Are we the victims or perpetrators?
According to the Global Terrorism Index (2017), Pakistan is ranked fifth-most impacted country by terrorism. Correspondingly, the economic survey (2017) revealed that terrorism caused a loss of Rs407.2 billion to Pakistan’s economy. This number has decreased by approximately 40% from the previous year due to recent military operations.
Nonetheless, prolonged use of force to maintain peace causes enervation of resources, energies, human lives, time and finances; and remains an unsustainable solution. Moreover, withdrawal of force may lead to re-activation and upsurge of terrorist activities sometimes with a greater zest as contemporary wars are contested through extremist elements that operate from and within society. In Pakistan, the military with the enforcement of power has been able to address the issue to a large extent. However, a series of terrorist attacks in February 2017 till the recent attack on a military unit in Swat is proof of otherwise. Unfortunately, this ingrained extremism apart from causing socioeconomic, political and humanitarian turmoil is deteriorating a well-knitted social fabric of tolerance and cohesion.
Analysis indicates that violent extremism in Pakistan has a causal effect on the relationship with prevailing intolerance within society. According to the Social Progress Index (2017), Pakistan is ranked 126th out of 128 countries in terms of tolerance and inclusion.
Similarly, for religious tolerance it clinches 121st position. Definitely these figures call for some concrete action that may help improve the situation. However, to deal with such complexities, it is a need of time to shift the existing approach from hard to soft measures along with the involvement of both state and non-state actors belonging to different segments of society.
Money has a prime importance in nurturing extremist ideologies and groups. Predominantly, for bloodshed and violence a good amount of money is required throughout the process for maintenance of marionettes, to buy weapons and execute missions. To strengthen their financial status, extremist groups use both criminal activities as well as exploiting public generosity in the form of charity.
However, Pakistan is complying with the UNSC and had banned operation of militant outfits in Pakistan. Recently, in 2017 the SECP further pulled strings of these organisations by adding a few more names to the list with the penalty of Rs10 million for non-compliance.
Furthermore, provincial governments are also made vigilant to look closely into the financial transactions of these organisations.
However, despite such financial choking, extremist groups have found a way to circumvent them. They have switched their mode from large funding donations through bank transactions to charity collection in the name of Islam and Zakat.
According to a study, the annual private donations collected in Pakistan are equivalent to around Rs554 billion most of which go to seminaries, mosques, the poor and homeless. Also a majority do not know about the real beneficiaries of their generous contributions. Does this make us the real victims of extremism or its perpetrators? The safe charity concept partially addresses this dilemma as it holds a prime importance in our society where the good intentions and generosity of people may unknowingly contribute to the pain and misery of others.
Safe Charity concept calls for becoming more aware of the surroundings and providing monetary relief to those whom we know are in need. So the next time you do charity, big or small, just make sure it remains only with the good intention of helping people in need and is extended to being vigilant of not becoming prey to the trap of violators. Best way of doing charity in such a scenario is starting from near ones, ie, home, immediate and distant neighbours and needy relatives.
We as a nation — the victim of extremism — have to make sure that our any good action (unknowingly) does not make us a perpetrator.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.