Two insurgent leaders and that of the feared Haqqani Network studied at the Pakistani madrasa of Darul Uloom Haqqania, known as the “university of jihad.”
The madrasa Darul Uloom Haqqania breathes euphoria after the military victory of the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. “Peace is coming after forty years of war, they have had to fight very hard, but the jihad has paid off and they are free. The greatest powers united against them, but thanks to the help of God they have won, ”explains Maulana Hamid ul Haq Haqqani, one of the most responsible for this center located 60 kilometers from Peshawar, very close to the border. Hamid’s grandfather was the founder in 1947 and his father, Sami, was responsible for making him the epicenter of training on jihad (holy war). 74 years after its birth, it received the nickname of “jihad university” and if it had a border with its most successful students in its main access, it would include two of the three leaders that the Taliban have had or Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the fearsome Haqqani network, responsible for the most brutal attacks in the last two decades, which decided to name its group after the place where it was formed.
From these classrooms came the mythical Mullah Omar, the first Taliban leader, and his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed by a drone missile in 2016. “This is not a military training center, far from it. This is a spiritual and religious training center and has been so since its opening in 1947. Jihad, the holy war, is a key part of Islam and that is why we dedicate an important space to it in our program. Jihad as a defensive concept against the occupier, in Afghanistan, Palestine or Kashmir. Our Afghan students, from Mullah Omar to everyone else, here have delved into jihad and put it into practice during both the invasions of the Soviet Union and the United States, in both cases faith has overcome two superpowers “Maulana Hamid explains like a whirlwind that does not leave a second free between words. When he speaks, everyone in the room listens. It is like the beacon of the poachers when they hunt at night and blind their prey, who remain motionless. It gets you. Hamid, a former parliamentarian between 2002 and 2007, combines this position with the presidency of the Jamiat Ulema and Islam party. He wears a gray scarf on his head that he does not stop retouching every time he feels that he is moved.
The mistrustful looks abroad among some of the students who look out the windows of the main office turn into candid smiles as soon as they perceive that the newcomer is a guest of Hamid ul Haq and share direct conversation with other figures in the center such as Rashid Haqani or the Maulana Yousaf Shah. The tone of the meeting couldn’t be more cordial. They serve fresh water, juice, cookies, sponge cake and milk tea, sipped from the saucer, not from the cup. “They are not like the nineties, he informs the West that the Taliban have learned that they cannot live in isolation, they want to have diplomatic relations with India, China, Russia … have the means of communication and live in peace,” says Hamid.
Akora Khattak is a rural town of 45,000 people located at the gates of the tribal area that separates Afghanistan from Pakistan. There is a border that separates the two countries and the ethnic Pashtun families living on both sides of the dividing line. The madrasa is a center made up of several buildings of humble construction in which 4,000 students study and live for free, most of them very poor families and most of them Afghan refugees.
The youngest children begin to memorize the Koran when they are just five years old and the school days can be extended to twelve hours. “They take an average of two years to memorize it,” says a teacher in the center of a small classroom in which he has 35 children kneeling and glued to each other. They study under the roar of a fan and the mantra of reading some verses that they recite by heart without knowing their meaning because no one speaks Arabic. They move the little bodies without stopping, as if each time they lowered their heads the words of the Prophet would enter them more easily. They look at you, but don’t see you, they live in a parallel world centered on the Koran.
The children study in the classrooms that surround a small green mosque. There is no park or playground, they only have a small cemetery in which the remains of Maulana Sami ul Haq, Hamid’s father, who earned the nickname ‘father of the Taliban’, rest because of the number of students he sent. to jihad in neighboring Afghanistan and was brutally murdered in Rawalpindi in 2018.
The older students occupy a pink building that has the library at its bottom, with thousands of titles divided between religion and politics. The next floor is dedicated to study and in the main class 2,000 students listen with attention and fans to the words of a teacher whose voice falls like a hammer on the heated students. One only has to look at the sea of flip-flops on the outside to make an estimate of the overcrowding of the class. The educational cycle of these young people is eight years and at the end they can do another two complementary to reach the degree of mufti.
Criticism of the Islamic State
In Pakistan there are more than 30,000 madrasas linked to five major sects, from the Deobandi, such as Darul Uloom Haqqania, to Salafists. These institutions are in the eye of the hurricane because from the West they are accused of being militant schools, but the local authorities are unable to stop their expansion and in many cases even subsidize the centers. The great workhorse continues to be to combine the criteria for religious education, something impossible at the moment due to the strong distrust between the civil and religious authorities, who blame the authorities and the United States for having used these schools to promote the militant spirit. in the eighties and thus favor the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
This is the country that monopolizes the conversation with some officials of the center who think that “the Islamic State of Khorasan is one of the serious problems that the Taliban now face, they have been fighting each other for years and will continue. They refuse to swear allegiance to the Emir, but they will not be successful and the Taliban will not allow them to use Afghanistan as a center of operations, “says Hamid, who never tires of criticizing IS.
It is time for prayer and to end the visit. Prayers await Hamid and his SUV driven by a security guard armed with an AK47. At the exit of the office dozens and dozens of students await him whose eyes shine just by shaking his hand. After a whole morning of jihad, Afghanistan, Taliban … one realizes that here there are no masks, hydroalcoholic gel and nobody mentions the coronavirus. Vaccinated? Vaccines are medical aids, made by man, here we have the direct help of God, do not forget it, “says Hamid after attending to the last of the students and getting into the race in an SUV that soon gets lost in the dust of the path.