Pashtuns: Madrassa’s Cannon Fodders

Kanishka Nawabi, Christian Kaunert

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After its partition from India in 1947, Pakistan’s geopolitical interests and deep cross-border ties defined its relations with Afghanistan. At the same time, Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan have been defined by territorial sovereignty claims and support for Pashtun and Baloch nationalist separatism. Regional and international proxy wars and outside interferences further-heightened these contentious issues. This article shows that the role madrassas played in South Asian politics helped transform them into political organisations rather than purely religious institutions. The Taliban as a movement is commonly termed as an indigenous rural insurgency that emerged in response to the Afghan Civil War and political crisis. However, this article argues that their emergence and return to power is part of the same continuum of madrassa-led policy to instigate political violence against the Afghan state. Deobandi and other radical madrassas have played a historic role in producing the religious narratives to recruit Pashtuns by glorifying and romanticising their ‘pureness’, ‘simplicity’, and ‘faith’ as a Muslim’s primary political motivation. Therefore, Pashtuns from the NWFP, including FATTA and the broader region, became this strategy’s cannon fodder. The framework in this article presents a historical timeline documenting madrassas’ role in promoting jihad as a tool for glorifying political violence, first driven by the Indian Muslim Movements and later by the Pakistani state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-104
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of European and American Intelligence Studies
Issue number2
Early online date22 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Dec 2022


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