The Karachi based Al-Rashid Trust (ART) is one of the 27 groups and organisations listed by the US State Department on September 22, 2001, for involvement in financing and supporting a network of international Islamist terrorist groups. In response, the trust, on October 4, 2001, said that it would challenge the US decision in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague.
Mufti Mohammed Rashid founded the Al-Rashid Trust (ART) on February 13, 1996, in Karachi. The Trust gradually grew to operate 21 branches across Pakistan. A day after the US announcement of the ban on the outfit, the State Bank of Pakistan issued a circular asking banks to freeze the accounts of Al-Rashid Trust.
Described as a ‘welfare organisation’, one of its original charters was to carry out welfare projects within Pakistan, with financial resources provided by public donations. Overtime, the ART expanded its mandate to carry out ‘relief activities’ for Muslims in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan. The ART perceives the various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) currently working in Afghanistan as ‘enemies of the Muslims’ and media reports have indicated that one of the other significant objectives of the ART is to reportedly push Western NGOs out of Afghanistan. The ART subscribes to the Deobandi school of thought, a trait it shares with the Taliban. The trust also promotes the concept of Jehad among Muslims, especially at times and in places where it perceives the community of faithful is being ‘oppressed’. One of the numerous ART booklets states, "the holy war is an essential element of Islam." "Any Moslem must carry the weapons, even with the mosque, if the need would be felt to make fire on a not-Moslem", states another work written by Mufti Rashid Ahmed. ART literature also denounces the United States for its policies toward Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and praises Islamist terrorists. Among the other ART objectives is providing assistance to ‘illegally jailed’ Muslim prisoners, ‘cleansing’ the media of pornography and creating books "to promote in the people and the elite the fear of the Last [Judgment] Day."
Leadership and Structure
Headquartered at Karachi, the ART has 21 branches in Pakistan. Mufti (religious leader) Mohammed Rashid is the amir (leader) of the trust. Rashid Ahmed teaches at a madrassa (religious seminary) – Darul Ifta-e-Wal Irshad - that he also runs. Maulvi Suleyman, an important functionary, is reported to be actually managing the ART affairs. Mufti Abu Lubaba is the ideologue, while Maulvi Sibghatullah of the Dar-ul-Uloom (religious school) in Karachi is the Director of ART in Kandahar, the southern Afghan city that served as the headquarters for the erstwhile Taliban regime. Only Mufti Rashid and Lubaba are reported to have had direct access to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Abdul Hadi Mullakhel is the ART representative in Kabul.
It publishes an Urdu newspaper Zarb-e-Momin as well as an English paper, Dharb-e-Momin, and also runs a radio station out of Kabul. They carry reports on the Jehadi activities of the Taliban and the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Considered as one of the sectarian publications in Pakistan, Dharb-e-Momin is reported to contain anti-American and anti-Western propaganda. The newspaper has a web-site, which specifically endorses the Taliban’s style of governance and is widely considered to be the mouthpiece of the Taliban. During his detention in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar is reported to have sent articles clandestinely to the Al Rashid Trust and these were published in the Dharb-e-Momin. In one of these articles published on October 31,1999, Azhar praised the services of Mufti Rashid Ahmed, opining that due to his services, "the Taliban gained strength and the long porous border of Pakistan became so safe that not a single army guard is needed there. If instead of the Taliban, Ahmad Shah Masood who is the enemy of Pakistan and ally of India had been the ruler of Afghanistan, Pakistan would have been surrounded by enemies on all four sides."
Among others, its offices in Pakistan are located at Lahore, Mansehra, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, and Mingora. ART operations in Afghanistan are located at Jalalabad, Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif.
Al-Rashid documents indicate that the Trust secures most of its finances from zakat (annual alms) and overseas donations. However, the sources of donation are kept secret.
The Al-Rashid Trust is reported to be one of Osama bin Laden’s many sources of income. It is closely linked with the Taliban as also with Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and other terrorist outfits active in India’s J&K. The trust’s formation coincided with the Taliban capture of Afghanistan in 1996. Some of its members are alleged to have secured military training in Afghanistan. The ART and JeM are reported to share office spaces across Pakistan with a certain overlapping of cadre strength. Maulana Masood Azhar, JeM chief is a regular writer in the Zarb-e-Momin. The trust is reportedly incharge of the foreign funds of JeM. Mufti Rashid Ahmed is also reported to have appointed Masood Azhar as the Amir of Taliban in Jammu and Kashmir. Mufti Rashid was also instrumental in setting up JeM’s office near Usmani Masjid in Lahore and other places in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). The ART was initially linked with the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA) before the formation of JeM. It is also reported to be linked to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Al-Rashid is also suspected to have provided logistical support to the Taliban and the foreign mercenaries in Afghanistan.
The biggest source of funds for the Al-Rashid Trust is the Middle East and Pakistan. It also has a network in South Africa. Pakistani banks – consequent to the September 22, US State Department listing of ART as being involved in financing and supporting a network of international Islamist terrorist groups – froze Al-Rashid's bank accounts. In response, the Al Rashid Trust has said that that its activities, which include providing financial and legal support to jailed Muslim militants around the world, are purely humanitarian.
In year 2000, according to Pakistani media reports, Al-Rashid sent US $750,000 in cash to Chechnya after alleging that aid sent to Chechnya through the UN never reached the Chechen Muslims. The amount was reportedly handed over to the head of an unidentified religious party of Chechnya, headed by Sheikh Omer Bin Ismail Dawood and Zelim Khan, the former Chechen President. Al-Rashid is also reported to have sent Rs 20 million in cash to the Taliban and Rs 2.1 million to Kosovo.
With charity and relief work as its professed goals, the Al-Rashid Trust says that its activities include providing financial and legal support to jailed Muslim militants around the world, and that all of its actions are purely humanitarian. Its most recent project was one to provide food for the poor in Afghanistan. The project was conceived following a conflict between the United Nations and the Taliban over the running of bakeries. Consequently, the ART set up its own bakeries in Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. The trust also took over 155 bakeries vacated by the UN's World Food Program (WFP) when it pulled out following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. The annual budget for this program is approximately US$4 million. The ART plans to provide bread to 25,000 people, and it aims to set up bakeries in another 14 provinces in the near future. ART’s Afghanistan operations became prominent when it began to operate a subsidised bakery project in Kabul, after that project was abandoned by the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) over differences with the Taliban on employment of women for a survey.
The ART is reported to have many other functioning projects in Afghanistan. It reportedly sent 1,000 sewing machines to the country in June 2001 to help the ‘widows of war’, and it is scheduled to send another 1,000 for the same purpose.
According to ART sources, it sends more than US$1 million worth of goods, food, medicine and other relief items into Afghanistan on a weekly basis. It is reported to have sent more than 70 truckloads of relief goods up to November 2001. Al-Rashid also recently opened clinics in Kandahar, Kabul and Ghazni.
Al-Rashid Trust has been involved in the establishment of a network of madrassas in Afghanistan. It has also built many mosques across the country. Media reports indicated that prior to the US bombing of Afghanistan, it was building 20 mosques along the Kabul-Kandahar highway, and five mosques on the Kandahar-Chaman highway.
The trust runs many madrassas and mosques in Pakistan including the largest Arabia-Islamia, on the Karakoram Highway in Mansehra. The network of ART aided Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan reportedly act as recruiting centres for Jehadis. It also runs a hospital in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) for the treatment of injured terrorists.
In Afghanistan, the Al-Rashid Trust coordinates its activities with an Arab NGO, Wafa Khairia, which was formed by Osama bin Laden and other Arab-Afghans as a reciprocal gesture for being provided hospitality in Afghanistan. The Wafa Khairia is reported to be largely funded by bin Laden.
The Al-Rashid Trust claims to be the first Muslim organisation in the world to send aid to the refugees and war-hit people of Chechnya. Furthermore, it is also reported to be carrying out ‘welfare work’ in Kashmir, Kosovo and the Central Asian states besides Afghanistan. It also accepts ‘donations’ for Kashmir Jehad and the mujahideen of Kashmir. It publishes advertisements in the Pakistani press soliciting funds for ‘welfare work' in Kashmir, Chechnya, Kosovo etc, and also informs prospective donors that it will decide on the means of spending the money. Its advertisements reportedly list all its accounts with Karachi's Habib Bank, providing separate account numbers for donations received in dollars or pounds sterling.
The Al Rashid Trust said on October 4, 2001 that it would challenge the US decision in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at Hague. Claiming that it has "no links with any sort of terrorism," the ART in-charge in Islamabad, Mohammed Arshad, said that his organisation has appealed to the Pakistan government to de-freeze its accounts and added that it planned to go to the ICJ to contest the US proscription. Despite the ban, media reports have indicated that it was still operating in Pakistan and all its offices were open. Pakistan's Foreign Office Spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan said on October 3 that Islamabad would ask the US government to furnish details of the Trust's involvement in terrorist activities.
Note: April 15: The United States Treasury said it had imposed sanctions on two "high-profile" Pakistani trust fund chiefs allegedly linked to terrorism. The Treasury identified the trust fund chiefs as Muhammed Mazhar, director of Al-Akhtar Trust, and Mufti Abdul Rahim, leader of Al-Rashid Trust, and said both Pakistani charities’ assets under US jurisdiction were frozen. Americans have also been prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them. Mazhar was accused of supporting al Qaeda and the Taliban, while Rahim was charged with funding the Taliban. "Today’s designation of these two high-profile financiers of al Qaeda and the Taliban, who are also leaders of Al-Akhtar Trust and Al-Rashid Trust, further exposes those organisations’ continuing support for terrorism under the guise of charitable activity," said the Treasury.