Pakistani extremists raise cash from sacrifice day

Pakistani extremists raise cash from sacrifice day Lahore: Militants in Pakistan should reap a cash bonanza from selling skins of animals slaughtered on a Muslim sacrifice day, with hundreds of thousands of dollars expected to reach a group linked to the 2008 Mumbai attackers, according to an ex-member of the group and leather industry workers.

Volunteers for Jamaat-u-Dawa, an Islamist charity suspected of having served as a front for the group behind the Mumbai attacks, were collecting bloodied skins across the country after this year's Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice. Their work shows the deep roots it and other banned groups have in Pakistan as well as the state's unwillingness or inability to stop them.

Militants behind attacks in Pakistan and across its borders in Afghanistan and India get funds from extortion, drugs, kidnappings and donations from foreign sympathisers. But some of the money comes by way of charities, including those collecting hides to raise funds. In past years also, they have sold hides to raise funds.

Wealthy Muslims sacrifice animals on Eid al-Adha and distribute most of the meat to the poor. Over this year's holiday, which fell last week, Pakistanis killed around 5 million sheep and goats and 1 million cows, according to the country's tanners association.

The skins are of no use to those who kill the animals, but are snapped up by tanneries.

At auctions in the coming days, a cow hide is expected to sell for between USD 40 and USD 50, while sheep and goat skins will fetch around USD 7 apiece.

Skins collected last week will account for around 45 per cent of the needs of Pakistan's leather industry this year, the tannery association said. Factories make coats, gloves and other goods for export, and the trade is the second largest foreign exchange earner for the country.

Militant groups are not the only ones to benefit from hide sales. The leading hide collector in Karachi, the country's largest city, is its ruling party.

Another major beneficiary is a cancer hospital for the poor run by Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician. Sunni Therik, a religious group that is opposed to militants, also collects. Some people give their hides directly to the poor, who sell them.

Extremist groups and their sympathisers are in a good position to collect the skins. The typically run religious seminaries that have thousands of children and youth who can go door-to-door to collect them from people happy to have them taken from their front porch.

"These are the people whom I trust and these are the people who do the best work for charity," said Illahi Shaikh, as he directed a team of butchers cutting up his two cows outside Jamaat-u-Dawa's main mosque in the capital, Islamabad.

"So what if America calls them terrorists, I don't care," he said.