It's A Different Kind Of Jihad, This Time Around
15 October 2005
Islamabad: Nadeemur Rehman has travelled to Kashmir many times before to wage 'holy war', or jihad, but never quite like this. Setting off from southern Pakistan in a truck laden with relief supplies for survivors of last week's massive earthquake, Rehman, 40, joked that this time he was going to Kashmir without his Kalashnikov. 'I'm used to jihad, but this time there'll no firing, no bomb explosions, no enemy,' he said. 'This time it's a race against time as injured people are dying and I want to save some of them. I want to bury the bodies that have been lying out for days and provide shelter to the shelterless people.' Pakistani and Kashmiri militants who have been fighting for more than a decade to end Indian rule in the divided territory have announced a new jihad to help the injured and displaced from the devastating earthquake. Whole towns and villages across northern Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir were smashed to smithereens when the quake struck on October 8, killing more than 25,000, injuring 63,000 and making 2.5 million people destitute. Heading to one of the worst-hit Kashmiri towns, Balakot, from Karachi in the far south of the country, Rehman said years of fighting in Afghanistan and Kashmir had not prepared him for what he was about to see. 'I have been to many holy wars from Afghanistan to Indian-held Kashmir, fought many battles, but I've never seen a catastrophe like this in my life,' he said. 'In Afghanistan and in Indian Kashmir, the mujahedin don't get depressed,' he said, using the term for Islamic guerrillas. 'But it's depressing when you see Muzaffarabad, the city of mujahedin, turned into a graveyard,' he said, referring to the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, which was levelled by the quake. 'I want to be with my people to heal their wounds. This will be the biggest jihad I have done and may Allah accept it.' Loaded into his truck were tonnes of medicine, match-boxes and rice, but no weapons. 'This time I'm not carrying guns but goods. I know how to provide immediate medical assistance in an emergency as I have done this in 1994 during the jihad in Kashmir and in Afghanistan,' he said. Rehman is a member of Pakistan's largest fundamentalist Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), which has sent scores of 'activists' to the disaster zone to help with the relief effort. 'There are hundreds of men such as Rehman fighting this battle,' JI chief Merajul Huda said. He said some 2,000 members of JI and the Hizbul Mujahedin militant outfit, which is backed by Jamaat, were feared dead in the earthquake. 'We are still collecting the details but so far it is around 2,000, which also includes Hizb members, but it could be more as cities and villages have been wiped out,' Huda said. Some 3,000 JI workers are presently working in field camps set up in Muzaffarabad, Balakot, Batgram, Mansera, Abbottabad, Bagh and Beshramócities and towns in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the far north. Jamaat-ud Dawa, the political wing of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group known for its bloody attacks against Indian targets, says over 70 of its workers were killed in the quake in Muzaffarabad. 'Hundreds of our workers, including teams of doctors, are involved in the relief work and we are sending relief goods even on donkey carts in the areas where trucks cannot go,' Dawa spokesman Yahya Mujahid said. He also said the party was ready to take care of orphaned children in its madrassas, or religious schools.