Pakistani students prefer guns to books

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by ajtr, Jul 27, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Pakistani students prefer guns to books

    By Syed Saleem Shahzad

    ISLAMABAD - Several hundred students in the southern port city of Karachi have left the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT), Pakistan's largest student union, to join al-Qaeda training camps in the North Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, Asia Times Online has learned.

    The IJT is an offshoot of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the country's premier Islamic party.

    "This is true. They now have their own camp in North Waziristan and it is purely the work of the late Dr Arshad Waheed that such a huge number of people are joining here," Usman Punjabi, a militant leader, told Asia Times Online on the telephone.

    Waheed was a renowned kidney specialist who was president of

    the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, an offshoot of the JI. He and his brother Dr Akmal Waheed, a cardiovascular physician, were arrested in 2004 after an attack on a military motorcade in Karachi in 2004. They were charged with facilitating members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jundallah.

    The brothers were later released and relocated to South Waziristan, where Arshad Waheed was killed in a drone attack in 2008. He was the first Pakistani al-Qaeda sympathizer to be featured by al-Qaeda's media wing al-Sahab in a long documentary, in which he was called a role model.

    The exodus of students to the tribal areas was also confirmed by a former leader of the JI's youth wing who spoke to Asia Times Online on the condition of anonymity, "To me there is no need to hide this thing, it is true, a big number has already left and I am afraid that the remaining ones will also be leaving Karachi soon."

    According to a Pakistani counter-terrorism official, case studies show that initially all jihadis are recruited to fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan, but ultimately they end up fighting against the Pakistani security forces.

    This is an important development in al-Qaeda’s struggle and a major blow for Pakistan that a large number of people affiliated with the country's most influential Islamic party - always considered a major strategic asset for the military establishment - have joined forces with al-Qaeda.

    This development can be compared to 2005, when, after a crackdown on militants, hundreds of highly trained and battle-hardened fighters from Kashmir went to North Waziristan to join forces with al-Qaeda. These included Ilyas Kashmiri, whose 313 Brigade is now an important operational arm of al-Qaeda, and veteran jihadi Abdul Jabbar.

    Beginning of a new phase
    Shortly after last Tuesday's attack on a Punjabi regimental center in Mardan in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) in which three suicide bombers were killed and four soldiers wounded, the Taliban sent out a press release in English. The first section read:
    Recently, news has circulated in the media of a report of Amnesty International regarding the brutal rule of the Pakistan army in Swat, northeastern Pakistan, under a so-called "operation". The report says that the Pakistan army in the name of the operation, Rahe-Rast, did brutal assaults in poor areas of Swat Valley and allegedly killed hundreds of men without charges and without any proof or legal procedure before they were executed. These extra-judicial killings not only unveil the nature of the Pakistani army, they also bring the truth in front of the whole nation. A few months ago, a video tape was circulated on the Internet in which many Pakistan army men were seen brutally beating villagers, nearly killing them.

    Earlier, a movie was shown on local and international television channels containing scenes of a women being executed by some men [Taliban], saying this is the so-called Islamic judiciary system the Taliban wants to impose on the people of Pakistan. [As a result] the army took action and started operation Rahe-Rast. If the serious think-tanks of Pakistan compare these two video clips, they must speak out.
    What is interesting about this release is that is was relatively well articulated; in the past, militant spokesmen had difficulty even expressing themselves in Urdu.

    Contacts in North Waziristan confirm that the large-scale movement of IJT members took place earlier this year. The organization responded by expelled all of them. However, these students maintain a very active presence on the Internet, and blogging is their main tool for recruitment.

    The JI apparently did its best to bring these students back, without success. It even sent Hafiz Waheedullah Khan to Wana, the largest town in South Waziristan, to speak to Akmal Waheed.
    Kahn is the father of the Waheed brothers and a well-respected educationist who runs a network of private schools. He was a founder of the JI-backed Teachers' Association of Pakistan, the largest in the country. Akmal refused to speak with his father.

    The JI was banned in the 1960s by then-dictator Field Marshal Ayub Khan's regime but it fought its case in the courts and won back its legitimacy. In the 1970s, the JI formed two notorious militias, al-Shams and al-Badr, which fought with the Pakistan army against Indian forces and rebel Bengalis. That support brought the JI close to the military and that continued until the era of former president General Pervez Musharraf, who came to power in 1999.

    The IJT was formed in 1948 as an offshoot of the JI to counter left-wing student unions. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the IJT won elections at the country's three main campuses - Punjab University, Karachi University and Peshawar University.

    Student leaders of that period became national leaders, including incumbent ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani (he was elected president of the IJT-backed student union of Karachi University); the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Javed Hashmi (Punjab University); incumbent Law Minister Dr Babar Awan (president of the IJT Rawalpindi), beside a long list of politicians in different political parties and a very strong representation in Urdu-language media outlets.

    During the Afghan jihad in the 1980s against the Soviets, IJT members enthusiastically fought and in the process they developed ties with Arab militants. For this reason, after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, top al-Qaeda members, including 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were arrested from the residences of JI leaders.

    As a result, at one time the Americans put immense pressure on Pakistan to ban the JI, so much so that then-Pakistani interior minister Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat announced that the government was thinking of doing so. However, the military establishment put its foot down, despite a personality clash between Musharraf and then-JI president Qazi Hussain Ahmad. Instead of the JI being banned, Hayat was removed from his post.

    This new development of IJT students joining al-Qaeda is more dangerous for Pakistan than any other previous al-Qaeda alliances. Most colleges and universities are the stronghold of the IJT, while the IJT's parent body, the JI, is the richest political party in the country and runs schools, madrassas (seminaries) and a vast network of social services and charities. Karachi contributes about 65% of the JI’s revenues.

    When the Kashmiri fighters joined forces with al-Qaeda, it improved the group's guerrilla techniques in the battlefield, while the IJT cadre will greatly boast al-Qaeda's recruitment drive and enhance its political influence.

    Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at [email protected]

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