ISLAMABAD, Aug 31: An American scholar on Wednesday said the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) and several of the extremist militias were suspected of having had direct links with Al Qaeda and were known to sympathize with Al Qaeda ideology.

In a paper presented at a seminar organized by the Institute of Regional Studies on ‘Global terrorism’, Dr Rodney Jones said the most prominent and militant parties involved in recruitment and training of “jihadis” were the JUI and Jamaat-i-Islami.

“The most prominent and militant of these parties are the Deobandi oriented Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) of which there are two competing factions led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Maulana Samiul Haq, each with extensive followings in the NWFP, Balochistan and in the larger cities; the urban-based Jamaat-i- Islami and the Markaz al-Dawa-wal Irshad,” Dr Jones said.

He said the more militant of the Islamist parties in the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal were often manifestly at odds in the areas they governed with Pakistan’s commitment to sever ties with the Taliban and with Pakistan’s international commitments in the war on terrorism.

He said the JUI and JI were intimately involved with the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan. As in Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states, the indigenous Pakistani extremist groups were deeply embedded in society and politics and overcoming them by direct repression was not politically feasible, he said.

Dr Jones suggested the US and the West to help President Gen Pervez Musharraf in Kashmir and support his idea of enlightened moderation.

In his presentation, former interior minister Lt-Gen (retired) Moinuddin Haider said 75 per cent victims of terrorism belonged to the South East and South Asia.

Negating the western view of seminaries being the breeding grounds for terrorism, he argued that these seminaries and mosques were there for the last more than 400 years but this part of the world was never on the forefront of wars. All these countries had been colonies of the western countries and did not rise against the West even during the two world wars, he said.

Lt-Gen Haider said Osama bin Laden was brought to Afghanistan with some 35,000 Arab fighters with a lot of money and weapons coming from US. The success against the USSR intoxicated the fighters that they could fight any power occupying their land, he said.

Mariam Abou Zahad said there were close relations between the sectarian groups and international terrorist organizations, including those in Pakistan.

“The transnational links of jihadi and sectarian groups were exposed to light after the arrests of prominent members of Al- Qaeda in Karachi and Faisalabad, but we should not forget that President Musharraf, like most leaders of the Middle East, had a direct interest in overstating the links of local movements with Al Qaeda networks - he could gain recognition for his regime, consolidate his rule and create the impression that he was indispensable in the war on terror,” she said.

Col Shaffet Akkaya of Turkey said his country was facing outside terrorism and support to its extremist elements which had no capacity to survive in Turkey without foreign help.

The three-day seminar concluded on Wednesday with most scholars suggesting that the Unites States war on terrorism had proved counter productive after invasion of Iraq.

Summing up the proceedings of the seminar, Dr Riffat Hussain presented ideas and suggestions which among others included efforts to promote greater understanding of Islam through interfaith and inter-cultural dialogue to which representatives of clergy should be invited.