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'The quake has strengthened jehad'

By Mohammad Shehzad in Muzaffarabad
October 15, 2005 04:20 IST
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Mohammad Shehzad was among the first Pakistani journalists to reach Muzaffarabad, which was levelled by the October 8 earthquake. In his travels around the region, he discovers that the well-organised rescue operations mounted by the jehadi outfits is winning them the gratitude, and thus support, of the people. 

The devastating earthquake of October eight has left parts of Pakistan resembling Afghanistan outside Kabul.

There is no civil administration and no law and order in place. In a nutshell, it is kind of a civil war.

What exists in this quake-ravaged terrain are two entities -- the army and the jehadis.

With the Pakistan Army and international agencies virtually calling off rescue efforts on Friday amid fears that the death toll in Pakistan occupied Kashmir alone may surpass 60,000, people now look up to the jehadis.

Of the many Islamic parties that are part of the jehadi movement, the efforts of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa -- a reincarnation of the Lashkar-e-Toiba -- has been prominent.

More organised and disciplined than the government relief agencies, Jamaat has emerged as a resourceful entity and has built up a rapport with the quake victims.

 Muzaffarabad is no more

Javed-ul-Hasan, Jamaat's relief coordinator in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, said that the outfit was working in tandem with the army.

"We have 16 ambulances, operation theatres, wireless phones and 350 workers at our disposal," Javed said, adding, "Everyday we cook meals for 3000 people."

Incidentally, Jamaat is the only relief agency to use boats to ferry the deceased and the injured.

The relief camp set up by the jehadi outfit also has a dedicated orthopaedic section under the supervision of noted surgeon Dr Amir Aziz, who had been arrested after the 9/11 attack for treating dreaded terrorist Osama bin Laden. He had however been aquitted by the Supreme Court.

 'Musharraf, please leave'

The efforts of the jehadi outfit have drawn praise from different quarters.

"We had been left to the mercy of the nature. Had the Jamaat not come to our rescue, we would have never been saved," former deputy superintendent of police Rashid Abbasi said.

Javed said that Jamaat had been rescuing people from various villages of Azad Kashmir (PoK). His only regret was that the jehadi outfit did not have choppers, with which more lives could have been saved.

The story was much different when this group of journalists landed up at the relief camp being run by the Mohajir Quami Movement in Muzaffarabad. Infact, the group was 'diappointed.'

 'That Muzaffarabad no longer exists'

The shoddily managed camp has only a couple of doctors at the service of the injured. The camp incharges' behaviour was fussy to the core and when one was identified as a journalist or an important official or a politician for that matter, they would take an effort to glorify their non-existant achievements.

However, there are others who are working as hard as the jehadis to provide succour to the quake-hit populace. This includes a lot of doctors who have arrived from different parts of the country.

Major Abid, a doctor with the One Mountain Field Hospital (Field Hospital) that was completely destroyed in the quake, while praising the doctors' efforts, said that those who want to come to help in the relief efforts should come with basic equipment like sleeping bags and tentage so that they do not become a burden on others.

The day after the quake

Meanwhile, help finally reached the Bagh region of Muzaffarabad in the form of a team of 15 British doctors of Pakistani origin. One of the doctors lost 15 members of his family in the killer quake, which prompted him to come to the rescue of others who still awaited help.

According to reports coming in, 600 children of the Bagh Degree College were buried alive after the quake struck. Not one body has been retrieved from the rubble so far.  

On our way, we met 16-year-old Aziz, who lost three of his brothers to the jehadi movement. His brothers were part of the Hizbul Mujahideen. His comments about the goverment's lackadastical approach towards the rescue operations in Azad Kashmir said it all.

"We are very disappointed with the government. The mujahideen saved us. I am going to join them next summer since winter has already arrived," he said.

The stench of rotting bodies and the lopsided approach of the Pakistan government has given a fresh lease of life to the jehadi movement. The population of  Pakistan occupied Kashmir has developed a soft corner for the jehadis.

The quake has strengthened jehad.

Complete Coverage: Terror from the earth

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Mohammad Shehzad in Muzaffarabad