Imran Khan won't find it easy to weed out terror with over 50,000 madrassas brainwashing youths in Pakistan

New Delhi: More than a week after Indian Air Force air strikes, which targeted Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camps in Balakot, Pakistan has vowed to act against terrorist outfits operating on its soil.

In 2001, 2003 and 2008 Pakistan made similar promises of crackdown but militant proxies continued to flourish. Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched by Pakistan in 2014 to selectively target outfits which were attacking Pakistani state and militant groups targeting Indian soil were carefully protected. According to US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) Pakistan has total 40,000-50,000 Madrassas involved in indoctrinating young population. Citing an example of former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf's initiative, DIA said Musharraf feared that action may turn Jihadis against his own government.

The report said previous efforts failed too on meeting resistance from terror groups. Pakistan's interior ministry has listed 68 organisations as proscribed under terrorism act, 1997. But, majority of these organisations continue to operate with impunity under the current Imran Khan regime. Indian intelligence reports have often mentioned that not only terrorist groups but even the cadres change their names regularly on the direction of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to avoid getting banned.

Imran Khan wont find it easy to weed out terror with over 50,000 madrassas brainwashing youths in Pakistan

Representational image. Reuters

Pakistan's promise to freeze bank accounts of these organisation is another cover-up because majority of terrorist organisations since 2001 have been investing heavily in real estate and other businesses to ensure there is no dearth of funds for terror sanctuaries. In a research paper released in 2014, Pakistani army officers Major General Shahab Naqvi, Colonel Mian Zahoor Ul Haq and Lt Colonel Muhammad Muneeb Sharif had warned that militants are acting as alternate boots and need to be eliminated immediately and forcefully from their soil.

Pakistan failed to exterminate the terrorist groups despite facing violence in its own territory. Given its track record, it is highly unlikely that Pakistan will be able to rein in the militant proxies. Pakistani officers like DIG Moazzam, Lt Colonel Shabeer and Lt Colonel Riazat in the research paper have said that history has shown that fighting a proxy war by supporting militant organisations is a dangerous game.

Breeding militant groups for short-term gains has led to the spawning of terrorist groups that subsequently become a threat to the State. Another report coming from Pakistan suggests that the government might take over Madrassas and induct highly indoctrinated members in para-military troops. It again sounds like providing a protective cover for the militants for them to hide in plain sight. It also means the terror acts being done surreptitiously by Pakistan's ISI will be conducted directly through the State.

As far as reining in Madrassas are concerned it seems impossible. Pakistan army officers Brigadier Hamidul Haque, Lt Colonel Waseem and Lt Colonel Sohail Arshad in a journal published in June, 2017, critically examined the role of Pakistani madrassas in breeding terrorists.

The three Pakistani officers argued that Madrassas are legacy of this Afghan war era which changed the character of this traditional institution of learning and they were extensively used for the training and recruitment of Mujahideen for Afghan war.

"During this period radicalism started to take roots in Pakistan. It was from here, that the militant groups and militancy took a political dimension... Successive governments in the Pakistan evolved policies to manage the religious sentiment for their political gains and survival. Attack on Indian Parliament in December, 2001, Mumbai attacks of 2008, the Pathankot, and the recent Uri incident continue to be a source of acrimony between India and Pakistan. The extremist organizations have shaped an environment where religious scholars, intelligentsia, political leaders and minorities feel equally insecure. During the last 14 years, the direct and indirect cost incurred by Pakistan due to terrorism amounts to US$ 118.3 billion. Besides, the terrorism has inflicted untold human sufferings," the officers wrote.

The research paper reveals some shocking facts. The officers said a survey of Punjab (in Pakistan) Text Board between Classes 6 to 8 was carried out in 2017 and only six out of 57 lessons about Islam promote peace and tolerance and no positive reference exists about any non-Islamic character. It further said that Muslim history taught vulnerable children about extremists propaganda and content about modernity, peace and tolerance was minimised.

Officers wrote: If networks and radical ideology are primary schools for radicalisation, training camps act as universities providing recruits with the opportunity to cement their radical ideologies and enable transformation into a terrorist."

The research paper also claimed that 14,000 unregistered Madrassas are operating in Pakistan and of these 160 is in capital Islamabad alone. Annual foreign grant of $300 million is being directly provided to Madrassas by 12 donor countries bypassing government channels and extremists have adapted by mixing themselves within the normal populace. The officers cited Abbottabad Commission Report saying almost 8,000 houses, in the city where Osama Bin Laden was killed, are not listed with state authorities.

"Who resides in them is altogether another question. Therefore, in the absence of credible city planning and population metrics, radicals and extremists continue to remain cloaked as ordinary Pakistanis only to reveal themselves when it's too late," Pak Brigadier Hamidul Haque, Lt Colonel Waseem and Lt Colonel Sohail Arshad wrote.

It is an open secret that political decision makers in Pakistan, army and ISI are reluctant to crackdown on terrorist outfits despite a large section of society demanding that their government must destroy the terror infrastructure and eliminate the terrorist ideology. Pakistan is still looking for evidence against 26/11 Mumbai attack perpetrators Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-Ur-Rehman Lakhvi while the terror masterminds are not denying the role. The deep state within Pakistan will ensure fertile recruiting grounds for outfits that will continue to fuel terrorism.

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Updated Date: Mar 05, 2019 12:56:39 IST

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