‘Pak Punjab`s south belt breeding ground for militants`

Pakistan`s Punjab province`s southern belt, reeling under ‘extreme poverty and ignorance’, is a breeding ground for militants, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif`s government has said.

Last Updated: May 20, 2012, 00:08 AM IST

Lahore: Pakistan`s Punjab province`s southern belt, reeling under ‘extreme poverty and ignorance’, is a breeding ground for militants, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif`s government has said in its first such admission.

"Extreme poverty and ignorance in the area are the main causes of militancy and extremism," Sharif said on Friday.

He said he has opened special schools in south Punjab to prevent the younger generation from falling into the hands of extremists. Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said many times that southern Punjab had become a breeding ground of terrorists, especially the Punjabi Taliban, but the PML-N government in the province had earlier denied this.

The Punjab government faced criticism after provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was photographed travelling with extremist leaders during the campaign for a bye-election.

Some of the districts in southern Punjab are considered strongholds of the Sipa-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Laskar-e-Jhangvi, both notorious groups known for targeting the minority Shia sect.

The federal government has called for the monitoring of madrassas or seminaries in the area.

Sharif further said that the war against militancy could be successful but only to an extent and socio-economic conditions of the people have to be improved to accomplish the task of rooting out the menace.

He said Britain`s Department of International Development and the Punjab government were working on a joint project to improve the lot of people by launching a skill development programme in southern Punjab.

PTI