29 march 2007








Pakistan: Karachi’s Madrasas and Violent Extremism


Islamabad/Brussels, 29 March 2007: A network of Pakistani madrasas supporting violent jihadi groups poses a significant threat to domestic, regional and international security.


Pakistan: Karachi’s Madrasas and Violent Extremism,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the negative role these religious schools continue to play five years after President Pervez Musharraf promised a full reform of the sector. Deplorable public schools, the sectarian tilt of state institutions, the marginalisation of moderate voices and military government’s reliance on religious parties for political survival have led to the growth of madrasas at an explosive rate over the past two decades. They are either unregistered or registered under laws that have no effective implementation.


“The government’s inaction has allowed well-financed networks of madrasas, sectarian parties, and militant groups to flourish in Karachi and elsewhere in Pakistan”, says Samina Ahmad Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “Not all madrasas in the city are active centres of jihadi militancy, but even those without direct links to violence promote an ideology that provides religious justification for such attacks”.


Karachi’s madrasas have trained and dispatched jihadi fighters to Afghanistan and Indian-administered Kashmir, contributing to a climate of lawlessness and bitter sectarianism. In 2006, the city was rocked by high-profile acts of political violence: in three separate attacks, suicide bombers killed a U.S. diplomat, assassinated the head of the most prominent Shia political group and wiped out the entire leadership of a Sunni militant group locked in a struggle for control over mosques with its Sunni rivals.


The international community needs to press President Musharraf to fulfil his commitments, in particular to enforce genuine controls on the madrasas and allow free and fair national elections in 2007. It should also shift the focus of its donor aid from helping the government’s ineffectual efforts to reform the religious schools to improving the very weak public school sector.


“So long as the military continues to rely on the mullahs to retain power, madrasas and the violent extremism they encourage will become ever more powerful in Pakistani society, undermining the security of the state and its citizens”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Real reform will only be possible through the strengthening of the country’s moderate parties and forces, with free and fair national elections in 2007 an essential first step”.



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