Monday, April 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Islamic school — a nursery for ultras
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, April 14
Despite the efforts made by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to curb the activities of fundamentalists operating from Islamic centres of learning, the Lashkar-e-Toiba has consolidated its base in Pakistan.

A senior official of the Intelligence Bureau, talking to TNS here today, said in Muridke township, 30 km from Lahore, the Lashkar-e-Toiba was training mujahideen to fight against India in the Kashmir valley. The training school, known as Markaz-e-Toiba, is run by the Mankaz al Dawah wal Irshad (centre for religious learning and propagation). This organisation is the umbrella organisation of the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

After the December 13 attack on Parliament House, General Musharraf tried to shut down this training school but did not succeed following pressure from fundamentalist organisations.

The training school is spread over more than 200 acres. It houses teaching and residential complexes, besides two shooting ranges. Young recruits of the Lashkar-e-Toiba learn Islamic and Western education, apart from receiving training in swimming, horse riding shooting and other sports activities.

Intelligence Bureau sources say there are more than 800 students in the school. A majority of them are from Pakistan. At least 90 are from Afghanistan and 50 from India. Prof Zafar Iqbal of the Lahore University of Engineering and Technology established the school to promote Islamic learning but the financial help extended by militant organisations has made it a training ground for militants.

The Muridke training school is no longer restricted to the Markaz-e-Toiba. Encroachments have been made by militant organisations other than the Lashkar-e-Toiba around the complex with the sole motive bringing all militant organisations together on a common platform to fight against India in Kashmir.

Sikh militant leaders like Lakhbir Singh Rode, Mehal Singh and Wadhawan Singh, who are hiding in Pakistan often visit the training school and teach Punjabi language and culture. Regular teachers have also been hired for the purpose.

Markaz-e-Toiba has also established another training ground in the past two years near Muzaffarabad to give training of sophisticated weapons and explosives. The Pakistan Government had earlier refused to allow the training of the use of explosives at Muridke because of the school’s proximity to the residential areas of Muridke.

The Intelligence Bureau official said the attacks on the minority community in Gujarat recently had inflamed young recruits, who were eager to take revenge by crossing the border and entering India. Intelligence reports also say that the militant outfits in Pakistan had planned to attack Sikh pilgrims visiting holy places on Baisakhi this year, due to which the Indian Government did not allow Sikh jathas to visit Pakistan.

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