Friday, January 2, 2015

Radical madressah networks in Punjab lie at the heart of Pakistan

Deliberately wrapped up in the jargon of ‘good militants’, they were considered a useful cog in our twisted national security paradigm. The fear of retaliation was also the reason for handling them with kid gloves. Will the new counterterrorism strategy really be a game-changer? One is not so sure. It is an open secret that the prime minister stopped the execution of two LeJ militants convicted for sectarian killings after threats from Asmatullah Muawiya, the self-styled chief of the Punjabi Taliban. He was also believed to be the commander of one of several Al Qaeda military cells operating in Punjab. Interestingly, a few months later Muawiya announced the end of the group’s armed struggle against Pakistani security forces, limiting its activities to fighting US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Many believe the truce was the result of a deal. Radical madressah networks in Punjab lie at the heart of Pakistan’s militancy problem. Most of the Punjabi Taliban leaders received their ideological training in those hardline seminaries, nurtured and expanded under state patronage in the 1980s. Many of these madressahs are also linked with LeJ, a group closely connected with Al Qaeda. Rightly described as the epicentre of sectarian militancy, the province has also been the main venue of attacks on religious minority groups such as Ahmadis and Christians. The rise of religious extremism in the province is mainly linked to the growth of foreign-funded Salafi seminaries and the failure of the state to check their activities.
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