Oct 6, 2007

Madrassa Education Reform Program as Part of GWOT Strategic PSYOP

Today the Pakistan parliament -- itself installed in a corrupt 2002 election -- voted to keep Gen Pervez Musharraf as president.

We need not get into the merits here of Gen. Musharraf (of which there are few), or debate the opinion of some experts who accurately point out that the overall number of fundamentalist Muslims there is insufficient to bring about the nightmare specter of a radical Islamic Nuke-bearing state as the outcome of truly free elections in that country.

Our objective today is to note the failure of our ally Musharraf -- a military dictator -- to effectively do his part to implement an important component of the main GWOT Strategic PSYOP.

The Madrassa Education Reform program in Pakistan is part of our broader attempts in the Islamic world to prevent the spread of radical Islam. Ideally, we could enable the governments in these countries to establish secular schools, thus eliminating the indoctrination of jihadist principles into the young people. We are providing funds in that direction, as well as sponsoring the teaching of English, but in some places secular education is a culturally foreign concept.

In the Summer of 2002, Congress appropriated $100 million in a five year program to make quality education available to a larger percentage of Pakistani children, especially in tribal areas. The religious schools (Madrassas) in Pakistan were identified early on as a problem -- the Koran is the main textbook. Musharraf was made aware of our desire for some ideological housecleaning in those institutions.

Other funds were forthcoming. USAID received $67 million for education reform in Pakistan in 2005 alone. The World Bank has pitched in additional monies.

Our Pakistani strongman faced strong institutional resistance to the plan from some elements of his military, and as a result, said all the right things to the U.S., but has dragged his feet on carrying out the Madrassa reforms. Three "model madrassas" have been created to demonstrate progress to donors.

This Summer, when the funding from the original five year appropriation was subject to renewal, Musharraf violently cracked down on Islamabad's Red Mosque and its adjoining Madrassa.

The attack on the Red Mosque has rejuvenated the radical Islamist madrassas, and Pakistan is now facing a growing insurgency in the tribal areas.

The idea among Pakistanis of Americans dictating the content of religious education is a sensitive subject, and the most radical of the madrassas are said to have ample alternative sources of funding, but more had been expected from the initiative.

Over the last few months, the U.S. encouraged Musharraf to join Benizir Bhutto in a political alliance of convenience. Only a post-election review by the Pakistani Supreme Court stands in his way of another term as president.

Musharraf has pledged to retire from the military as part of the arrangement to stay on as president.

The Madrassa Education Reform program faltered under his military dictatorship. It is difficult to see the prospect for any improvement along those lines under a "civilian" Musharraf government.

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