Islamabad: Taliban’s return in Afghanistan seems to have emboldened a radical leader in Pakistan, who have openly called for an “Islamic revolution” against the state.
Pro-Taliban leader Maulana Abdul Aziz, who is known for rabble-rousing sermons, recently said: “The coming of the Taliban was an act of God”.
“The whole world has seen that they defeated America and its arrogant power,” The New York Times quoted Aziz as saying. “It will definitely have a positive effect on our struggle to establish Islamic rule in Pakistan, but our success is in the hands of God.”
Madrassas in Pakistan have long played a major role in fostering militant Islamic groups. The terrorists trained at these madrasas have targeted the neighbouring countries including India and Afghanistan.
The Afghan Taliban movement was spawned in a radical madrassa in Pakistan’s northwest border region, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a violent anti-India insurgency, was incubated in madrassas in Punjab province.
However, one such homegrown group also known as Pakistan Taliban has targeted the Pakistani government for years and is still active in Pakistan.
Red Mosque in Pakistan has acted as a bastion of religious defiance, a nerve centre of radical Islamist preaching.
In 2007, the Mosque and its next-door Islamic seminary, or madrassa, for girls dominated the news when it became the site of a bloody siege by Pakistani security forces after a week-long standoff with armed militants inside the compound.
Since then. Aziz has faced numerous criminal charges but has never been convicted.
Since last month, Aziz, and his followers have periodically raised a white Taliban flag on the Jamia Hafsa roof, defying government orders. The third time, on Sept. 18, police cordoned off the area amid growing alarm among nearby residents. Veiled students stood on the roof, shouting taunts.
Officials in Pakistan fear that the Taliban takeover in Kabul could embolden such extremists to launch a new holy war at home.
A surge in religious fervor has sparked violent riots by one group that seeks a crackdown on blaspheming against Islam.
Aziz declined to say what steps he and his followers might take now, only that they will continue the “struggle” to establish Islamic rule in Pakistan.
In the past, he has openly called for an “Islamic revolution” against the state. Some see the recent Taliban flag skirmishes as a bargaining chip in the group’s relations with the government, as both sides wait to see what happens next in Kabul.
“Most people in Pakistan do not endorse their approach,” one Muslim scholar said of Aziz and his associates, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid. He said Aziz is “exploiting the moment” as well as his location in the capital. “The government cannot control that group,” the scholar said, “but it should ask other like-minded groups to help deal with them.”
In recent years, older students have acted as moral vigilantes, attacking music stores and kidnapping suspected prostitutes.
“We are all soldiers of Allah,” Ghazi said as she showed a reporter around the facility. Sounds of droning recitation came from dimly lit classrooms, where girls of all ages were hunched over low desks with their heads covered, memorizing the Koran.