Through relief work, they've been able to win hearts and minds in a region of the country that's threatened by Islamic militancy and a Taliban takeover. Across the deluged northwest, locals complained that the government was all but absent.
The UN said Tuesday that the flooding, caused by torrential rains, has now affected 3 million people, with the death toll put at around 1,500 by the provincial government. The World Food Program, a UN agency, estimated that 1.8 million people urgently need water, food and shelter. There are fears of an outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera. The flood has now moved farther south, along the Indus River, to the heartland Punjab province, where the UN Tuesday reported that the river had breached its banks in seven places, affecting 990 villages.
At the JuD aid "camp" on the main road east out of Charsadda, huge pots, used to cook on an industrial scale, were lined up, and the cooked food already had been distributed to the needy. An ambulance, no longer needed to ferry the injured, was being loaded with bundles of second-hand clothing to be given away. JuD also was running a first aid clinic in a building in town belonging to a college, the group said.
The group is operating under the name of Falah-e-Insaniyat but has made little effort to disguise that it's JuD. Its staff said that it had 2,000 members working for flood relief, across the northwest and south into Punjab province. The uniform vests worn by many of the volunteers bear the badges of both JuD and Falah-e-Insaniyat.
"If the government were doing this work, there would be no need for us," said Hajji Makbool Shah, a 55-year-old volunteer at the aid camp. "When the floods came, we carried people out on our shoulders to our own ambulances. Where were the government ambulances?"