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

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Teaching Assistants urgently r...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:We are looking for a ...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the UK ...

KS1 Teacher

£80 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Key stage 1 Teacher - Gloucest...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Scottish polls, canvass returns and arguments. And Top 10 Tweets

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week