It’s hardly a secret that rich Saudi Arabians, including those running the government, have used their considerable oil wealth to spread political and ideological influence throughout the world. One need look no further than the close-knit relationship between the House of Saud and the Bush family to understand Saudi’s powerful reach across the globe. In Muslim countries, though, its presence is more pointed and explicitly ideological. Indeed, following the 9/11 it has become increasingly clear that Saudi money frequently makes its way into the hands of Islamic extremists.
In an astonishing cable published by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, however, it would seem that significant sums of Saudi money are fostering religious radicalism in previously moderate regions of Pakistan.
The cable, dating from late 2008, paints an unsettling picture of wealth’s powerful influence in those underdeveloped areas of Central Asia in need of the most attention. Bryan Hunt, then-principal officer at the US consulate in Lahore, reported a string of troubling findings on his forays into southern Punjab, where he “was repeatedly told that a sophisticated jihadi recruitment network had been developed in the Multan, Bahawalpur, and Dera Ghazi Khan Divisions.”
The network reportedly exploited worsening poverty in these areas of the province to recruit children into the divisions’ growing Deobandi and Ahl-e Hadith madrassa network from which they were indoctrinated into jihadi philosophy, deployed to regional training/indoctrination centers, and ultimately sent to terrorist training camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Locals believed that charitable activities being carried out by Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith organizations, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Al-Khidmat Foundation, and Jaish-e-Mohammad were further strengthening reliance on extremist groups and minimizing the importance of traditionally moderate Sufi religious leaders in these communities. read more