Extremists Can Gain Ground Through Pakistan Flood Aid, Warns Group

Muslim extremists may be gaining ground in Pakistan through the distribution of aid to flood victims, warns a U.S.-based Christian aid agency.

With many victims this month's massive floods saying they have received little in the way of international aid, groups with links to terrorists have set up aid distribution points within flood-stricken communities.

A partner of the McLean, Va.-based Barnabas Fund in Pakistan, who could not be named for security reasons, said he was concerned that Islamists would be able to seize political power because of how effectively they have been responding to the crisis.

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He said the development would only make things worse for Christians, who make up less than three percent of Pakistan's population and sometimes face fatal persecution at the hands of Islamist extremists.

"The Islamists are helping people in areas where even the government has failed to reach," the Barnabas Fund partner said.

"In the time of need, the government's slow response has given them (the extremists) the opportunity to win the hearts of the affected people."

The Pakistan aid worker also said the month of Ramadan had given the extremists an opportunity to preach their version of Islam and attract people.

"They are gaining a foothold in the area," he said. "Once the Islamists get in power Christians will be targeted as they are also associated with Western countries due to same faith."

Some 20 million people have been affected by widespread flooding brought on by heavy monsoon rains.

Mass evacuations have been taking place close to the Indus River, which has been inundated by five rivers feeding into it from deluged northern provinces.

Barnabas Fund said it was working with Christians in Pakistan to ensure that Christian communities were not overlooked in the distribution of aid after the Bishop of Peshawar warned that Christians would receive "hardly anything" because of their marginalized status.

International Christian aid and relief agency World Vision, meanwhile, said it was preparing to deliver aid to 280,000 people, including shelter kits, cooking implements and gas cylinders.

 "The scale of the response needed by all humanitarian actors is almost incomprehensible," reported World Vision's Anita Cole.

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