Jihadis roaming free in NWFP

Jihadis in a school
Editorial The News, MArch 29, 2007

Monday's incident in the NWFP town of Tank near Kohat, where militants wanting to recruit young people to their cause forced their way into a school and which then resulted in a gun battle between the police and them, is a very disturbing indicator of just how bold the obscurantists and militants have become in the country. The gunfight that ensued resulted in the death of three people, injured over a dozen and endangered the lives of innocent schoolchildren. One can only wonder how in the world these extremists can justify their audacious and illegal action through religion. The incident is also worrying because it shows the level of intolerance, bigotry and coercion that seem to be on display in the province. The one good thing out of the incident is that the police at least put up a valiant effort and managed to kill one of the extremists. For many months now, the settled districts of NWFP bordering FATA have experienced a rising tide of Talibanisation, coming mainly from the FATA region. What is unfortunate is that no one in civil society is willing to resist these elements who want to impose under pain of death their rigid and literalist interpretation of religion on everybody.

Of course, it would be fair to say that much of NWFP society is conservative but that shouldn't mean that it should be forced to digest a particular view of religion and faith by elements who have clearly taken it upon themselves to be the guardian of morality and just about everything else. Also, the conduct of these jihadis, who claim to be fighting a cause based on their religious beliefs, suggests that something is terribly wrong with their interpretation of the precepts of their belief -- one of which is that there should be no compulsion in religion. It also points to the likelihood of jihadi outfits using some form of coercion or undue persuasion in getting new recruits to their cause and that what happened at the school in Tank may well be the tip of the iceberg (there are reports to suggest that other such incidents of young boys being taken away right from school have taken place). The situation is clearly alarming because it seems extremists in NWFP are free to go to any school of their choosing and take students with them, without parental consent. The government needs to act against this Talibanisation with an iron fist and should not wait for similar things to happen inside schools in Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad.

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