Will they grow up to be militants?
BRANDISHING toy guns, dummy rocket launchers and with staves in hand, over 100 hooded children, between five and 12 years, marched in the main bazaar of the Barikot tehsil in Swat shouting full-throated slogans of ‘Long live Tehrik-i-Taliban Swat’.
The children’s protests were aimed at a security barrier that had been set up on the road linking the district’s main town of Mingora to a nearby village. Hundreds of people went past indifferently, but as a visitor I was taken aback. I had never seen such a protest in the valley before.
Today children in the NWFP and Fata are under the spell of increasing Talibanisation — which is a frightening sign that the country’s northwest has already been lost to militancy and extremism. This is an incalculable price no nation can afford to pay as it turns itself into a front-line state in a war which many perceive as being fought less for a just cause and more for the monetary remuneration it brings.
In Swat, children have gone through tremendous suffering during the last two years of bloodshed. With their young minds gripped by the rhetoric of terror-spewing clerics and their schools serving as the security forces’ bunkers, children have been left to count the sorties of gunship helicopters.
Dislocated youth qualify more readily than other segments of society. The last four years of confrontation in the NWFP and Fata have seen major disruptions in normal routines. Militancy and military operations have dented the social order and caused distrust of the state and its institutions. No surprise that this chaos has caused subversive elements to successfully indoctrinate youth who have lost their sense of direction. Thus, in militancy-hit areas youngsters between 12 and 18 years of age are the most vulnerable group to fall into the Taliban’s subversive net.
Over 5,000 boys as young as 7, have been already trained by the Taliban to target military and others in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with many more still in training, according The Pakistan Daily Times.
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