Madarsa in Pakistan: The Chief Promoter of Islamic Militancy and Terrorism

O.N. Mehrotra, Research Associate, IDSA


The menace of terrorism and need for its control was one of the main issues raised by leaders of various countries during the 54th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 1999. There was a general consensus on adopting concerted international measures on eliminating the horror of terrorism from the globe. A few days before the UN session, the foreign ministers conference for Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) called for wiping out terrorism from Asia. In 2000, a world conference on terrorism is scheduled, where leaders of various countries are likely to deliberate on the issue. On October 15,1999, the UN Security Council passed a resolution imposing sanctions on the Taliban in Afghanistan if they failed to hand over Osama Bin Laden to stand trial for his alleged involvement in the August 1998 bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. However Kabul refused to hand over Laden to US on the grounds that it would amount to betrayal of Islamic principles because fighters like Laden helped liberate Afghanistan from the Soviet occupation.

In fact the employment of methods of terrorism for achieving an objective is not a new phenomenon in human history. The terrorist means have been adopted by freedom fighters for the noble objective of driving out colonial rulers from their own countries. But currently terrorism has become a serious cause of universal concern because in the name of religion, terrorists have been indulging in destruction of properties and killing of innocent people not only in their own country but other countries as well.

India is a major victim of "Islamic terrorists" who not only want to liberate Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) from India's "occupation" but have already enlarged their nefarious activities in different parts of the country. They even have an evil design to establish an independent "Islamic state" in the Northeast region of India. They have been trained mainly in Pakistan and many of them belong to other foreign countries apart from Pakistan.

In fact, in the post-Cold War period, Islamic militancy and terrorism has emerged as the most dangerous phenomenon in international affairs threatening international peace. It is also a serious destabilising factor in a secular multiethnic state. A number of secular states, with a Muslim minority, have been confronted with an explosive problem of violent movements for establishing an independent Islamic state. Such movements may be indigenous but are invariably encouraged, provoked and actively assisted by mujahideen (holy warriors) and militant Islamic fundamentalists from foreign Islamic countries, mainly from (and trained in) Pakistan. Though they claim that they are protectors and promoters of "pure Islam", their aggressive involvement in the internal affairs of a state with the objective of destabilising its regime and encouraging separatism on the basis of religion as well as terrorist activities against their perceived enemies and objects have not only bestowed them with an evil name but have also damaged the reputation of their religion which they wish to glorify. In reality, Islamic militants and terrorists are not only a menace for many peace-loving secular democratic countries but they are hated and despised in many more countries. As a matter of fact they pose a threat to secular as well as many Islamic countries, including Pakistan.

In the name of Islam, the so-called Islamic fundamentalists have launched an international terrorist movement to liberate their brethren from the infidel rulers. They also aspire to establish uncorrupt Islamic regimes in the Islamic countries by resorting to violent means. With the success of the Islamic movement of the Taliban in Afghanistan and establishment of a "pure Islamic regime" there, they have been able to convince their followers, whom they fondly address as "Young men of Muslim Ummah", that their objective is not far from realisation in the near future. This militant wing has consisted of indoctrinated, dedicated, motivated and well-organised mujahideens (holy warriors) who are always ready to go anywhere for the cause of Islam the world over. Their heroes are the current Amir ul-Momineen' of Afghanistan, Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Oman and Saudi Arabia's dissident millionaire Osama bin Mohammed bin Laden, better known as Bin Laden, who has recently been placed on 'the 10 most-wanted' list of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States of America. In reality their terrorist movement has little to do with the Islamic religion as such. While interestingly they have dislodged the mujahideen's regime in Kabul, they were also a threat to the survival of the democratically elected government in Pakistan. Incidentally, it may be noted that Pakistan has been the chief patron-promoter of Islamic militancy and terrorism. It has now been joined by Afghanistan, 90 per cent of whose territory is under the control of the Taliban. However, Islamic militancy and extremism emerged as the most threatening form of international terrorism in the closing years of the 1980's much before the birth of the Taliban movement.

Many leaders of Islamic countries and Muslims usually blame the hostile media and baiters of Islamic religion for distorting the image of their religion and its ardent followers. They argue that zealots of other religions are envious of the growing popularity and acceptance of Islam. They claim that the rising number of conversions of believers of other religions to Islam has sent shockwaves through the fundamentalists of different religions. Consequently, they have joined together to launch a disinformation campaign against Islam and perverted its image. In reality none else but the popular leaders of Islamic militancy and terrorism have been responsible for spoiling the image of their religion. Importantly, political leaders of Islamic countries, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, have done little to check the nefarious activities of the so-called Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists. Contrarily, they have encouraged them to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Apparently they believe that the campaign of Islamic fundamentalists would weaken some of their rival countries and enhance the role of their own countries in the international community. Be that as it may, the Frankenstein's monster of the Islamic fundamentalists and terrorism has grown menacingly and it has not only become a deadly threat to many secular liberal countries but a destabilising factor for many Islamic countries as well. Ironically the leaders of some Islamic countries are too weak to clip their wings because they fear that such a step would boomerang and dislodge them from their position. In fact some leaders of Islamic countries, especially Pakistan, have distorted their own religion.1

At this juncture it would not be out of place to discuss the brief history of current Islamic militancy and terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. It all began not so very long ago. In July 1977 General Zia-ul-Haq overthrew Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but he was confronted with some domestic resistance against his regime. He found it politically expedient to use Islam to legitimise his unpopular regime in Pakistan. In this endeavour he found a willing ally in the Jamaat-i-Islami, an extremist Sunni religious party. Following the Saur revolution in Afghanistan, Zia encouraged Afghan Islamist groups based in Pakistan, such as the Jamaat-i-Islami of Burhanuddin Rabbani and the Hezb-i-Islami of Gulbaddin Hekmatyar to launch the opposition movement against the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).

It is widely believed in the Islamist groups that because of their strong resistance to the PDPA, the Soviets moved into Afghanistan to protect and strengthen their Afghan allies. Knowing the Americans strong opposition to the expansion of the Soviet empire during the Cold War period, Zia intelligently manoeuvered to entice the US to join his efforts to dislodge the socialist regime in Kabul. Subsequently the US extended political, economic and military assistance to Pakistani and Afghan Islamist groups to launch a holy war against the Soviet military which had intervened in Afghanistan. In other words, Pakistan emerged as the 'frontline state' in the American supported military operation against the Soviet military in Afghanistan. Consequently Pakistan declared that Islam was in danger in Afghanistan and clearly gave a religiously emotional call for jehad (the holy war) to throw the infidel Soviet army out of Afghanistan_a Muslim country. Soon the Afghan refugees, who were mostly settled in camps along the Pak-Afghan borders, were motivated to join, along with other Muslim brethren, the holy war against the Soviet military in Afghanistan.

George Bush, then vice president of the United States, joined them in the religiously emotional slogan_Allah-O-Akbar on a visit to the Pakistan border.2 Their military training camps were visited by many prominent dignitaries like William Casey, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US and late General Akhtar Abdur Rehman, then general director Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan 'Many military training camps run by mujahideen commanders, were operating in the provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Khost in Afghanistan, which shared a border with Pakistan. Incidentally mujahideen commanders had been trained by American instructors and Pakistani military officials, in line with the guide-books of the US Marines. Later in 1993 some of those guide books were recovered from the houses of Arabs in Peshawar.3 The military training camps operated with the active cooperation and assistance of the US, Saudi Arabia, China and many Islamic countries.4

Those military camps also attracted many Islamic militants from West Asia, Arabs hailing from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and other Muslim countries, most of whom were members or sympathisers of the Egyptian-based, Muslim Brotherhood (Akhwan-ul-Muslammen). They joined Afghan mujahideens to fight the Soviet army. Bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan among the early batches of Arab volunteers. The multi-millionaire civil engineer was a Saudi extremist dedicated to the cause of jehad. After the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, Bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia, but in 1994 the Saudi authorities stripped him of his nationality and therefore he migrated to Sudan. However, in May 1996 he was expelled from Sudan reportedly under pressure from the United States and other western countries. Thereafter he went to settle down in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad where he reportedly camped along with other Arab volunteers at Torabora in the Agam area of Ningarhar. Subsequently he shifted to Khandahar and later he decided to revive the Al-Badar base in Khost.5 In May 1998, at a high-profile ceremony at his Al-Badar Camp, he formally launched the International Islamic Front against the US and Israel.

It is an irony of history that the US, which gave all assistance to the growth of Islamic militancy and extremism to promote its interests in Afghanistan, has now been paying a high price for its misadventure. Now the same Islamic militants have turned against the US. On the one hand the US has been calling them terrorists, on the other hand they say "the US is the greatest terrorist in the world". Though Pakistan has not closed down the military training camps for the mujahideen, yet it has protested against their operation in Afghanistan and has driven out many Arab militants from Pakistan. In fact, the Islamic militants have become a serious threat to domestic peace in Pakistan because time and again they have indulged in sectarian killings in the country.6 However Pakistani leaders have made no serious effort to close down their camps or check their training programmes in their own country.

Now their modus operandi has been changed. They have now been functioning from religious schools called madrassah. According to a report in 1997, there were at least 8,000 registered and another 25,000 unregistered religious schools in Pakistan. In Karachi alone, there were at least 29 such schools with 2,000 students enrolled in each of them. Amongst them Dar-ul-Ifta-ul-Irshad, in Block 4, Nazimabad, was one of the foremost religious institutes inculcating the spirit of jehad in its students. It has reportedly been the main centre of congregation for aspiring mujahids. It was so heavily guarded from the outside that it was impossible to photograph even its main gate. Every madrassah has been supplied with pro-jehad literature, books on jehad as well as newspapers reporting from war fronts inside Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia and Kashmir. In many madrassah there are students from various Islamic countries.7

Students are generally enrolled at the tender age of six and continue until they are at least sixteen. In almost every madrassah, there are a few Taliban who make regular visits to the war front in Afghanistan. After returning from Afghanistan they narrate the tales of valour and glory which are recounted to impressionable minds at these schools. Though the teachers of those schools claim that they do not send their students to Afghanistan, yet Maulana Samiul Haq, who heads the Jamiat Ulema-e Islam the largest religious seminary in Pakistan in Akora Khatak, 65 kilometers east of Peshawar declared that on one occasion when Taliban leader Mullah Omar needed mujahideen at the war front he sent a call for students to come and join his laskar. According to him, permission was given only to Afghan students to go to Afghanistan.8

It may be noted here that the Bionsi Town mosque in Karachi is "a veritable mecca of Islamic learning". The mosque has been spreading Deobandi Sunni ideology all over the world. It claims to have students as well as donations from as many as 45 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Philippines and the United States. The Bionsi Town mosque is the second largest seminary in Pakistan. The mosque and its affiliates, impart comprehensive Islamic education to some 8,000 students at a time.9 The Bionsi Town mosque became the rallying point for protesters against the murders of Maulana Habibullah Mukhtar and Mufti Addus Sami, two scholars from the Jamiat-ul-Uloom-ul-Islamia, a madrassah in the Bionsi Town area on November 2, 1997. In protest against the murders on November 7, students from the various religious schools across Karachi brought the metropolis to a virtual standstill for the first time.10 During the unprecedented success of the strike. Abdur Razzaq, a teenager who was enrolled in a madrassah, reportedly warned: "Do not think of us as weak. We have ousted Soviet troops and the infidels from Afghanistan. We can do the same in Pakistan".11

At this juncture it would not be out of place to dilate on the functioning of madrassah and indoctrination of new recruits. As noted earlier, students are admitted to the madrassah at the tender age of six. "At such an imressionable age, it is fairly easy to inspire students_to join the jehad. Stories of the battle-front seem like epic tales of a world inhabited by heroes battling the forces of evil."12 In reality the parents of students of the madrassah do not know much about the modus operandi of the places of learning. "I had handed over my son to the school so that he would learn the Quran, not the handling of guns", said a father of a 13-year old student who visited Afghanistan along with his colleagues from the Jamia Islamia, Clifton, Karachi, without his parents' knowledge.13 The authorities of the school claimed that the boy left for Afghanistan on his own accord but his father rightly believed that the school encouraged his son's decision. The young boy was indoctrinated and he declared. "I wish to be martyred in jehad in Afghanistan." He expounded, "I was introduced to jehad only through the speeches of my teacher. But now I know what it actually means. I have seen the Taliban fight their enemies".14 But when he was not under the watchful eyes of his teacher, he admitted that he was sent to Afghanistan by a teacher at the madrassah and was aware that the authorities of the school became a real threat for him and his family. His father lost much of his business because he spoke out against the madrassah.

Currently the Markaz Dawa wal Irshad (centre for preaching), a religious organisation based in the town of Muridke, some 30 miles north of Lahore, is Pakistan's largest so-called jehadi organisation. Its militant wing, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (army of the pure) is an organisation of highly trained militants who are willing to go to war wherever and whenever the Amir (commander) orders. Though the Markaz Dawa Wal Irshad "is involved in various areas, including religious education and social welfare, it is mainly through its militant wing that the organisation is known throughout the country."16 At its Muridke headquarters, the Markaz is housed in more than 190 acres of land. Those who join the Lashkar undergo one of two kinds of military training: (I) a 21-day standard course called Daura-e-Aama, and (ii) an intensive three-month special programme, called the Daura-e-Khasa which involves teaching of guerrilla warfare, use of small arms, survival and ambush techniques.17 "Indeed, three months of rigorous commando training, conducted in isolated areas of Kashmir, brings about a metamorphosis in the recruit. The newly enlisted soldier discards his old name and begins to use a kuniat, or Arabic-style nickname. These names are reminiscent of kuniats of the companies of the Prophet (Pbuh) and later Islamic heroes. It is with this name that the recruit will be known within the organisation and remembered after his death in_Kashmir."18

It may be noted here that the reason for mutilating bodies of Indian soldiers who were captured by mujahideen is justified as following: "Since it is not possible to bring their captives back to Pakistan, and the Indian government does not bargain for the return of hostages, all Indian prisoners are killed in the_valley. The Lashkar fighter will usually execute an Indian soldier by slitting his throat. However, beheading and disemboweling are also common tactics, employed mostly for psychological reasons." Abdur Rehman al Dakhil, commander of the Lashkar in Kashmir, justified the employment of brutal methods against the Indian prisoners. "The Quran orders us to hit them on every joint," said Abdur Rehman. "We are instructed to treat the enemy the way they treat us."19 In fact, the Indian soldiers observe the internationally acknowledged principles of the treatment of prisoners of war. Recently during the Kargil conflict, some of the captured prisoners of war were handed over to Pakistan. In spite of repeated appeals when the Pakistani authorities declined to take back bodies of dead Pakistani soldiers, they were given appropriate burial according to their religious rites. In contrast, Pakistani soldiers mutilated bodies of some Indian soldiers and handed them over to the Indian authorities.

The Markaz Dawa wal Irshad was founded by three university teachers in 1987. From its relatively humble beginning, it has grown into a formidable force. In 1997, the organisation was running 30 schools where nearly 5,000 students were enrolled. "While these schools follow the official syllabus for the teaching of secular subjects, additional study in Arabic, the Quran and Sunnah is compulsory from the primary level. These schools are clearly geared towards producing mujahideen, or holy warriors, ready to wage jehad."20 "We will continue to work in the twin fields of education and jehad" said Prof. Zafar Iqbal, head of education. "Jehad is carried out to establish the system of Allah in the world. But this system cannot be established without education," he explained. "Therefore, education is equally important."21 The Markaz authorities are extremely satisfied with the success of their institution and therefore they wish to keep the organisation expanding.

The annual meeting of Markaz Dawa wal Irshad is quite significant because it is an important function of the organisation to display its growing popularity and an opportunity of attracting young boys to join the Markaz."A unique event by any standards, the Muridke gathering held amid tight garrison-like security, brings together young militants currently fighting inside_Kashmiri and those who wish to do so. Also, attending the meeting in the thousands are the relatives of Lashkar soldiers, as well as the families of men who have died in Kashmir. This year (1997), nearly 100,000 people attended the three-day event, a manifestation of the Lashkar's increasing popularity and power".22 The meeting is usually addressed by some people whose dear ones have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Islam. For instance a 60-year old shopkeeper from Bhawalpur addressed the annual gathering in 1997 describing how both his sons gave up their lives fighting in Kashmir. He himself expressed his desire to join his sons as soon as possible. Such a remarkable scene was played out time and again at the annual meeting to motivate parents of young boys to send their sons to the Markaz and also encourage them to join its Lashkar. It is widely propogated that the Quran carries a specific message: "Kill the standard bearer of Kufr." Immediately after the US airstrikes on Sudan and Afghanistan in August 1998. Bin Laden had published colourful posters and stickers carrying his message, addressed to the "young men of Islam". In the message he warned. "The world of Kufr should know that Muslims are always desirous of martyrdom".23

Militant outfits, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, have no problem in generating funds required for their operations. The Lashkar generates crores of rupees every year by selling the hides of sacrificial animals. It runs offices all over the country and collects funds for its operation. Moreover all jehadi organisations have rich supporters.24 They may also be extorting money in the name of jehad. Interestingly, religious groups also advertise in newspapers soliciting donations to alleviate the plight of Afghanis and Kashmiris.25

In Pakistan there are many militant Islamist groups. Some of the largest among them are: (1) Taliban: The Taliban may be an Afghan movement but they have a strong Pakistani component. It belongs to the Deobandi-Wahabi school of thought: (2) Harkatul Mujahideen: The Harkatul Mujahideen is the successor of the Harkatul Ansar which was declared a terrorist organisation by the United States. It is also a Deobandi-Wahabi group and is believed to be under the influence of Maulana Samiul Haq's Jamiat-ul-Ulema-Islam as well as the Sipahe Sahaba Pakistan. (3) Lashkar-e-Taiba: The Lashkar is the militant wing of the Markaz Dawa wal Irshad, an Ahle Hadith-Wahabi orgnisation based in Muridke, near Lahore. It has emerged as a major guerrilla group over the last few years. (4) Hizbul Mujahideen: It operates in Kashmir and has strong links with the Jamaat-i-Islami. Its recruits are mainly from amongst the workers of the Jamaat's student wing, the Islami Jamiate Talaba. Most of its members are college and university graduates. (5) Hizbe Wahadat: It is the militant Shia organisation. Its power base is in the Hazara region of Afghanistan. It has strong links with Iran as well as Shia organisations in Pakistan including the Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan and Sipahe Mohammed, (6) Sipahe Sahaba Pakistan: It is a hard-line Sunni political-cum-militant organisation. It is vigorously opposed to Iran and to the Shia community in Pakistan. It has links with Harkatul Mujahideen and the Taliban, as well as certain Arab donors. (7) Lashkar-e-Jhangvi: It is a separate militant wing of the Sipahe Sahaba Pakistan. It is one of the most dreaded militant sectarian organisations operating in Pakistan. (8) Sipahe Mohammad Pakistan: This militant Shia organisation is believed to have been involved in a number of massacres, targeted killings and dacoities.26

There have been many military training camps for mujahideen in Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba is one of the largest militant outfits fighting the separatist war inside Kashmir. Recently Abdullah Muntazir, a spokesman of the Lashkar has claimed that his organisation has set up 2,200 camps in various parts of Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) to provide military training to the fresh recruits ready to join the fighting across the Line of Control (LoC). There are many camps for mujahideen in Afghanistan. Amongst them Al-Badar I and Al-Badar II are most prominent in Khost. There are others, such as the Abu Jindal, Al-Farooq, Salman Farsi and Khalid Bin Waleed camps. Abu Jindal is now better known as the Arab camp and it was here that Bin Laden, held his famous press conference in May 1998 in which he announced the launching of his International Islamic front for jehad against America and Israel. There were volunteers from almost every Arab country but the majority belonged to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Sudan.

On the night of August 20, 1998, American Tomahawk cruise missiles rained down in all the six training camps in Khost in pursuit of Bin Laden. He escaped the attack but all camps were destroyed. According to reports, over two dozens persons were killed, the majority of them either Pakistanis or Kashmiris, while seven Arab nationals also perished in the attack.27 According to the US deputy secretary of state Thomas Pickering, "the Pakistanis killed in the missile attack were (from the) Harkat, a terrorist organisation engaged in sending terrorists inside Kashmir."28 The American air strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan cannot eliminate training camps for Islamic militants and their terrorist activities. They can be controlled by the countries where they are functioning. But leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan believe that they serve their national interests. Apparently Pakistani leaders believe that they will provide it an opportunity to secure access to the oil and gas resources of Central Asia via Afghan territory. It is explicitly noted that "the growing Islamist insurgency in Tajikistan is seen as a continuation of the ISI-led effort to secure Pakistan's control over trade routes and western access to Central Asia and China".29

It is a well-known fact that the Pakistan army has been actively involved in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.30 The Pakistani army has fought along with the Taliban against the Rabbani regime in Kabul. Whenever the Taliban needs reinforcement, many madrassahas_the training centers for the Islamic militants and terrorists_immediately send their "students" to Afghanistan. As recently as August 12, 1999, a Pakistani newspaper_The News_reported that over 5,000 "students" studying in Pakistani madrassahs were sent to join the Taliban forces battling the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. The "students" from Darul Uloom Darvesh, Peshawar, the Darul Uloom Haqqania, Akora Khattak, and several madrassahs in Kohat and Hangu districts in the North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) were sent to fight the jehad in Afghanistan.31

The active Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan has been a major cause of its tense relations with some Islamic countries also. "Afghanistan's neighbours, Iran and the Islamist-wary Central Asian republics, have all accused Pakistan of masterminding the latest Taliban assault, and Islamabad's relations with these countries have hit an all-time low. Making matters worse, Gohar Ayub Khan, then still head of the foreign ministry, having rattled off a remarkably detailed blueprint for a Taliban military offensive to an Arab newspaper (Ashraq-ul-Awsat, August 5), proceeded to laugh off a query regarding his uncanny insight into Taliban military strategy".32 It has rightly been observed in certain quarters that should Pakistan continue its adventures in Afghanistan, its neighbours would not likely sit idle.

At times some neighbouring countries of Pakistan have protested against the activities of Islamic extremists and terrorists. For instance in August 1998, six Iranian diplomats and a journalist were killed by the Taliban in Mazar-e-Sharif. The Iranians directly blamed Pakistan for such happenings in Afghanistan and openly accused Islamabad for providing military assistance to the Taliban.33 In fact, in the recent past, several Iranians, including diplomats, were killed on Pakistani soil. The Sunni extremist outfit, Sipahe Sahaba, has been engaged in anti-Iranian campaigning for the last few years. In September 1998 at the funeral prayers for the killed Iranians in Afghanistan, thousands of mourners shouted "Marg bar Amrika, marg bar Taliban, marg bar Pakistan". For some time in 1998 the situation there was very tense because of Iranian military exercises along the border with Afghanistan and the troop concentrations were increased to about 250,000. Islamabad was apprehensive of armed conflict between Iran and Afghanistan and its possible spillover into Pakistan, possibly in the form of a major sectarian war.34

Apart from Iran, many Islamic countries of Central Asia have also accused Pakistan of spreading Islamic extremism and terrorism in their countries. Amongst them Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are the main victims. Many Islamic terrorists have been punished for their crimes in those countries. On June 28, 1999 the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan handed down severe sentences to 22 people involved in the terrorist explosions that rocked Tashkent on February 16, 1998, killing 16 and injuring over 100. Among them six were sentenced to death. They had committed various serious crimes since 1992, including savagely murdering a family of seven in Andizhan and five in Namangan.35 President Islam Karimov has time and again warned that foreign religious extremists have been acting against national security.36

In fact, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new breed of battle-hardened religious fanatics were available to give their lives for the Islamic cause. Pakistan motivated them to "liberate". Jammu and Kashmir from the "occupation" of India. Islamic militants were sent to India for committing sabotage, subversion, assassination and other kinds of terrorist activities. At the same time Islamic extremists and militants were sent to Muslim areas of the erstwhile Soviet Union and Xinjiang, the Muslim majority region in northwest China. Consequently Pakistani extremist religious organisations have established close links with clandestine Islamic movements in Tajiskistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. A considerable number of Muslims from Central Asia and China have been given admission to many Islamic schools in Pakistan. The Islamic University in Islamabad and many madrassahas have been teaching Islamic extremism and inculcating training for terrorist activities.

The Islamic extremists and terrorists have also been a cause of concern in China. As early as in 1992 consequent to an abortive Islamist uprising in the town of Baren in Xinjiang, 22 people were killed. Immediately China closed its road links with Pakistan for several months.37 Though China and Pakistan are close allies, yet training of Islamic militants and terrorists in various camps in Pakistan have been a major irritant in their bilateral relations. No doubt China has made efforts to root out Islamic militants and terrorists as well as taken strong measures in blocking mushrooming of unauthorised mosques and Quranic schools, but in all probability some secret centers may be coaching extremist Islam and terrorism in Xinjiang. Moreover trained Islamic extremists and terrorists must be infiltrating into Muslim areas of China. Whenever the central authorities slacken in their efforts to check their growth, the Islamic terrorist monster will surface and make efforts to achieve its objective of establishing an Islamic republic(s) in China.

Apart from neighbouring countries of Pakistan, many other countries, both Islamic and secular, have been victims of Pakistani trained Islamic extremists and terrorists. Egypt has time and again protested against the involvement of Pakistani trained terrorists in disruptive activities in the country. In May 1999 Egypt tightened its visa policy for Pakistanis. The Egyptian ambassador to Pakistan Dr. Mahmood Al-Saeed justified his government's action claiming that most of the terrorists arrested in his country were using fake documents. He identified the Taliban connection and its influence in his country as the major reason for singling out Pakistan.38 It may be recalled that 58 Swiss and Japanese tourists along with four Egyptians were massacred in one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in recent years.39 It had cost the Egyptian government a staggering "one billion dollars per victim", according to an Egyptian official.

Russia has also blamed Pakistan for training Islamic terrorists and sending mercenaries to fight in Chechnya40 and Dagestan.41 The mujahideens of various countries, especially from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, fought along with Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs in 1992-95. They have also been engaged in terrorist activities in several countries, including the United States. No doubt Washington knows full well about training camps for Islamic militants and terrorists in Pakistan as well as their involvement in nefarious activities in the United States but it has not yet declared Pakistan as a terrorist state because the United States itself was one of the promoters and protectors of militants. At times Pakistani authorities cooperated with the FBI in arresting terrorists in the Pakistani territory.42

In 1995 Pakistan assisted the FBI teams in arresting one of the prime suspects in New York's World Trade Center bombing, Ramazi Yusuf, from Islamabad. In 1997, the Pakistani authorities allowed the FBI agents to conduct a highly secret operation in arresting Aimal Kansi from his hide-out in Dera Ghazi Khan. He was wanted for the murder of two US Central Investigation Agency operatives. In August 1998 Sadiq Odeh was arrested in Karachi and he confessed before the Pakistani authorities about his links with embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and a militant group led by Bin Laden, thereafter he was also interrogated by the FBI and made the same confession. Once Bin Laden's involvement was established in the bombings, Washington secured Islamabad's cooperation in taking punitive measures against Bin Laden. In this respect, it is interesting to note that a top US military official, General Ralston made a brief stopover in Islamabad on August 20, 1998, precisely at the time of firing of Tomahawk missiles targeted at the camps of Bin Laden in Khost, from US ships in the Indian ocean.43

Be that as it may, India has been the major victim of Islamic militancy and terrorism especially for the last one decade. The Islamic militants and terrorists have not only been engaged in destructive activities in Jammu and Kashmir but also in various parts of the country. The Pakistani government acknowledges that it provides moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmiri militants but it denies Indian claims of the other assistance like training them in terrorist activities and helping them as well as some foreign mujahideen to infiltrate into Indian territory. "Reports continued_however, of official Pakistani support to militants fighting in Kashmir".44 Recently they have accelerated their nefarious activities in the Northeast with the objective of setting up a new Islamic state there.45

In fact the Islamic militants and terrorists are not only threats to secular countries but they pose a grave threat to Pakistan's elected democratic government46 which was overturned by the armed forces in October 1999. On the one hand they were engaged in the sectarian violence, on the other they launched a movement to remove the democratic government because it was not following Islamic principles. In August 1998 the Jamaat-i-Islami protesters were on a march to storm the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's farm at Raiwind but the party chief, Qazi Hussain Ahmad stopped them and observed that "the revolution will not come from laying siege to the farm". Those looking for inqilah (revolution), he said, would have to "wait for the whole country to unite". He maintained: "The people will soon take over the places in Islamabad".47 Fortunately, the extremist religious parties in Pakistan have failed to make much inroads into the political system as is evident from their poor performance in elections. But wherever extremist Islamic parties or group of persons have replaced the ruling regime, they have never captured power through universally held elections or referendum, like in Iran and Afghanistan. Incidentally both countries were religiously not conservative and were devoid of strong Islamic political parties before the introduction of conservative Islamic social, political and religious systems in those countries. No doubt the conservative system has failed to secure universal acceptance in many countries but people have to accept it without much protest generally under strong arm methods in some countries like Iran and Afghanistan.

The spread of Islamic extremism and terrorism can be controlled if the so-called madrassahs and camps imparting training for such purposes are closed down strictly. It is not an easy task because the Pakistani government fears that such a move will endanger its own existence. But this is a wrong perception. In fact such a step should be taken after properly exposing their nefarious activities which have no relevance to the true practice of Islam. In fact the Pakistani print media has exposed their extremely dangerous activities. But unfortunately this has mainly been done only by periodicals published in English. It has to be carried forward by dailies and periodicals of Urdu and other vernacular languages. Moreover, the electronic media can play a major role in exposing their dangerous activities, which have served no national interests. Conversely they have damaged the national interest because they encourage sectarian violence resulting in loss of innocent lives and destruction of valuable property. On the one hand they cannot achieve their objective by launching jehad and on the other their lives will not be comfortable and religiously noble as evidenced in Afghanistan. Since the rule of the Taliban was established in Afghanistan, it has declined economically, educationally and socially. Additionally, its relations have deteriorated with almost all countries, whether Islamic or secular. In this respect the true picture of Afghanistan should be circulated widely, for instance, as reported in the Pakistani monthly, The Herald: "Forced to fend for themselves due to the death or incapacitation of their male bread winners, and banned from seeking gainful employment under the Taliban dispensation, scores of Afghanistan women are turning to prostitution to eke out a living."48

The menace of Islamic extremism and terrorism has been a serious threat to various Islamic and secular countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States. The indoctrinated, dedicated, battle-hardened and trained mujahideens, are always prepared to go anywhere in the name of Islam be it Bosnia, Chechnya, Dagestan, Kashmir or Kosovo, or even the United States. There exists a close link between terrorists and the drug mafia. They can immediately be checked and finally eliminated with the active cooperation of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In this respect other Islamic countries may also play a constructive role by not allowing contribution from their nationals to Islamic militant outfits and by not joining them. They can also cooperate to compel Pakistan and Afghanistan to close camps for Islamic militants. The Organisation of Islamic Conference can play a significant role in achieving this objective.



1. See Najum Mushtaq, "Islam Distorted", Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, vol. 55, no. 4, July/August 1999, pp. 53-57.

2. See M. Ilyas Khan, "Unwanted Warriors", The Herald, (Karachi), May 1997, p. 63.

3. Behroz Khan, "Remains of the Day", Newsline (Karachi), September 1998, p. 41.

4. P.B. Sinha, "Pakistan_the Chief Patron_Promoter of Islamic Militancy and Terrorism", Strategic Analysis (New Delhi), vol. 21, no. 7, October 1997, p. 1015.

5. Rizwan Qureshi, "Osma's World", The Herald, September 1998, p. 57.

6. See the Herald, June 1997, pp. 50-57 and November-December 1998, pp. 32b and 54-56.

7. Owais Tohid, "The Jehad at Home", The Herald, December 1997, pp. 63-66.

8. Ibid., pp. 65-66.

9. Ibid., p. 65.

10. Ibid., p. 63-64.

11. Ibid., p. 64.

12. O. Tohid, "The New Recruits", The Herald, December 1997, p. 68.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. See Zaigham Khan, "Allah's Army" The Herald Annual, January 1998, pp. 124-125.

16. Ibid., p. 124.

17. Ibid., p. 125.

18. Ibid., p. 126.

19. Ibid., p. 130.

20. Zaigham Khan, "From Strength to Strength" The Herald Annual, January 1998, p. 125.

21. Ibid.

22. Khan, n. 15, 124. In 1999, more than two lac people attended the annual function.

23. "Call to Arms", The Herald, September 1998, p. 30.

24. See Zaighan Khan, "Inside the Mind of the Holy Warrior", The Herald, July 1999, p. 43.

25. See Sara Ali Zaidi, "Liberators RUS", Newsline, May 1998, p. 78.

26. See Zaigham Khan, "Allah's Armies", The Herald, September 1998, pp. 28-29.

27. Khan, n. 3, p. 40.

28. Rizwan Qureshi, "The Pakistani Connection", The Herald, September 1998, p. 54.

29. Ali F. Zaidi, "The Final Frontier?", The Herald, August 1998, p. 19.

30. Samina Ahmed, "The (Un) holy Nexus?" Newsline, September 1998, p. 33.

31. As reported in Hindu (Delhi), August 16, 1999.

32. Zaidi, n. 29.

33. See Zaffar Abbas, "The Battle Ahead", The Herald, September 1998, p. 17.

34. Ibid., According to the report, certain senior officials in Islamabad openly admitted that a large number of Pakistani individuals, mostly from extremist religious groups, were fighting side by side with the Taliban. Some of them belong to hard-line anti-Shia groups, and it would not be altogether surprising if they played some role in the killings at Mazar and Bamiyan. Ibid., p. 18.

35. Summary of World Broadcasts (SWB), Part I, SU/3573, June 29, 1999, p. G/1.

36. Ibid., SU/3572, June 28, 1999, pp. G/3-G/4.

37. See P.B. Sinha, "Islamic Militancy and Separatism in Xinjiang", Strategic Analysis, vol. 20, no. 3, June 1997, p. 452.

38. See, The Herald, June 1999, p. 19.

39. See, The Herald Annual, January 1998, p. 113.

40. The Indian Express, January 5, 1995.

41. The Hindu, August 13, 1999.

42. See Zaffar Abbas, "Balancing Act," The Herald, September 1998, p. 52.

43. Ibid., p. 50.

44. Patterns of Global Terrorism, 1998, United States Department of State, 1999, p. 10.

45. See, The Hindustan Times (New Delhi), August 11, 1999.

46. See, Samina Ahmed, n. 30, pp. 31-34.

47. Zaigham Khan, "Promise, Promise_", The Herald, August 1998, p. 20.

48. M. Ilyas Khan, "Beyond Good or Evil," The Herald, August 1999, p. 96.