Musharraf and the madrasas

No one can draw with certainty a direct connection between Shehzad Tanweer’s recent study at a Pakistani madrasa and the London terrorist attacks. But there is little doubt that Pakistan’s network of madrasas turns out a steady flow of graduates employable only by those seeking qualified Islamic extremists.

Shortly after 9/11, President Bush’s “friend” Pervez Musharraf promised to bring Pakistan’s madrasas under strict control. But– as Samina Ahmed and Andrew Stroehlein of the International Crisis Group make clear— it was a bluff.

Musharraf’s promises came to nothing. His military government never implemented any program to register the madrasas, follow their financing or control their curricula. Although there are a few “model madrasas” for Western media consumption, the extremist ones account for perhaps as many as 15 percent of the religious schools in Pakistan and are free to churn out their radicalized graduates.
That Musharraf has not acted against religious extremists and their madrasas is hardly surprising. He needs the religious parties to bolster his military dictatorship against the democratic forces seeking to reverse his 1999 coup. The radicals maintain their avenues for propagating their militant ideas, because the chief patrons of jihad, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islami and the Jamiat-i-Islami political parties, have acquired prominent and powerful roles in Musharraf’s political structure.

As recently as last December, Bush seemed to be under the illusion that Musharraf was some kind of democrat who could help establish a civil society in Palestine. I hope he has wised up since then.