[Crossposted at dKos as a diary, please recommend it.]
From the intelligence gathered thus far, the consensus opinion on the Mumbai terrorists is they are Islamist extremists who hail from Pakistan. File that revelation under “no surprise”. But information about the lone captured terrorist, Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Amin Kasab, and how it ties into economic news, could be startling.
UK newspaper the Observer had the now fortunate (for a news organization) coincidence of traveling to the Pakistani cities of Multan and Bahawalpur last week. They describe Bahawalpur as “the biggest recruiting base of the militant groups currently being blamed by India for the Mumbai attack”; a center for the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba. What is Kasab’s connection to this? He is from Faridkot, a town close to these two cities.
I haven’t seen the demographics on these cities, but I’m guessing that poverty exists and is rampant.
This is an educated guess, based on this paragraph from the Observer article:
For most militants in the region the story – and that of Azam Amir Kasab is unlikely to be very different – starts at school. The southern Punjab has one of the highest concentrations of religious schools or madrassas in south Asia. Most teach the ultra-conservative Deobandi strand of Islam that is also followed by the Afghan Taliban and, crucially in this desperately poor land, offers free classes, board and lodging to students.
If these schools offered free room and board to a population that didn’t need it, then their power would be diminished. But that’s not the kind of world Pakistanis live in. Pakistan is in economic trouble. As I pointed out a couple weeks ago (in a jab to the GM bailout package), Pakistan needs a $7.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to stay afloat this year. (Recently, I’ve seen some articles saying more IMF money is needed, and might have to amend that post in the future.) IMF money doesn’t come without a price, though — and I’m not talking about Pakistan simply having to pay off the loans in the future. Poverty is attached to the IMF price tag, too:
ISLAMABAD, Nov 28: Conditions attached to the $7.6 billion International Monetary Fund loan are expected to cause up to three million job cuts in different sectors and push another 5.6 million to 7.5 million Pakistanis into poverty over the next two years. […]
When asked about the immediate fallout of the conditions which was aimed at slowing down the import-led economic growth, Mr Shirani [Chief Economist of the Royal Bank of Scotland] said that two to three million people would lose their jobs in various sectors, including fertiliser, manufacturing and services.
He said the GDP growth was expected to slow down to 3.4 per cent this year. “Some 5.6 to 7.5 million people will be added to the existing number of poor”.
Quite the vicious circle we having going in Pakistan: Poverty causes terrorism, but poverty is caused by poor economic conditions and them coming to us for money. I know that statement can be argued on two fronts: 1) Pakistan’s economic doldrums is a fault of their domestic policy (like spending gobs of money to pursue a nuclear weapon, and constant coups and instability making international investors wary of investing there); and 2) the IMF is made up of many other countries besides the United States. I can’t argue number one — Pakistan has screwed themselves over. But we’re part of the problem. The US holds the most sway in the IMF, so we have the most power in deciding not only where the money goes but under what program and loan repayment structure.
IMF loans help exacerbate poverty in Pakistan, which feeds into the power of extremist religious schools. The teachers at these schools are not shy, either, as the Observer reports:
In Bahawalpur the Jaish-e-Mohammed group, believed responsible for a string of brutal attacks across south Asia, including the murder of Jewish American journalist Daniel Pearl, has been linked to two such madrassas. One is the headquarters of the group – a semi-fortified and forbidding complex in the centre of the town. The other is the Dar-ul-Uloom Medina, where the brother-in-law of Rashid Rauf, the Bahawalpur-based suspected British militant thought to have been killed in an American missile attack eight days ago, is a teacher. Surrounded by some of the 700 students, he told The Observer that ‘jihad’ was the duty of all his young charges. […]
‘To fight in Afghanistan or Kashmir and to struggle against the forces who are against Islam is our religious duty,’ Chugti, who oversees the education of 40,000 students, told The Observer.
Poverty in Pakistan has aided and emboldened the extremists, so decreasing the poverty must be seen as a key stepping stone to international security and heading off more terrorist attacks. In that respect, the IMF loans to Pakistan must be restructured. Or else when Pakistan is blamed for the Mumbai attacks, it’s only fair that we share that blame, too. And don’t know about you, but personally, I feel ashamed.