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ISIS Destroys Schools, Bars Female Students in Restive Afghan District

The IS militants even destroyed biology labs inside the schools as they consider study of the human skeleton to be a form of polytheism

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Afghan students
Afghan students attend school classes in an open-air primary school on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA
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  • The Islamic State militant group has been threatening students and insisting that teachers must amend their curriculum
  • A girl’s high school was among the destruction by IS militants during the past 10 days in the Darzab district
  • According to provincial education officials, IS militants said an educational curriculum acceptable to Islamic State must be taught in areas that the group controls

Washington, July 4, 2017: The Islamic State militant group has destroyed more than a dozen schools in a restive district of northern Afghanistan, threatening students and insisting that teachers must amend their curriculum, provincial officials said.

Abul Rahman Mahmoodi, the acting governor of northern Jawzjan province, told VOA that a girl’s high school was among the destruction by IS militants during the past 10 days in the Darzab district.

“I wish they had a proper curriculum. Based on our information, [the militants] do not have anything to offer,” Mahmoodi said. “They burned down a female high school entirely and plundered other schools in the area, taking their desks and chairs with them after destroying the infrastructure.”

According to provincial education officials, IS militants said an educational curriculum acceptable to Islamic State must be taught in areas that the group controls.

ALSO READCan Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

Girls forbidden to attend school

A local resident who did not want to disclose his name for safety reasons told VOA that IS militants warned girls not to attend school. They make up 40 percent of the 18,000 enrolled students in the district’s 47 government-run schools, which are currently closed for summer holidays.

Abdul Hai Yesheen, Jawzjan province’s education chief, told VOA the IS militants destroyed biology labs inside the schools. Islamic State adherents say they consider study of the human skeleton to be a form of polytheism.

IS and rival militants from the Taliban have clashed fiercely in a fight for control of Darzab, and Baz Mohammad Dawar, acting chief of the district, said 10 Taliban militants were beheaded after they were captured by IS fighters last week.

Islamic State and Taliban fighters streamed into Darzab last month from two directions, and scores of Afghan government forces in the area were under siege until counter-strikes by Afghan and U.S. forces took effect. The center of the district was held by the Taliban, with IS militants controlling areas outside Darzab’s center, but local officials said both groups subsequently were driven out by the combined Afghan and U.S. effort.

Airstrikes kill 7 IS commanders

Airstrikes carried out by U.S. unmanned aircraft, or drones, have killed at least seven IS commanders during the past two weeks, the local officials said.

Two IS commanders who were known as ruthless for the many beheadings they carried out reportedly were killed on Sunday in Darzab. Another five commanders, including the deputy IS leader in the province, were killed last week in neighboring Qoshtaipa district.

IS militants have been most active in eastern parts of Afghanistan until recently, but the extremists have been trying to establish a permanent presence in several of the country’s northern provinces.

Another source in the region who asked not to be identified told VOA that IS has been recruiting unemployed youths between the ages of 13 and 20 to join its forces. The militants are said to have recruited hundreds of fighters from Jawzjan and neighboring Sar-e-Pul province, where several districts are controlled by Islamic State or its affiliated groups.

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban commander who switched his allegiance to Islamic State a year ago, is said to lead IS-affiliated groups in the region, and is credited with the recruitment of about 500 fighters in his new role. A large number of Central Asian fighters affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan, have joined the IS cause in the northern provinces. (VOA)

 

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Emergence of Radical Political Groups Raises Concern in Pakistan

Concerns are being voiced about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.

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Rising concerns in Pakistan regarding radical terrorist groups establishing themselves as political parties. VOA
Rising concerns in Pakistan regarding radical terrorist groups establishing themselves as political parties. VOA
  • Tension in Pakistan increasing due to emergence of Radical Political Groups.
  • Extremist groups are gaining a footing in Country’s politics.
  • According to reports, goverment’s efforts are not enough to stop the emerging radicalism in Pakistan.

Concerns are being voiced in Pakistan about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.

Taj Haider, one of the prominent and founding members of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has been in power five times since 1970, told VOA the country is again seeing the trend of extremist groups camouflaging themselves to enter into politics.

“Religion and politics cannot go hand in hand, but unfortunately this is our new reality. We have seen the recent by-elections in Lahore and Peshawar where militant-turned-political parties were able to mobilize people and gather votes,” Haider said. “And these so-called new political parties, with proven terror records, look determined to contest the upcoming elections in 2018.”

In a recent high-level party meeting presided by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Pakistan’s slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the government was sharply criticized on its inability to forcefully implement the National Action Plan and bar proscribed groups from entering the political sphere.

The National Action Plan is a 20-point strategy devised to combat extremism in 2015 that clearly states no banned groups can operate in the country by changing their names or identity.

Analysts say many other political parties are also agitated and wary about the recent political dynamic that has allowed radicalized groups to enter the political arena.

“The government has repeatedly said it will not allow the hardliners to enter into politics, but the reality is different, these parties are going into masses,” Rasul Baksh Raees, a prominent analyst from Pakistan told VOA.

“As long as these proscribed groups stick to their extreme ideologies and violence, they will be a danger to the society and democracy itself.”

Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistani religious party. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

PPP’s acute criticism came as Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), inaugurated the office of his newly launched political party Milli Muslim League (MML) in the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan’s Election Commission rejected MML’s party registration application in October, citing its link to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a U.S. designated terror-sponsoring organization.

But MML looks determined to contest the upcoming state and provincial elections. The party has several offices, has launched a website, and has a social media team spreading its messages through Facebook and Twitter.

Pakistan’s government has repeatedly emphasized it will not tolerate any political party with a proven record of promoting violence and terrorism to use democracy and political means to spread their extreme ideologies.

But critics still say the government is not doing enough to stop radical groups from entering politics.

“Look what happened in Lahore’s recent by-election and who can forget the power show by extremists on the roads of Islamabad. The government was totally helpless,” Raees said.

During the Lahore election in September, a MML backed independent candidate secured the fourth position in the race. The by-election was also contested by Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TeL), another extremist religious party created to carry-on Mumtaz Qadri’s mission, the bodyguard who killed Punjab’s Governor Salman Taseer in 2011 after he had demanded reforms in the controversial blasphemy law. Mumtaz Qadri was later sentenced to death.

Islamic Extremists
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik party (VOA)

In November, thousands of followers of the Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik blocked Islamabad roads for weeks and demanded the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid, after accusing him of blasphemy. The government eventually surrendered to hardliners’ demands after Pakistan’s military played the role of mediator.

The experts say the emerging trend of politicizing militancy is a danger to democracy. They also point out the sectarian and hardline rationale will further complicate the situation in the country that has been trying to combat terrorism for more than a decade.

“Imagine when these hardliners, through political parties, will spread their extreme views on the grassroots level. What will be the future of this country?” Raees said.

But some politicians dismiss the blending of radicalized groups into politics. Haider believes the people of Pakistan can differentiate between politicians and extremists and will not allow militant-turned-politicians to thrive.

“If you look at the past, the religious parties including the Jamaat-i-Islami [an old religious party], despite having a huge following, were never able to clean sweep or get majority in the electoral process of the country,” said Haider.

“Even now, with all these efforts, I believe Milli Muslim League or Tehreek-e-Labaik will not be able to pull large numbers during the general elections. Religious or sectarian votes are scattered in the country and can’t be unified and will not help these newly established political parties to win a prominent number of seats.” VOA