Year On, Quake Jihad Praised In Kashmir
5 October 2006
Muzaffarabad: One year of 'humanitarian jihad' helping the survivors of last year's deadly Kashmir earthquake is winning Kashmiri groups the minds and hearts of the people and the praise of the authorities. 'We are very grateful to Jamaat-ud-Dawa for their hospitality and their help,' Zulakhian Bibi, a 55-year-old woman recovering from multiple leg breaks, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Thursday, October 5. Bibi is one of many patients treated in a tin-roofed hospital built by Jamaat-ud-Dawa organization in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. A massive signboard headed 'Dawa Field Surgical Hospital' says it has the city's only orthopaedic surgeon, two operating theatres, a blood bank, free medicine and, of course, a mosque. A powerful quake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale had hit northwestern Pakistan and Kashmir on October 2005, killing more than 74,000 people and making 3.5 million others homeless. Kashmiri Muslim groups, battling India for the independence of the Muslim-populated Himalayan region, were the first on the scene after the quake, arriving hours before the army and days before the United Nations despite losing dozens of their own fighters. Their members, many commando jackets and sometimes carrying Kalashnikovs, rode in the back of pick-up trucks to hand out supplies, help dig up survivors and collect bodies for burial. In the past 12 months - now in civilian clothes and with no sign of any weapons - they have set up clinics, tent camps and schools. Not Terrorists Banned by the United States over alleged terror links, many of the Kashmiri groups suffered to help quake survivors. 'When the American doctor teams came over after the earthquake they were reluctant to work with Dawa people,' said Ghulamullah Azad, Jamaat- ud-Dawa's Kashmir spokesman. 'But after some days they were very friendly. They appreciated the level of our work.' The United States blacklisted Dawa as a 'terrorist organization' in April. Asked about the US move, Azad replied: 'We don't bother about it because we are doing something for the cause of humanity. We fail to understand why America considers us its enemy.' Dawa Field Surgical Hospital administrator Basharat echoed the same position. 'We are not afraid of the US ban…They have got the wrong perception about Jamaat-ud- Dawa.' Jamaat-ud-Dawa is said to be the political wing of Lashkar-e- Taiba, which fights Indian rule in the other sector of disputed Kashmir. President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally, has refused to take any action against the group, while authorities here have showered praise on groups involved in quake relief. The prime minister of Pakistani-administered Kashmir showed his appreciation by officially opening the Dawa hospital earlier this year, while quake survivors protested when they heard about the US ban. Pakistan insists the groups working in the quake zone are only charities and that since 2001 it has banned the main militant groups and closed their camps. Kashmir is divided between nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India but claimed by both in full. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, they have fought two of their three wars over the Muslim-majority disputed Himalayan region. From April 1948 to 1957, the UN passed a series of resolutions, affirming the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir in accordance with a referendum to be held under international auspices.