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Behind the Radicalization of Pakistan
[Opinion] Why are Muslim youths of Pakistani origin linked to terrorism?
Umer Farooq (umer)     Print Article 
Published 2007-05-02 05:17 (KST)   
Five men have been recently convicted of plotting a bomb attack in Britain. Most were Britons of Pakistani origin and many had spent time in training camps in Pakistan. The group's ringleader, Omar Khyam grew up in a secular household. When he was in his late teens, he traveled to Pakistan, without his family's knowledge, to attend a mujahedin training camp. In 2001, Khyam traveled to Afghanistan to meet the Taliban. He co-organized a training camp in 2003 attended by many of the plotters -- and was instrumental in buying bomb ingredients.

It is not the first time groups or individuals involved in terrorist plots or acts have been found linked to Pakistan.

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In the wake of the July 2005 London bombings, Pakistan adopted a markedly changed position on extremism. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for the first time candidly admitted the country's direct or indirect links to the scourge of extremism.

In his televised speech General Musharraf said, "No matter where something happens, we end up being directly or indirectly involved It turns out that they [the extremists] have either visited Pakistan or passed through it on their way to Afghanistan."

It was a clear departure from the country's policy of flatly denying any link with Islamist extremism.

Explaining the Pakistan link, General Musharraf said that between 20,000 to 30,000 Muslim militants flocked to the country from all over the world throughout the 1980s during the U.S.-backed war against the Soviets in Afghanistan as their finances and logistics were routed through Pakistan.

"Where are they now?" he asked rhetorically, and answered that not all could have stayed on in Afghanistan.

The Afghan war created a parallel supporting network in Pakistan of groups heavily armed and motivated to fight the holy war. For years, these groups had been raising funds, recruiting manpower, providing military training and spreading hate literature in aid of the extremists.

These militant groups have been cashing in on the increasing radicalization of Pakistani society that took place as a parallel process to the Afghan jihad against the soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The process of radicalization continued as the militant groups shifted their focus toward Kashmir, where the local Muslim population had been struggling against Indian rule.

According to analysts, Pakistan Islamic seminaries provided the recruiting ground for these militant groups, which had something to offer students who came from the lower classes of society in terms of finances and an adventurous life.

"The radicalization of Pakistani society has internal as well as external factors, the external factors include the continued presence of U.S., NATO and British forces in Afghanistan, unrest in Kashmir and latest factors such as Lebanon and Iraq" said a political analyst.

In the wake of the July 2005 London bombings, it did not take long for Pakistan to become almost as much a focus of attention as the Yorkshire base of the bombers.

International scrutiny of Pakistan's links to terrorism intensified once it became known that three of the four bombers who struck London on July 7 were of Pakistani origin.

At least two of the four bombers -- Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer -- visited Pakistan in November 2004. Khan and Tanweer visited Pakistan again a few months later, according to Pakistan's immigration records, and one of them had reportedly attended a madrassa there.

Sources have suggested the men may have met with al-Qaida's number-two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Pakistan's tribal areas sometime in January 2005.

Many in Pakistan argued that it was the logical outcome of Pakistan's involvement in the long anti-Soviet war in neighboring Afghanistan.

In July 2006, the Indian government accused Pakistan-based militant groups of involvement in bomb attacks on commuter trains in the Indian city of Mumbai. More than 200 people were killed in seven consecutive bomb explosions. Although apparently no link was established, the Indian prime minister claimed that without outside support the bombing could not have been as deadly as it was.

The Pakistani group accused of involvement in the Mumbai bomb attacks, Laskhar Tioba, is also a product of the Afghan war though the focus of its activities is Indian-administered Kashmir, where it engages in militant campaigns against the Indian forces.

The Musharraf government has banned the group, but members have resumed their activities under the name of a charity organization -- Jamat-e-Dawa -- in Pakistan.

Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, many in Pakistan's military and intelligence communities were openly allied with the Taliban and al-Qaida. Since then, Gen. Musharraf has tried to end such links. But many in the West believe old allegiances still run deep.

In the wake of Sept. 11, General Musharraf has tried hard to re-orientate the Pakistani security establishment. Political analysts say that Musharraf may have achieved success in eliminating the links between the Pakistani security apparatus and militant groups, but there are other people who adhere to the same causes espoused by the militant groups.

It is because of this background that General Musharraf had to remind the West to think deeply about the festering disputes that involve the Muslim world.

For almost four years, Pakistan has been targeting militants and Islamic extremists as part of its participation in the U.S.-led "war on terror." But the results of these crackdowns have been mixed.

Part of the problem is the distinction Pakistan has drawn between foreign fighters who have taken refuge in the remote regions bordering Afghanistan and domestic militant groups linked with Pakistan's long-standing strategic concerns in Kashmir. The domestic groups have been treated far more leniently.

Pakistani intelligence services are providing Western countries with valuable information in the hunt for al-Qaida members. Almost every major al-Qaida figure currently in U.S. hands was arrested and turned over to the Americans by Pakistani intelligence, including operations chief Abu Zubaydah and the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks Khalid Shaikh Muhammad.

The Pakistani government has claimed that it played a key role in unearthing the London plot to bomb passenger planes flying from the U.K. to destinations in the U.S. by providing timely intelligence to British authorities that led to the arrests of the main plotters.

As with the 2005 London bombing, the plot to bomb the passenger planes also involved British nationals of Pakistani origin. "This is an indication that the Muslims living in Britain are completely alienated from the British society," said Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, a security expert. He said there appears to be a relationship between the British troops engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan and attempts by Muslim extremists to make Britain the target of terrorist activity.

Masood also said that the extremists from Britain see Pakistan as a place to gain expertise in committing terrorist activities: "There is a historical legacy -- Pakistan's deep involvement in Afghanistan. These extremists find it easy to come here for training on the specifics of terrorism."
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Umer Farooq

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