I was in the 7th grade when i was taken by my grandfather to live in the city of Jhang in the punjab province of Pakistan. Back then my parents used to live in a village but my grandfather had moved to the city with my step grandmother, so my parents decided that it will be better for me if i study in a school in the city rather than in a village.
Though I used to be very home sick as a 12 year old boy but there used to be one thing i used to wait anxiously every day and that was to wait for evening when young boys started gathering in a big cricket grounds 10 minutes walk from my grandfather’s home.
The locality my grandfather lived in was predominantly a middle class residencial area. Some families were better financially and some were really on the bottom of the of the society.
Soon after 4 pm, crowds used to gather in the cricket ground, young boys from all kinds of families, some from richer and well educated families and some from poor families, some as young as 12 like me and some as older as in the mid 20s. Several teams used to play in the same ground, and though I used to play with young boys of my age but still I knew some of the older guys who were good players.
Poor boys could be recognized from their clothes, shoes etc. and many those young boys who played with me their elder brothers used to play in the same ground with the older guys.
In my team only a handful of guys came from richer and well to do families but mostly were either who had left schools after 5th grade (primary school level in Pakistan) or went to religious schools (madressas) and their elder brother or fathers used to work in power loom factroies on daily wages. Power loom workers still are one of the lowest paid employees of textile sector in pakistan. The earning that their parents or older siblings made was hardly enought to feed their families.
One day one of the older cricket playing guys suddently disappeared, he was one of the best cricketers that used to play in that ground. After 6 months or so, one day he showed up in the ground, but with a huge change, he was smoking one of the expensive cirgrate brands in Pakistan. His torn clothes were replaced by good expensive clothes and wore pair of new hiking shoes. We, the younger boys, gathered around him and asked him where he has been? He said smilingly that he had gone for jihad in Kashmir, that he was a mujahid now. This time he had more meat on his face than before and he smiled better.
One of the young boys of my team who wore torn shoes and clothes said: oh i want to be a mujahid too. The mujahid guy smiled and said no you are too young, guns will be too heavy for you too carry.
Slowly we started seeing that guy around almost every evening but not interested in cricket any more; rather he would hang around with older guys, give them free cigarettes and buy them coke or pepsi from the nearby shop. Slowly we learnt some more older guys were planning to go with him to the local office of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and after a few weeks 5-6 other guys disappear who used to play in the same ground.
One thing was common in all those guys, they were either working as labourers or were unemployed and had left education long ago because their families could not afford to send them to schools. Then slowly I started seeing jihadi and Islamist posters, banners and spray writings on the empty walls and electric poles of the town.
Shortly afterwards, dead bodies started arriving, of those so called mujahideen, a small van with the Lashkar-e-Taiba flags and with big speakers hooked up on the top, announcing the so called shahadat of those boys. What I can never forget from my childhood is the image of those lovely lads, tears of their parents and stoned faced scary looking mullas sitting on front seats of those vans.
But today when I am a grown up man, I wonder about a few things.
Why was the state when all these so called jihadis of LeT etc were recurting young, beautiful, talented youth of Pakistan in open day light?
Who was providing the LeT and many similar jihadi organizations with finances and resources?
What role did our army play in helping these jihadis infiltrate the Indian Occupied Kashmir? What was the level of cooperation between the LeT etc and Pakistan army?
What did we get out of is narrow view of so called jihad which was fueled by the flesh and bones of youth of the poor families of Pakistan?
Did it bring paksitani nation any good other than prlogogning the the rule of the military establishment and the power of the jihadi organizations?
The money which could be spent on health, education, development and employment went to pockets of corrupt generals, their jihadi assets and and their puppet politicians.
Who knows many of of the recruits during the era of 1990s for the so called Kashmir jihad are blowing up innocent Pakistanis today. Instead of infiltrating violent Punjabi and Pashtun jihadis in Kashmir, instead of discrediting Kashmiris’ legitimate movement for their rights, had we tried to support them in the UNO, with the help of international community by diplomatic and non-military means, the Kashmir freedom movement had been in a much better shape. However, the jihadi route was much favoured by Pakistani generals as it provided them with an opportunity to have unquestionalable power over the resurces and taxes of Pakistan.