Pakistan: “The end of pluralism and choice” Shahidullah Afridi’s roots are in a village in the Bara administrative division of the Khyber agency. For the last four years, Afridi has been living in the neighbouring city of Peshawar, but keeps a keen eye on events at home.

He was shocked when he heard that last week, the outlawed militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) had started a rather strange recruitment drive in his village that asked residents to enrol at least one of their sons to madrassas run by LI or pay Rs 400,000 (£2,397.96) as penalty.

Afridi is glad he left when he could. “I have a five-year old son. I don’t want my son to study in a madressa. I didn’t and I consider myself a fairly good Muslim,” he said, adding: “If you don’t study in a school [as opposed to a madressa], you don’t find work.”

The news was confirmed by Zahir Shah Sherazi, Dawn TV’s bureau chief in Peshawar who also reports on FATA and KPK. “My sources tell me that A4 sized posters have been plastered all over the marketplace in the Malik Din Khel area, controlled by LI, demanding locals put their sons into the seminaries run by them,” he told Index, adding: “They also said admission in madrassas other than theirs would not be acceptable.”

Afridi has not visited his village since he left. “I neither sport a beard nor do I wear a skull cap,” he told Index by phone from Peshawar, where he works as a daily wage earner.

Ambreen Agha, a research assistant with New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management, said Mangal Bagh assumed the leadership of LI in 2007, emerging as a new face of extremism and Islamic fundamentalism. “He imposed his version of the Shariah, issuing diktats against women’s education, making it compulsory for men to keep beards and forced women to wear burqa.”

Neither the Pakistani government nor the army took any actions.


Categories: Asia, Pakistan

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