Keeping mum about the Punjabi Taliban

Published: February 19, 2012
The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore

The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore

I was surprised a fortnight ago to receive a note from Lahore’s General Post Office saying I had imported a banned book which the Post Office had duly confiscated. The book was Punjabi Taliban by Mujahid Hussain (Pentagon Press, India, 2011) which is available in Pakistan too and advertised by a Karachi bookseller on the internet.

The terrorists are angry at the book. Punjab government has now joined them. The terrorists are scary enough — because the author, who now lives abroad, was once attacked by them. Some years ago, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah denied that south Punjab was a haven of the Punjabi Taliban. South Punjab contains 13 districts with a population of 27 million: Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Bhakkar, DG Khan, Jhang, Khanewal, Layyah, Lodhran, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur, and Vehari.

Ex-editor Shireen Mazari who hails from DG Khan in south Punjab wrote in The News (April 29, 2009) “Why military action is not the answer” about the dominance of jihadi madrassas in DG Khan, significantly pointing to the “foreign funding” they were receiving: “In DG Khan, there are 185 registered madrassas of which 90 are Deobandi (with a total of 324 teachers), 84 are Barelvi (with a total of 212 teachers), six are Ahle Hadith (107 teachers) and five are Fiqh-e-Jafaria (10 teachers)”.

She continued: “Of the Deobandi madrassas, Jamia Ataul-Ulum, with 200 boarders and 20 day-students ranging from 5-25 years, and eight teachers, receives donations from Kuwait. Jamia Darul Rehmania offers education up to class eight and has 350 boarders plus 230 day-students and 28 teachers…The total number of Deobandi madrassa students in the DG Khan district is 11,535. Interestingly, in this category, it is the large madrassas… linked to the JUI… that receive foreign funding… almost solely from Kuwait”.

On 10 December 2009, a PPP MNA Jamshed Dasti from DG Khan challenged the claim made by the law minister that there were no terrorist havens in south Punjab and that Barelvi madrassas outnumbered the violent Deobandi ones. He said south Punjab was the main source of the Taliban-linked terrorists and that DG Khan was in the grip of violence encouraged by the state itself. He said the hills of DG Khan were still the training grounds for jihadis patronised by the state.

Bahawalpur division is dominated by the Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Sipah-e-Sahaba. The other two forces in the territory, the feudals and the state, have developed a modus vivendi with them, the latter frequently acting as a bodyguard threatening anyone trying to investigate their activities. The districts have supplied nearly 5,000 warriors to the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan, Waziristan and Swat.

Leader of the Jaish-e-Muhammad Masood Azhar was running a training camp of warriors in Cholistan, receiving financial aid from al Qaeda, also protected by the deep state. Thousands of Jaish militants were living in Bahawalpur where Masood Azhar too secretly resided. He frequently visited the Taliban and al Qaeda leaders on the Afghan border. Malik Ishaq, once in jail for killing dozens of people, belongs to Rahim Yar Khan and is leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. He used to rule the territory from jail, even talking from prison to the political leaders of Punjab. The case against him was wrecked after witnesses against him got killed and the living ones resiled.

The mastermind of the Mumbai attack Hamid Amin belonged to Rahim Yar Khan. In Bahawalpur, thousands have gone to join the war in the Tribal Areas from Madrassa Usman-o-Ali established by Masood Azhar.

Former governor Salmaan Taseer’s son was kidnapped from Lahore allegedly by Punjabi Taliban and taken to North Waziristan and is being reportedly kept — right in front of the Haqqani camp — by them and their Uzbek cohorts.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • Feb 19, 2012 - 12:37AM

    Thankfully Deobandi or Takfiri squad does not have many madressas/industrial scale terrorist production unit, in northern Punjab except few foreign funded ones in Islamabad where most attendee are either Pashtoons/Afghans or from South Punjab. We are lucky with 75% literacy rate and very tolerant culture, poor southern Punjabis have to put up with mullas and can not do anything about it, as a section of establishment sees terrorists as strategic assets.Recommend

  • Zubair
    Feb 19, 2012 - 1:07AM

    I would not call them Punjabi Taliban but ‘Seraiki Taliban’ since everyone has joined hand against Punjab in order to divide it on linguistic basis so they all are Seraiki Taliban.

    Also Jamshaid Dasti is NOT from Dera Ghazi Khan. He is from Muzaffargarh. Perhaps writer should know more about Southern Punjab now. Also Jamshaid Dasti should talk about his own Muzaffargarh where he himself collects money from all around only to invest it in Madrassas. After all Jamshaid Dasti ‘supposedly’ did Masters in Islamic studies but thank you HEC for telling us the truth. Writer and everyone should refer to Taliban in Southern Punjab as ‘Seraiki Taliban’ from now on. we shall see how Gillani,Dasti and Co deal with that now.


  • Zubair
    Feb 19, 2012 - 1:09AM

    Another mistake, Shireen Mazari is not from Dera Ghazi Khan as well. She is from Rajanpur which is entirely a different district. Coincidently both Shireen mazari and Jamshaid Dasti are ethnic Balochs who have settled in the areas of Rajputs,Jatts and Arain and have made ‘locals’ their slaves.


  • Maryam
    Feb 19, 2012 - 1:21AM

    This is sorry Khalid Sahib, no one will listen to you in this country but keep writing on these issues. Thanks for this insightful article.


  • Pakistan Khan
    Feb 19, 2012 - 2:19AM

    So whats the solution? Should military start an operation and kill innocent civilians there? Have you ever visited these places? Have you ever tried to consider why militancy is increasing in these poverty stricken areas? The problem is liberal fascists living in posh areas of urban centers like Lahore give their judgments without considering the ground realities. Its not the poor people of these areas who make decisions, its your people (who belong to either your class or may be your friends and relative in state structure) who are responsible for proliferation of militancy. These poor people only want a living, whoever would provide them , they would follow them.If you are really sympathetic to these people and want to curb militancy, then you should write about the problems faced by these people.


  • Feb 19, 2012 - 2:25AM

    These groups will decide the future of Pakistan. They will form DPC.


  • Talha
    Feb 19, 2012 - 3:46AM

    Terrorist nightmare, the Taseers should look into hiring some mercenaries to recover Shahbaz.


  • maiden
    Feb 19, 2012 - 4:45AM

    By far, the biggest enemies of the state of Pakistan


  • Feb 19, 2012 - 4:53AM

    I am glad to read Khaled Ahmed’s well researched article “Keeping mum about the Punjabi Taliban”, 19th February 2012 which exposes the Punjabi Taliban and their activities during the ‘war on terror’ in Pakistan and also in Punjab.

    The book “Punjabi Taliban” was first published in 2009 in Lahore by the Nagarshat Publishers Mazag Road, Lahore in Urdu.

    I bought the book in April 2011 at the Lahore Airport when I was leaving to London and read the book during the journey from Lahore to Heathrow airport.

    The author Mujahid Hussain has documented a well-researched book about the role of religious organisations which operate in many districts of the Pakistan – Punjab. The author provides us facts and evidence that the militant organisations were openly operated in the Punjab and the law authorities never challenged them.

    I recommend this “Punjabi Taliban” study to the current Law Minister of Punjab because Khaled Ahmed has now opened up the debate about the activities of the Punjabi Taliban and how the militant religious fundamentalists survived openly during the ‘war on terror’ in Pakistan Punjab.

    Thank you Khaled Ahmed for exposing the Punjabi Taliban and their supporters.

    Dr. Salim Haidrani


  • plaintalk
    Feb 19, 2012 - 7:56AM

    Appalling! In 1996, (TFT 2-8 March) Khaled Ahmad broached the question, “Will Pakistan Survive?” I now ask, in the context of this article, “Should Pakistan survive?”


  • Feroz
    Feb 19, 2012 - 9:13AM

    There is very little of this that is not known to the International community. Little wonder that what the Pakistani State says carries zero credibility. In a technological age where even the activities of an ant can be monitored as can a conversation between husband and wife in their bedroom be eavesdropped on, false denials seem meant more to cater to a domestic audience.

    A State is only sovereign if it can exert control over its territory and be the sole arbiter of law and order through its length and breadth. Keeping Proxies for terrorist uses has brought not just mayhem and violence into the lives of citizens, it has made the country a pariah of the civilized World.


  • pmbm
    Feb 19, 2012 - 10:58AM

    If Dastis, Mazaris, Khaled Ahmeds are really concerned about these misguided madrassas, they should put their money where their mouth is and take over these schools and impart proper Islamic education along with sciences and math subjects.
    Replace Kuwaiti money. Bring in teachings from Mohammad Asad’s translation of The Quran and his other books..


  • Bilal
    Feb 19, 2012 - 11:05AM

    Punjab Government is responsible for turning a blind eye to this growth of seminaries. In recent past many terrorist attacks have been traced back to seminaries and religious organizations e.g. May 2010 attack on Ahmadis, whose activities are not checked by Punjab Government. This immense magnitude of seminary students poses a severe threat to State. Recent rallies in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi by banned terrorist groups had most of the audience from seminaries.


  • Bilal
    Feb 19, 2012 - 11:53AM

    Nicely written. Punjab Government is responsible for turning a blind eye to this big growth of seminaries, these seminaries are teaching hatred and violence against others. Recent terrorist attacks have been traced back to seminaries e.g. May 2010 attacks on Ahmadis. Ignoring Punjabi Taliban may give political advantage to Sharif but it is lethal for Pakistan and Punjab. Banned terrorist groups were involved in recent DPC rallies held in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi, most of the audience was from seminaries. I remember some weeks back seminary students in Islamabad blocked Highway and troubled common people. These seminary students are manpower reservoir for extremists and can be guided to achieve agenda of religious extremists.


    Feb 19, 2012 - 12:32PM

    if state does not stop using religon to fool pepole,the result is writing on the wall.


  • Salahuddin
    Feb 19, 2012 - 12:38PM

    Khaled sb- Excellent article sir, as always. Punjab government, unfortunately, is the biggest supporter of this mindset and helps establishmnet of establishment and in return gets support from them in elections. It will be interesting this time around, as IK has become a new darling of these groups.


  • Feb 19, 2012 - 1:05PM

    Punjabi Talibans = Sepa sahaba + Lashkar ghangvi + Jaish e Muhammad, all of them receive stipend from Punjab government. In last three decades since they started terrorism business in Pakistan, not even one of the terrorists was hanged not only that but police men who apprehended these terrorists were systematically killed. Who orders police to look other way when these terrorist move around in Punjab in convoys of double cabins loaded with AK47s? Good news for humanity, these terrorists are afraid of people of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Thoughtful
    Feb 19, 2012 - 1:45PM

    Pardon my naivete but I do not understand why the state would support and protect Taliban factories. What is the end goal here? Would request the author or others to explain.


  • Feb 19, 2012 - 1:50PM

    India has been screaming on the top of its voice that encouraging Jihadi outfits will ultimately hurt Pakistan.

    Look at the way things are now. India is safe and growing, Pakistan is headed towards the dark ages.


  • Qaisrani
    Feb 19, 2012 - 3:42PM

    @Zubair.before correcting the writer for his knowledge about D G Khan and Rajanpur,you yourself need to know what does this term”Punjabi Taliban”stands for??

    Similarly you crusade against Saraikis is relentless.because of you people,we want Saraikistan and we will get it.

    Keep Punjabi Industrialists money from Gujranwala and faisalabad there and leave our peace loving Saraikis alone.You have destroyed peaceful Saraikistan.
    Solution to all problem is creation of “Saraikistan”.


  • ahmed
    Feb 19, 2012 - 4:04PM

    People in pakistan feel very happy when Jaish e Muhammad creates problem for India. But they killed more pakistani than Indians… In fact they might not have killed Indian except kashmiri innocent muslims.

    This is what happens when you support terrorists.


  • Arsalan Khan
    Feb 19, 2012 - 4:20PM

    These are hard facts.
    These must be published in Urdu press so that a larger number of Pakistanis realise what is being done .

    The simple question: Why translationsof such articles are not produced in Tribune’s Urdu daily”Expres”???


  • major-ji
    Feb 19, 2012 - 7:40PM

    @Dr. Salim Haidrani:
    Your whole anlysis is appreciated except for the demand that Punjab law ministry to examine the existence or performance of these institutions. Some allege current Punjab law minister a strong advocate of Sipah Sahaba. In the presence of such allegation how it will be possible to act on your advice.


  • Cynical
    Feb 19, 2012 - 8:39PM

    How on earth these characters roam freely and act like sovereigns,right in front of the law enforcing authority supposedly working under a democratically elected government.
    A bleak and gloomy scenerio.Horrifying to say the least.Recommend

  • Khan Jr
    Feb 19, 2012 - 9:54PM

    Terrorism is not simply a provincial matter. Where are ever-present and ubiquitous intelligence agencies? Chasing the Baloch I suppose.


  • Ayub Buzdar
    Feb 19, 2012 - 11:52PM

    Numbers of Madrassaa are more than described in the article. Talibanism is not confined in Seraiki Districts. It is inversely related with literacy and education. We have only two universities and three medical colleges in 13 districts with population more than 35 millions. Punjab Govt (present and past) did not built infrastructure that was supportive for the districts economy, education, health and people’s emplyments. Resultantly, extremists are getting roots in the area. Currently common person of Seraiki facing two types of exploitations; first from governemnt and second extremists. But He know that the roots of both are signle. Punjab and Pro-Punjab establishment’s support to extremists. Dont worry we will defeat both. Ensha Allah


  • Khan is King
    Feb 20, 2012 - 3:33AM

    @Zaid Hamid: The DPC is a joke. Hameed Gul is a joke. These groups will prove a menace for Pakistan but not because of the DPC.


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