New Delhi: Saying that extremism in Pakistan has its roots in jihad during the war between the then Soviet Union and Afghanistan, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday said his country had brought down the frequency of suicide bombings.
At an interaction organised by Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, Malik said extremism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region started "when we decided to take part in jihad" during the war between the erstwhile Soviet Union and Afghanistan.
He said thousands of jihadis landed in Pakistan to fight the Soviet Union and were left with nothing to do after the war.
"It saw evolution of the Taliban. Extremism kept on spreading," he said, adding that there were 300 madrasas in the region when the war ended. The number had risen to 23,000 when the present government came to office in Pakistan.
Rehman said all madrasas were not involved in terrorism but there was an effort to brainwash those studying in them.
The minister said religion and poverty were two important things, and "when combined these can be very lethal. That is what we faced".
He said children were recruited for Rs.15,000-20,000 and were indoctrinated to act as suicide bombers.
"Thanks to our forces, we have been able to handle them well and the frequency of suicide bombers has reduced in Pakistan," he said.
Malik also said that organisations like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan now had splinter groups.
Talking about the growth of extremism, Malik said Pakistan was facing one of the worst times of its history.
He said extremism was rising, particularly in Muslim majority countries and was being spread by those with some "vested motives".
He added that extremism had grown in India as well.
"We need a de-radicalisation programme. I am a very strong supporter of inter-faith harmony. If there is confrontation on basis of religion, I see clash of civilisations," Malik said.
Malik concluded his three-day visit to India on Sunday.