campus in Pakistan’s Akora Khattak, about 60km east of Peshawar, is home to roughly 4,000 students who are fed, clothed and educated for free.
It has sat at the crossroads of regional militant violence for years, educating many Pakistanis and Afghan refugees – some of
whom returned home to wage war against
the Russians and Americans or preach jihad.
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.
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.
Seminaries like Haqqania “give birth to radical jihadism, produce Taliban and are threatening our country”, said Sediq Sediqqi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, demanding
Afghanistan’s leaders argue that Pakistan’s approval for the madrasas is
proof that it backs the Taliban.
Shah scoffed at the notion the madrasa encouraged violence, but he defended the right to target foreign troops.
“If someone armed enters your house and you are threatened … then definitely you will
raise a gun,” Shah said.
The seminary’s late leader Sami-ul-Haq boasted of advising the Taliban’s founder Mullah Omar – earning him the moniker “the father of the Taliban”.