Patrick Cockburn: My day with the terror 'charity' working 15 miles from Lahore

Share
Related Topics

Militant fundamentalists do not hide themselves away in Lahore. Soon after the attack on Mumbai which killed 171 people last November, I was talking to several young militants in a house in an alleyway near Muridke, a complex of schools and clinics run by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a civilian front organisation for Lashkar-e-Toiba, 15 miles north of Lahore.

They had not been hard to find, though I did recall nervously the fate of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and murdered in Karachi in 2002 while looking for al-Qa'ida leaders. The thin but wiry young men at Muridke seemed over-eager to stress that they were more interested in education than jihad. But the stories they told made clear that the relationship between Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Toiba, blamed for the Mumbai massacre, was like that which once existed between Sinn Fein and the IRA in Northern Ireland. The two organisations were completely intertwined.

One young man described graphically how one of his teachers at the school, named Abdul Rahman, had infiltrated into Indian-controlled Kashmir by moving through the mountains and living on packets of cold rice in his coat.

Once established in the area where he was to operate, he made himself available to local insurgents to carry out small-scale attacks, such as throwing a grenade at an officer's house. When he returned to Muridke, he held his pupils spellbound with his account of his guerrilla days.

What was striking about the militant students was their openness about their beliefs and their lack of fear of the authorities. Though it was evident at the time that the Pakistani government, under pressure from India and the US, was going to clamp down on them, they were wholly unworried by impending arrests. The schools were not military camps but the children had a small image of a machine gun printed on their tunics.

Students said they got instructions in unarmed combat.

Back in the centre of Lahore, I had an appointment to meet a disillusioned member of Jamaat-ud-Dawa called Bilal, who was willing to speak about his experiences. It seemed unwise to invite this 19-year-old with his long black beard to my hotel, where he would certainly have been detained by highly nervous hotel security guards. I arranged instead to meet him in Lahore zoo, across the road, where, sitting on the cement edge of a non-working fountain near a large statue of a giraffe, he described his experiences with Jamaat-ud-Dawa. He praised their work. "They teach you to become a better human being," he said. "Though they don't engage in jihad themselves, they encourage people to move towards it."

Bilal had only become disillusioned when he came to believe that attacks in Kashmir only led to Indian army retaliation against local people, whom the soldiers "arrested and tortured".

Also striking in Lahore was the degree of local sympathy that the militants enjoyed even from their victims. I went to talk to the owners of fruit juice bars in the middle class Garhi Shahu neighbourhood, which had been bombed by militants who claimed the bars were meeting places for men and women. Nothing very salacious seemed to be happening, but two months earlier three bombs had gone off here, killing one man and wounding others.

The bar owners all agreed that it was unlikely that their customers would ever come back. "Everybody is frightened," said Saeed Ahmed Afiz, the owner of one bar, who was studing his Koran. He then made a surprising defence of the bombers who had ruined his business, saying: "They were not terrorists because they did not kill anybody. They did the right thing." As for the man who was killed, Mr Afiz added contemptuously: "Maybe he was just here to see the show."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on