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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid