Inside the Pakistan madrassa notorious for its jihadi links

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The head of Darul Uloom Haqqaniah, arguably one of the most notorious Islamic madrassas in Pakistan, laughed, saying, “We no longer have to be called ‘Jihad University’ but ‘Taliban Cabinet University’.”

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Surrounded by one of the crouches on the floor kissing his feet, Maulana Hamid-ul-Haq jokes about the adoring supporters, nicknames given by critics who have repeatedly termed school bigotry. That’s because its alumni include some of the Taliban’s most powerful and feared leaders, many of whom are on global wanted lists and now in their new cabinet after the group came to power in neighboring Afghanistan last month.

Among those with close ties to the school, located about 100 km from the Afghan border in northwest Pakistan, was Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, the one-eyed cleric-warrior who sheltered Osama bin Laden. Ul-Haq states that the seminary awarded him an honorary doctorate because he brought “peace to Afghanistan and the region”.

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The biggest names of the infamous Haqqani Network, a US-designated terrorist group affiliated with the Taliban, have taught there, including its founders, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Khalil Haqqani, who is now the Taliban’s minister for refugees. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid is also a graduate.

But despite this, 54-year-old Ul Haq vehemently dismissed the allegation that the school was a factory of violence. The former member of parliament, who is now the head of a religious political party, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S), is deeply proud of Taliban connections and is lyrical about his meetings with Jalauddin and his son Sirajuddin, The new leader of the Taliban is the Interior Minister (and a wanted terrorist), whom they call “polite”, “good behavior” and “visionary”.

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He sees the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan, and the announcement of his interim cabinet, as further legitimizing his position, and calls on the West to recognize them to “prevent more war”.

“We do not want to be known as the University of Terror or Warriors. We are proud that many of our alumni are in the Taliban cabinet,” says ul-Haq, estimating that more than half a dozen Taliban ministers either attended the madrassa or sent their family members there.

“It means that the Taliban thinks these people are visionary, humane and well-educated.

“They were chosen because they know the political ups and downs, they know how to deal with the world,” he says with a smile.


America did not come to spread love and did not give flowers. They had come to bomb the area, and these people – the Taliban – were defending themselves.

Maulana Hamid-ul-Haq, head of Darul Uloom Haqqaniya

The day ul-Haq speaks Granthshala It marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks masterminded by Osama bin Laden, which triggered the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, where bin Laden was taking refuge.

Ul-Haq condemns the gruesome attacks that killed more than 2,700 people in the states, but claims that Osama bin Laden was not responsible for them, adding that the US invasion left the Taliban “to defend themselves”. forced to”.

And so, he says, the fact that the 20th anniversary of the attacks happened when Afghanistan was returned to Taliban hands, after US-led NATO troops withdrew, was “a kind of justice”.

“America did not come to spread love and did not give flowers. They came to bomb the area, and these people – the Taliban – were defending themselves,” he says with force.

“Washington has made the right decision to leave. It was costing so much money, but suffered a lot economically, politically, and in terms of loss of life of its forces. “

The world-renowned madrasah, a radical brand of Sunni Islam known as Deobandi Islam, was founded by Hamid ul-Haq’s grandfather – an Islamic scholar named Abdul ul-Haq – in 1947 from Pakistan by the British. In the weeks after gaining independence.

Abdul ul-Haq’s successor was his son, Sami ul-Haq, who was known as the “Father of the Taliban” – a name the family still sees as a badge of honour. Sami was murdered by unidentified gunmen in 2018.

Now, twinkling in the sunlight, the new, pinkish, sprawling campus is home to nearly 2800 students, with the student body now almost half its largest size.

Streams of men in traditional Islamic dress, with prayer rugs on their shoulders, exit the mosque after Saturday morning prayers, behind a gate manned by Kalashnikov-armed guards.

In front of him, preserved behind stained glass windows, is an old car from the 1940s that says it was used by Abdul-ul-Haq in the 1970s when he toured the country giving a speech, But at the same time he had participated in the movement against the (oppressed). ) Ahmadiyya religious community – a stark reminder of the ideological leanings of the place. Human Rights Watch says Ahmadis have been subjugated for targeted killings and violence over the decades.

Another reminder, of course, is the list of graduates. Among the most famous students of Darul Uloom Haqqaniah was Akhtar Mansoor, the supreme leader of the Taliban, who succeeded Mullah Omar until he was killed in a 2016 US drone strike in southwest Pakistan.

The infamous Haqqani Network and its founder Jalaluddin Haqqani took their name from the school because Jalaluddin studied there. (The Taliban deny the existence of a branch Haqqani network, and say that Jalaluddin is a top Taliban figure).

Jalaluddin, however, sent several of his sons here, including reportedly (though ul-Haq denies this), the Taliban’s new interior minister, Sirajuddin. Sirajuddin has a US$10 million bounty on his head for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Kabul hotel attack and his ties to al-Qaeda.

Ul-Haq confirmed that a number of other ministers studied here, including Taliban Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani and Refugees Minister Khalil Haqqani. Other ministers, including the Taliban’s co-founder, Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, sent their sons to school or had uncles and fathers who studied there.

And so the history of the madrasa is one that is deeply intertwined with the messy history of conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, two countries that share a border of 2500 km and have countless political, religious and cultural ties.

Pakistani experts told Granthshala The school gained prominence in the 1980s when it was supported by Western intelligence services, which paid for its activities as a useful place for cultivating the Mujahideen forces fighting next door to the Soviet Union. Those same experts say it was later heavily funded by Saudi Arabia, and joined the Taliban when the group emerged from northern Pakistan in the early 1990s following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

“I interviewed Sami ul-Haq” [Hamid’s father] many times. He claimed his links with Osama bin Laden at one time,” recalls prominent Pakistani journalist Zahid Hussain, who has written several books about Pakistan’s struggle with militant Islam and its ties with Afghanistan.

It can be called an ideological center for the Taliban on both sides of the border.

Ahmed Rashid, who has authored several books on the Taliban, says that even in the early 1990s, the madrassa was supported by Pakistan in areas adjacent to neighboring Afghanistan to counter warlords who had control over major trading routes.

At that time it became “world famous”.

“Students will come from all over the world. This was his first introduction to jihad,” he says.

Both experts say that, despite the connections, the Pakistani administration has never been hit. Its doors never closed, even as the government vowed to crack down on unlicensed religious schools after the 2014 massacre of more than 100 school children in the nearby city of Peshawar, claimed by the Pakistan branch of the Taliban. Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) did it. ) (TTP reportedly also has links with the school.)

Instead, Pakistani media in 2018 informed of that the local government had provided more than 277 million rupees (about £1m) to the madrasa, which Prime Minister Imran Khan called to assure curriculum reform, but critics believe it was politically correct. can be inspired.

Before an election held in the same year, ul-Haq’s father Sami and his JUI-S party briefly entered in a pre-poll alliance In an effort to broaden his support base with the Prime Minister’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

Fast-forward to 2021 and the school has taken center-stage again.

“When the Taliban cabinet was announced, I congratulated them over the phone and requested them to continue with great care as the world is watching them,” Hamid ul-Haq said. Granthshala, in his office.

He says he warned the Taliban against the immediate application of the harshest Sharia law punishment (citing the example of cursing women), as it could be considered a “violation of human rights” by the “West”.

He says he hopes that when a comprehensive government is announced, it will be more inclusive and have women members.

“They should be careful so that the struggle does not go in vain,” he adds.

And that is the crux of the issue for neighboring Pakistan, which has a link to move forward as it forges ties with the Afghan Taliban administration while trying to curb the problem of domestic terrorism in the form of the linked TTP.


I hope [the Afghan Taliban] Will inspire the struggle for a true Islamic order here in Pakistan

Maulana Hamid ul Haq

Ul-Haq, who also heads a forum of about 20 religious parties, was one of several hardline religious figures in Pakistan who hailed the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan as a victory over Western imperialism and secularism.

Shortly after the Taliban announced the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, he told his followers in a statement that the Taliban had…

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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