pointed an accusing finger at Pakistan.

"The plan for today's attack was drawn up by the Haqqani network with direct coordination and cooperation from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)," read a statement by the Afghan spy service on the day of the attack.

Islamabad, however, rejected the claim. Nafees Zakaria, the spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, called it “baseless” and said stability in Afghanistan was in his country’s interest.

He condemned the "rhetoric of blaming others" to hide Kabul’s failures.

"Pakistan has the highest stakes in Afghanistan’s peace and stability. No country is more affected than Pakistan by Afghan instability,” he said. "Pakistan's commitment to peace and stability in Afghanistan is, therefore, beyond any doubt.”

Abubakar Siddique wrote this based on Radio Mashaal correspondent Boriwal Kakar’s reporting.