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Jehadi recruitment spawns in Sindh

Sunday 11 July 2004

NEW DELHI: In a disturbing development, Pakistan’s Punjab province bordering India has emerged as the biggest recruitment centre for ’jehadis’ in the country and Sindh is being rapidly converted into another major source for fighters.

More than 50 per cent of ’jehadis’ in Pakistan come from Punjab province alone. Around 8,000 of them have been killed so far fighting security forces in Jammu and Kashmir while another 4,000 have died in Afghanistan, according to a leading think-tank.

Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba has 29 recruitment centres in Punjab, Jaish-e-Mohammad nine and other outfits active in Kashmir, excluding Hizbul Mujahideen, 14 centres, Strategic Foresight Group says in its recent publication ’Pakistan’s Provinces’.

The sectarian group Sipah-e-Sahaba also has 16 offices all over the province out of 28 in the entire country.

The presence of over 5,500 religious seminaries has also given a boost to the recruitment of ’jehadis’ from Punjab. Of these, 3,000 belong to the Deobandi school of thought, 1,500 are Barelvis, 800 Ahle Hadis and 120 are Shia seminaries.

Even extremist religious party Jamaat-e-Islami has 100 seminaries in the province, the think-tank says.

Most of the recruits come from underdeveloped regions of Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Gazi Khan districts.

"For the poor, the social security given by these ’jehadi’ groups is an assurance and an attraction," the report says.

The expansion of the ’jehadi’ network in Punjab is also being influenced by patronage in the form of funds and physical assets being provided by traders, industrialists and the elite, says the publication.

It warns that even if militant training camps are closed in Kashmir, they will "definitely move in" to Punjab if it remains accessible.

Sindh is also coming up as a major centre for militancy, with all extremist groups active in Kashmir managing to draw support from the province.

Already, around 500 militants from Sindh have been killed in Kashmir. Of them, 123 belonged to Lashkar-e-Toiba, 115 to Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, 103 to Hizbul Mujahideen, 70 to Jaish-e-Mohammed, 59 to Al Badr and 30 to Lashkar-e-Islam, the think- tank says.

Most of those who get involved in ’jehadi’ activities do not belong to Sindhi ethnic groups but are migrants from other provinces like Punjabis and Pathans.

While the main ’jehadi’ recruitment centres are Karachi, Sukkur, Khairpur, Jacocabad, Larkhana, Meerpurkhas and Hyderabad, those who sign up mostly come from the backward areas of Sindh.

Extremist religious outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawaa has offices in all major cities of Sindh where recruitment drives are conducted every year.

Over 1,500 students attended one such drive last year, the think-tank says and warns that deteriorating socio- economic conditions may soon convert Sindh into a hotbed of extremist activities.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

in The Times of India, Sunday, July 11, 2004.

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