‘Pakistan’s Taliban school’ explored in India documentary

Image copyright AFP Image caption Zaida Parvez photographed the madrasa in 2005

An Indian documentary has examined how the radical Muslim school in Afghanistan was a training ground for some of the Taliban’s top leadership.

Directed by Zaida Parvez, Waziristan: The Secret History of a Madrasa was released at the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards, which were held in New Delhi this week.

In the film, she spent time in the Darul Uloom Haqqania school, which has produced several of Afghanistan’s most notorious terrorist leaders.

Born in the Indian city of Allahabad, Zaida Parvez was only five when she first saw videos of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who used to teach at Darul Uloom Haqqania, speaking and preaching.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Many male students have no religion education

Over the past 15 years, she has made several attempts to talk to the school’s leaders to discover more about their students and their path to terrorism.

To conduct her interviews, she visited the madrasa seven times, and spent time at its mausoleum and the madrasa’s library, which houses rare texts, many of which were destroyed during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

She also came across many of the students in her interviews who carry the militant imprint of their teachers and madrasa.

Image copyright AFP Image caption One student told Zaida Parvez that his father did not even know he attended the madrasa

“The madrasa is the second largest single breeding ground for extremists,” she said.

“Over 80% of Taliban are educated there.”

The school was founded in 1925 as a reform school for lowercaste Muslims, according to Parvez.

Although it is known for producing militants from the main Pashtun groups, Parvez said the caste system was not sufficient to explain why such extremists attended.

“Even the senior mullahs leading the madrasa … did not understand the problem,” she said.

Mostly male students graduate from the madrasa, but it is hard to pin down exactly how many Muslims in Afghanistan get their religious education there.

“They teach our children not to marry,” said one student.

“My father did not know I used to come to this madrasa because we can’t marry because of our family background,” said another.

The devout students at the madrasa are often more associated with fighting in Afghanistan than their teachers, who are mainly men from Pakistani Punjabi communities in Afghanistan.

The Taliban leader Mullah Omar, for example, teaches at the madrasa.

Other terrorist leaders who have studied there include former Taliban regional commander Mullah Mohammed Ahmed Mohammadi, who was killed by a US drone strike in 2014, and Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed last year in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan.

Zaida Parvez has been nominated for two Oscars for her previous documentary 9/11/2001: My Country, My Enemy, which was a dispatch from Ground Zero at the time of the attacks.

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