Pakistan Takes An Initiative to Stop Radicalism in Madrasas Around
The surge of promoting religious extremism by the local madrasas in Pakistan is now being handled by the Pakistani authorities in a slightly different way. The religious seminary and school in Muridke, a town close to the Indian border in the province of Punjab, has been labelled as a training camp and a base for radicalizing groups led by the burly preacher Hafiz Saeed.
The Pakistani authorities have now taken administrative control of the madrasas in this area in order to provide a different influence to the incumbents. The step from the government is basically to stop the radicalization of the students and provide them with an opportunity to detangle themselves from the extremist views.
The notorious labelling of the schools originated because of their supposed involvement in 2008 Mumbai bombings and the association of the leader with the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaat ul Dawa (JuD). The US has already offered $10m for any information that can lead to the arrest of Hafiz Saeed.
The teaching staff along with the vocational trainers provided by the government will join the pilot scheme which is currently being run in 18 radical schools of the province. This scheme has now deepened the involvement of the state with such centers that are considered a taboo for the country by international agencies. Senior counter terrorism officer Mushtaq Sukhera considers this move to be of significant importance in order to deal with long association of such madrasas with jihad and terrorism outside the borders.
According to Sukhra, the LeT has been technically banned but the fighters have remained in connection with the JuD. Sukhera believes that the energies of these cadres must be diverted. “As a government policy we want to encourage them towards philanthropic and social work”, he said.
Pakistan’s involvement with such entities is still doubtful because of not much success accomplished previously in putting efforts to neutralize the violent activities in the country. Stephen Tankel, a US expert, considers the situation still unclear whether Pakistan is firm on its struggle to decommission a militant group that is a useful proxy against India. The question still remains for him whether Pakistan has been able to de-radicalise and demolish the violent entities subsiding in this region or have they put them in reserve.
It is also a fear that by allowing such people to play a greater role in politics and society, the country may have to pay a higher price. Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based academic believes that extremism ultimately is the basis of terrorism and ‘in Pakistan extremism is getting stronger’, he said.
JuD has become far more politically active than before. Its activities were reduced in the Indian-occupied Kashmir after Pakistan army discouraged LeT and the various other groups that were involved in sneaking militants across the line of control in 2004. Now JuD is getting involved in public controversies despite the fact that a reward of $10m still hangs for the arrest of Hafiz Saeed, the 62 year old leader.
Saeed says, “The bounty has only increased support for me because it has strengthened the anger and resentment in Pakistan towards the US”. While he still claims to never have met Ajmal Kasab, the convict of Mumbai attacks and recently executed for terrorist activities, or have any affiliation with LeT, he also affirm that everything said about him in the international media is a mere propaganda.
“None of these things are true. They are just claims made by the Indians because of our vocal support for the people of occupied Kashmir”, he says.
Saeed led a protest on 17 December against the tentative efforts by both Pakistan and India to reinforce the cross border trade by slashing tariffs and giving out more visas to the businessmen. Though it was hugely supported by the economists and business community of both sides but Saeed considers it a selling out of Kashmiri struggle.
The protest ‘Difa-e-Pakistan’ to the Wagah border, 16 miles from Lahore, consumed a coalition of the hardline religious groups who showed all hatred against India and chanted slogans of Jihad against them. The members of the crowd carried banners and flags of banned terrorist groups along with a few carrying rifles and hand guns as they roamed around in bikes.
Whether JuD will succeed in its mission or not the opinions differ. The elections are near and not much success has been following the extremist parties when it comes to getting votes. However, Saeed is still persistent that he wants to change the character of Pakistan by offering affordable schooling to children. JuD is playing an important role in the country now. Their protests are attracting a scanty amount of media attention but they keep themselves present through activities like enthusiastic volunteers running websites, Twitter feeds and smartphone apps.
JuD is also known for its efforts of providing relief and health services during natural disasters and their efforts continue to grow. They also run many schools around the country for which they are praised. One can easily find a first aid station in a posh market area of Lahore with their insignia and posters of alleged Indian atrocities in Kashmir.
The organization keeps two minivan ambulances on 24 hour standby. Saeed also hosted a well-attended Ramadan evening meal which was held in his honour in their neighbourhood last year.
The involvement of JuD in the state blessed activity is allowing them more penetration in the society. Hasan Askari Rizvi believes that the organization is now deepening its roots in the country by getting their political wing active. This will definitely be difficult for the armed forces to control if it continues like this.
The only way that they can be stopped is if “the state makes it very clear to people that these militant organizations are undesirable”, Askari says. The society deems them acceptable if the government gets more involved with these groups which may result in difficulties for stopping radicalization.[divider]
Sadaf Siddique holds a degree in Computers and a Masters in Business Administration. She is the mother of a 2-year-old boy, a part-time writer and a full-time homemaker.