Comes the time of the year when all Pakistanis, regardless of income strata, give charity in the name of religion, according to their accumulated wealth. Philanthropy is indulged in rather zealously, with the projection that the total cash and in-kind donations by companies and individuals amount to Rs 240 billion annually, and that as much as 60 percent of it is expended in Ramazan. Until now the government has adopted a fairly relaxed attitude towards the inflow or outflow of these donations, deeming it a somewhat personal responsibility of the philanthropists to choose the relevant institutions worthy of their money. Hence it has been so, that militant organisations have been funded in this manner. During the 2005 Earthquake, Jamaat ul-Dawa (JuD), one of several hardline Islamic groups assumed a prominent role in relief operations in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir and adjacent areas. They filled the gaps in terms of aid, relief and rehabilitation where the government and the army could not. Even though the JuD claims to be a strictly charitable organisation it is common knowledge that they are a wing of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Funding such organisations, however commendable in the services that they provide for the marginalised, creates a support bank as well as a vote bank for such organisations to freely recruit other members and increase their numbers and presence in the region.

Even though the Rangers have this year intervened with a renewed vigour to halt all coerced charity donations to any political or religious party in Karachi, eliminating extortion from the city as well as the country requires extremely strict laws and policies to track vigilantly, all funds that come in to Pakistan and within the country to different organisations. Even though these policies will be met with fierce opposition for religious and political parties who rely heavily on these donations, the government needs to take full responsibility of this sudden and near disorderly inflow of cash, to a ensure that it reaches the people who truly deserve it. A formal system needs to be in place to support authentic organisations who can show transparency and accountability to where the money is being spent and root out fraudulent organisations. This will ensure that the money stays in the country and is not shipped off to foreign bank accounts, but most importantly, it does not go into the making of suicide vests, instead of building schools, improving health and providing clean water and sanitation systems to the marginalised.