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Terror's Children

Screencap of "Terror’s Children (2003)"

Screencap of "Terror’s Children (2003)"

Question: Who is paying for the religious schools, whether they are fundamentalist or schools that are not supported by the Pakistani government?

Obaid: It is a really interesting question because when we were filming there, we kept asking the heads of these religious schools where their money comes from because a lot of times we hear that the money comes from Middle Eastern countries. However, they said that Pakistanis have big hearts and they are rich and the wealthy Pakistanis patronize these Islamic religious schools. I find that a little hard to fathom because Pakistan is a very poor country and we have an extensive network of Islamic religious schools. So it gets into the gray area, exactly who funds. But every Friday, after the prayers, you see these Islamic religious school leaders standing outside mosques with open arms to collect funds in the name of Islam and I know that they collect a lot of money this way.

Question: Someone said during the film that Musharraf was viewed as a traitor. Was that from the viewpoint of an Afghan refugee? Or is this a growing feeling on the part of Pakistanis?

Obaid: No, I would think that it was the Afghan refugees and not all Afghan refugees, I might add. It was the Afghan refugees from the southern part of Afghanistan, essentially where the Taliban are based. Those people feel betrayed by Pakistan and President Musharraf because he sided with the West against the Taliban regime. So it is extensively these people that believe that.

Question: Do you think that that's a growing threat for his regime?

Obaid: I don't think that it's a growing threat. It's a phenomenon that grew when the bombing of Afghanistan was happening and we filmed soon after that. But since then I think it has become a lot better.

Question: I know that right now aid might not be overflowing or organized, but as you think about the future and in a best-case scenario, what would be the best way to help these refugees? And what would be the aim of the aid: to help them become established in Pakistan? Would it help them in a transition way, as they repatriate?

Zia-Zarifi: I think that not just for Afghanistan but also for refugees anywhere, the best solution is to make sure the conditions in their home country are safe for their return. In the case of Afghanistan, where the United States is essentially right now in the driver's seat, of course that is a huge issue. The President of the United States asked for $26 billion in total for Iraqi reconstruction and for about $870 million for Afghan reconstruction. Now this is a country that is about 25% larger in population and orders of magnitude poorer. And this is despite a speech in which the President had promised a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. So there is a tremendous gap right now between Afghanistan's needs and what the United States and the international community is providing. I have to say that in this respect, the European countries and Japan have been quite remiss. There is a lot of money promised. Some has been delivered. But there is a huge amount of money that has been promised and not delivered. Of course none of this money can be put to any use until the security situation in Afghanistan improves. None of these people can go back to their home country until the security situation is improved. And that will take an effort of will on the part of the international community to support what the United Nations is doing and what I think the Afghan central government would like to do.

Bhattacharjee: I would second that.