Selling young boys to the Taliban

To observe these boys studiously poring over their textbooks, or running around the sports field during games of football or basketball, it was hard to imagine that only a few months previously they had been living a very different existence.

For the 180 or so boys attending this highly specialised school on Pakistan's lawless North-West Frontier are all veterans of the Taliban, the militant Islamist movement that is waging war on both sides of the border with neighbouring Afghanistan.

Seized or bought from their families by Taliban fighters promising them a better life, they were plunged into a relentless cycle of indoctrination aimed at turning them into suicide bombers or fighters willing to sacrifice their lives attacking Nato forces in Afghanistan or taking part in the Taliban's increasingly violent campaign against the Pakistani government.

In one such case, the Taliban seized a seven-year-old boy who, after three years of indoctrination and training, was sent to Afghanistan to kill a policeman. His mission, thankfully, failed. On his return to Pakistan, he was found by his parents who, appalled at his exploits, surrendered him to the authorities in the hope they could help him to rebuild his life.
Run on the same principles as any normal boarding school, with the children learning the same curriculum taught in other schools in the area, Sabaoon also boasts an team of child psychologists who work closely with the children to help them learn the error of their ways. 
"Our main task is to try to reverse the brainwashing they have suffered at the hands of the Taliban," said Col Mohammed Islam, who runs the school, which receives funding from Unicef and the Pakistan government. 
"We are trying to break the myth of misplaced perceptions perpetrated by the terrorists." 
This is no easy task, particularly as the school remains a prime target for the Taliban, which has pledged to kill anyone involved in the project. Its precise location is kept secret and the complex is protected by steel barricades and razor wire. Weapons are trained on visitors from the windows, roof, gatehouse and guard posts that occupy each corner.
Some of the children at the school were bought by the Taliban from their families for 25,000 rupees (about £160). "They come from poor families who have too many children and can't afford to keep them," explained one of the school's psychologists. "They sell them to the Taliban thinking they will be looked after, and it is only later that they discover what is going on."
I have trouble believing parents are so naive.  The Taliban have been at it too long to fool anyone into thinking they have the best interest of the child at heart.  There is also the reality that Pakistan has other schools where people are openly taught to be Islamic religious bigots.  I is one of the biggest problems in the country and they are doing little to stop it.  There is a depravity to this culture that goes beyond reason.


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