Welcome to Pakistan's 'University of Jihad'

Published November 18th, 2020 - 06:21 GMT

Several educational institutions in Pakistan give birth to extremism and radicalism, which eventually lead to terrorism. 

And one such institution is Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak, about 60 kilometers east of Peshawar, which is dubbed as "university of jihad" by critics. 

Despite its infamy in some quarters, it has enjoyed state support in Pakistan, where mainstream political parties are heavily boosted by links with religious factions.

Madrassas have long served as vital lifelines for millions of impoverished children in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where social services are chronically underfunded.

This month, Darul Uloom Haqqania's leaders boasted of backing the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan in a video posted online -- outraging the Kabul government, which is battling a surge in violence across the county as the US prepares to withdraw troops.

Some Pakistani extremists who later attacked their own country have also been linked to the seminary, including the suicide bomber who assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

 However,  Darul Uloom Haqqania's leaders dismissed notions the madrassa served as a "terrorist factory" where students received combat training or had a hand in militant groups' strategic decisions.

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In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students gather in the premises of the hostel at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak which has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students gather in the premises of the hostel at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak which has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

AFP Photo DOCUMENT REFERENCE000_8TL4C7 SLUGPAKISTAN - AFGHANISTAN - CONFLICT - ISLAM CREATION DATE10/19/2020 CITY/COUNTRYAKORA KHATTAK, PAKISTAN CREDITABDUL MAJEED / AFP FILE SIZE/PIXELS/DPI46.25 Mb / 4928 x 3280 / 300 dpi SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONSTO GO WITH 'PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ISLAM - FOCUS' BY DAVID STOUT PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ISLAM In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students attend class at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania

AFP Photo DOCUMENT REFERENCE000_8TL4C7 SLUGPAKISTAN - AFGHANISTAN - CONFLICT - ISLAM CREATION DATE10/19/2020 CITY/COUNTRYAKORA KHATTAK, PAKISTAN CREDITABDUL MAJEED / AFP FILE SIZE/PIXELS/DPI46.25 Mb / 4928 x 3280 / 300 dpi SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONSTO GO WITH 'PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ISLAM - FOCUS' BY DAVID STOUT PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ISLAM In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students attend class at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students gather in the premises of the hostel at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak which has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students gather in the premises of the hostel at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak which has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 spokesman of religious political pary, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Sami (JUI-S), Maulana Yousaf Shah speaks during an interview with AFP at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. Shah cracks a wide smile as he rattles off a list of former students turned Taliban leaders, revelling in their victories over superpowers on Afghanistan's battlefields after graduating from Pakistan's "university of jihad".

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 spokesman of religious political pary, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Sami (JUI-S), Maulana Yousaf Shah speaks during an interview with AFP at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. Shah cracks a wide smile as he rattles off a list of former students turned Taliban leaders, revelling in their victories over superpowers on Afghanistan's battlefields after graduating from Pakistan's "university of jihad".

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students wait to collect food at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students wait to collect food at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students wait to collect food at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students wait to collect food at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students leave a classroom at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students leave a classroom at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students stand outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students stand outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 an Islamic seminary student walks outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 an Islamic seminary student walks outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students gather in the premises of the hostel at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak which has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
AFP Photo DOCUMENT REFERENCE000_8TL4C7 SLUGPAKISTAN - AFGHANISTAN - CONFLICT - ISLAM CREATION DATE10/19/2020 CITY/COUNTRYAKORA KHATTAK, PAKISTAN CREDITABDUL MAJEED / AFP FILE SIZE/PIXELS/DPI46.25 Mb / 4928 x 3280 / 300 dpi SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONSTO GO WITH 'PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ISLAM - FOCUS' BY DAVID STOUT PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ISLAM In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students attend class at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students gather in the premises of the hostel at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak which has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 spokesman of religious political pary, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Sami (JUI-S), Maulana Yousaf Shah speaks during an interview with AFP at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. Shah cracks a wide smile as he rattles off a list of former students turned Taliban leaders, revelling in their victories over superpowers on Afghanistan's battlefields after graduating from Pakistan's "university of jihad".
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students wait to collect food at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students wait to collect food at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students leave a classroom at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students stand outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 an Islamic seminary student walks outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students gather in the premises of the hostel at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak which has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students gather in the premises of the hostel at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak which has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
AFP Photo DOCUMENT REFERENCE000_8TL4C7 SLUGPAKISTAN - AFGHANISTAN - CONFLICT - ISLAM CREATION DATE10/19/2020 CITY/COUNTRYAKORA KHATTAK, PAKISTAN CREDITABDUL MAJEED / AFP FILE SIZE/PIXELS/DPI46.25 Mb / 4928 x 3280 / 300 dpi SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONSTO GO WITH 'PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ISLAM - FOCUS' BY DAVID STOUT PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ISLAM In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students attend class at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania
AFP Photo DOCUMENT REFERENCE000_8TL4C7 SLUGPAKISTAN - AFGHANISTAN - CONFLICT - ISLAM CREATION DATE10/19/2020 CITY/COUNTRYAKORA KHATTAK, PAKISTAN CREDITABDUL MAJEED / AFP FILE SIZE/PIXELS/DPI46.25 Mb / 4928 x 3280 / 300 dpi SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONSTO GO WITH 'PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ISLAM - FOCUS' BY DAVID STOUT PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ISLAM In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students attend class at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students gather in the premises of the hostel at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak which has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students gather in the premises of the hostel at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak which has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 spokesman of religious political pary, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Sami (JUI-S), Maulana Yousaf Shah speaks during an interview with AFP at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. Shah cracks a wide smile as he rattles off a list of former students turned Taliban leaders, revelling in their victories over superpowers on Afghanistan's battlefields after graduating from Pakistan's "university of jihad".
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 spokesman of religious political pary, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Sami (JUI-S), Maulana Yousaf Shah speaks during an interview with AFP at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. Shah cracks a wide smile as he rattles off a list of former students turned Taliban leaders, revelling in their victories over superpowers on Afghanistan's battlefields after graduating from Pakistan's "university of jihad".
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students wait to collect food at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students wait to collect food at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students wait to collect food at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students wait to collect food at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students leave a classroom at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students leave a classroom at the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students stand outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students stand outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 an Islamic seminary student walks outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP
In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 an Islamic seminary student walks outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. Abdul MAJEED / AFP