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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid