News / Asia

Pakistani Military Tries to Reform Former Militants

The Mishal de-radicalization center in Pakistan's Swat Valley
The Mishal de-radicalization center in Pakistan's Swat Valley

Multimedia

Ayaz Gul

In Pakistan’s volatile northwest, the military continues to struggle to counter militant groups - which avoid the battlefield during army offensives but return later to intimidate the local population. As authorities struggle in this back-and-forth fight, they are also trying out new counter-insurgency methods in the northwestern Swat Valley - which the military says was once the country’s main source for Taliban recruits.

At one of several army-run centers in the scenic Swat Valley instructors are trying to de-radicalize former Taliban fighters. The lessons focus on how killing people, and attacking the state, are against Islamic teachings.

Army officers at the heavily-guarded de-radicalization center, called Mishal, say several hundred Taliban prisoners are being trained to become electricians and plumbers as well as computer operators.  Officers hope new job skills will help the prisoners avoid a return to militancy.

"[The] purpose is to bring a change in their attitude towards a modern and civilized life, which is within the bounds of the true religious teachings," said one army officer.

Until two years ago, this northwestern region of Pakistan was effectively under the control of Taliban extremists. They imposed their brand of strict Islamic law in the region and executed any opponents.

The valley of Swat is now peaceful.  But peace has come at a high financial cost to the government and has required local residents to make great personal sacrifices. Still, many say they are happy to pay the price because life was miserable under the Taliban.

The United States, and some inside Pakistan,  are still skeptical about the military’s commitment to counter militant groups - especially since Pakistani intelligence agencies are still thought to support some anti-India extremist groups, as well as the anti-U.S. Afghan group called the Haqqani network.

But military officials point to the Mishal de-radicalization center as evidence of the Pakistani military's commitment against militancy.

Sabaoon - meaning “the dawn” - is another rehab center, taking care of boys aged 12 to 17 who were trained by the Taliban to become suicide bombers.  

Teachers and psychiatrists at the center, like Mowadat Rana, say most of the boys here came from impoverished backgrounds, only to be abused by the Taliban.

“These were young boys who had left their studies, who had for long period of times [been] physically abused, and all sorts of other abuses were going on," he said. "They were used as labors and menial workers to look after the Taliban. “

Abdul Nasir, 15, says he was a drug addict when his mother handed him over to the Taliban believing they would help him return to normal life.  He says the Taliban would physically torture him as punishment, and one day asked him to become a suicide bomber to escape the abuse.  He accepted but was arrested before his mission.

Trainers hope reintegrating these boys with their families will help encourage others to stay away from extremist activities.

“We can’t really probably transform everybody but we can safely say that nearly all of them have changed their view of life and they are hopeful they look at the future with a glitter in their eyes and they talk about the present and they have a renewed sense of understanding of Islam and of Quranic injunctions,” he said.

Military officials plan to set up similar centers in other parts of the country where militancy is a problem.  Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, says it's important to win the confidence of local communities.

“So I think the counter-radicalization program in Swat, for example, is a very important test case of how Pakistan can use non-military methods to also try to establish the conditions to prevent the return of the militancy in the regions that have been cleared,” she said.

But, critics express doubt that the counter-radicalization programs can overcome the effect of thousands of Islamic seminaries across Pakistan, known as madrassas, where children of mostly-impoverished families are given only religious education.

Many believe the madrassas fuel extremism, but Islamic clerics have long resisted government-led reforms.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid