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Doctor warns al-Qaida may use earthquake for recruitment

Chuck Biedka
| Sunday, Nov. 13, 2005

Alle-Kiski Valley neurosurgeon Dr. Jafar Chowdhry warns that al-Qaida might try to use the Pakistani earthquake to recruit terrorists.

But Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. doesn't agree, doesn't think terrorists will be a factor in the quake zone.

"This is not an area where we have ever heard of an al-Qaida presence," Ambassador Jehangir Karamat said in a call from his embassy in Washington, D.C.

Chowdhry, of Buffalo Township, said in a phone call from a Pakistani hospital that he fears the quake zone will become a "breeding ground" for terrorists.

Many men have lost their families, houses, jobs and hope, and may be tempted by al-Qaida, he said.

But he said U.S. humanitarian aid and help from volunteers will do much to improve America's image in the region.

Karamat said Pakistan also has mobilized a massive relief effort.

"The Pakistani army has control of the quake zone," said the ambassador, who is a former Pakistani army chief of staff. "I don't think al-Qaida would be free to operate where our army is operating."

Karamat said al-Qaida has been "pretty much cleaned up" inside Pakistan. "I'm at a loss how al-Qaida would recruit given the environment in Pakistan. The last thing people would think of is being recruited," he said.

From what Chowdhry has heard, he isn't so sure.

"There are some jihadists, particularly of Kashmiri origin, who are very active in helping the people. They were probably the first ones who got there even in areas where the military hasn't yet arrived," he said Saturday from Rawalpindi.

"They are helping them with food and shelter. I'm sure that some time in the future they will come back and ask for a return of the favor," Chowdhry said.

"What they're doing is long-term investment. The only way to counter that is if we help them better than the jihadists. Certainly, we have better resources," said Chowdhry, who expects to be in Rawalpindi for another week to 10 days.

Karamat lauded President George W. Bush for visiting the Pakistani embassy after the quake and again last Wednesday promising $156 million in initial aid and more later for renovation and rehabilitation.

That "wonderful support" is encouraging other countries to help, the ambassador said.

On Wednesday, President Bush announced five CEOs and government representatives will visit the quake zone and later lead a fundraiser in the U.S. to give citizens a chance to help.

Karamat said that high-ranking delegation will meet in Islamabad on Saturday.

The U.S. aid will "go a long way in boosting U.S. people's image in the world and it's deeply appreciated," Karamat said. The United States' motives are also on target, he added.

"The U.S. is not there for anything other than humanitarian purposes," the ambassador said.

Karamat termed that aid "remarkable."

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