Pakistan parents fight Jihad fever
Monday, October 22, 2001 - 9:16 AM SGT
KARACHI, Oct 22 (AFP) - Saleem Tanoli had to chain up his son for a night to stop him joining a growing 'holy army' in Pakistan wanting to help the Taliban against the United States.
Twenty-year-old Arshad Tanoli was one of hundreds, possibly thousands of youths in Madrassa religious schools signing up for the anti-US 'Jihad'.
"It was quite painful for me, but I had to put my son in chains otherwise I may have lost him," said Tanoli, a police inspector, who spent the night telling his son to fight poverty in his own country or help others in need.
"But many like my son have become entranced by the Jihad," he said.
Other parents face a similar family crisis. Maqsood Ahmed, a police assistant sub-inspector, spent hours trying to convince his 17-year-old son not to go to Afghanistan.
"My son does not go to a Madrassa, but perhaps because of the Jihad fever and anger against US he wants to support the Taliban," Ahmed said. He added that 15 to 20 families in the Baghdadi Police Colony in Karachi had seen sons and brothers go off to Afghanistan.
"It is a dilemma," said police officer Rab Nawaz. "We are curbing the pro-bin Laden demonstrators on the streets but facing rebels at home."
Teachers in some schools have been asking students to pray for a Taliban victory against the US campaign to bring to justice those accused of masterminding the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The walls of many colleges and universities are plastered with portraits of Osama bin Laden, head of the al-Qaeda network.
"My teacher asked me to pray for the defeat of America and victory of the Taliban," said eight-year-old Samia Zafar.
"Hundreds of students are ready to go for Jihad," said Rashid Nasim, a student at the University of Karachi and an activist of the student wing of the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami.
Qasim Niazi, the 18-year-old son of Khalid Niazi, a police inspector, left his family for the Pakistani city of Quetta to join the Jihad.
Witnesses said he joined 100 other recruits who left in three buses on Friday for Quetta, hugging each other and congratulating each other for supporting the Taliban.
Qasim only told his family in a telephone call from Quetta. "The only thing he said was 'Papa, I am in Quetta and going for Jihad, pray for me'," Khalid said with tears welling in his eyes.
Some accounts say thousands of seminary students have registered on the list of those ready to join the fight.
Muslim cleric Mufti Muhammad Jamil said thousands of people from all over Pakistan are waiting at the Chaman border post with Afghanistan "just waiting for the signal from the Taliban".
But he denied students have already entered Afghanistan. Many are waiting at the religious schools and some have been sent home to await the Taliban's call, said the cleric.
Radical Islamic parties are also recruiting people for the campaign since US air raids on Afghanistan started on October 7.
Anti-US protests have drawn up to 30,000 people in Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, and Quetta.
The government more or less kept the lid on the protests though four leaders of radical Islamic parties have been arrested including Fazlur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), who faces treason charges and is under house arrest.
President Pervez Musharraf has vowed to counter the "extremist tendencies" who oppose Pakistan's backing for the US-led world coalition against international terrorism.
The government has frozen the assets of the Pakistan-based Al-Rasheed Trust, Rabita Trust, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Harkat-ul-Mujhaideen, which were on a US list of groups and individuals with links to terrorism.
Pakistan has also promised to modernise the education system in Madrassa schools. But there is strong resentment from the seminaries.
"Madrassas give religious education and no terrorist training," Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan chief Shah Ahmed Noorani told AFP.
There are some 500,000 students in more than 10,000 seminaries, mostly controlled by the Sunni Muslim sect Deoband.
More than 83,000 young men and women were to take entrance exams for the schools last week run by the Federation of Madaris, which runs the Sunni sect schools.
A federation spokesman, Jamil Khan, denied that large numbers of students have gone to Afghanistan. He said Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had asked that "students only be sent for the Jihad after their examinations are over".
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