Bombing Shows Pakistan Militant Groups Uniting

Another problem is Pakistan's inability to crack down on the Punjabi militant groups, Aziz said.

After the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, the United Nations banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Pakistani charity associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group accused of organizing the attacks.

But Jamaat-ud-Dawa workers were recently discovered helping the millions of people displaced from their homes by fighting in the Northwest Frontier Province. And Aziz makes a rare admission that Pakistan has not actually cracked down on Jamaat-ud-Dawa, as it has promised.

"They have been banned by the government, but they have their outfits, they changed their name, and they come through another organization, because the ideology is there," he said. "You can't kill the ideology."

The ideology is fueled, residents and officials across southern Punjab say, by rampant poverty and joblessness.

For Pakistand Militant Groups, 'Poverty Is the Driver'

On a recent visit, Dera Ghazi Khan's streets were filled with residents milling about, saying they had nothing to do.

"This is a very backward area. People raise cattle or do agriculture and literacy level is very low," says Manzoor Ahmad Laghari while standing in one of the city's main markets. "The level of education is almost zero, but neither the government nor the education department is interested" in helping.

Muhammad Kaleem, a shopkeeper, said, "In D.G. Khan, almost everyone has become unemployed. We used to find a little work but that has now finished."

One resident of the area said militant groups would recruit children in part by taking them temporarily to training camps where they would "see lives demonstrably better than those they had at home." The kids are fed well and sent back to their families, who often can provide much less.

"Poverty is the driver," said this resident, who would not speak unless allowed anonymity. "Then it becomes ideological."

The United States has spent more than half a billion dollars on health and economic programs in southern Punjab, but residents say the trend is heading in the wrong direction.

Many in Dera Ghazi Khan mentioned an explosion at a Shiite mosque in early February. They said since that incident the security situation had quickly deteriorated, especially at night in the villages outside the main city.

One resident said Shiite members of the community received envelopes with the equivalent of $6 in them -- enough, an attached note told the recipients, to buy their own coffin.

That is a tactic that Taliban militants have employed in the northwest, and Aziz said the mosque attack was likely a sign that Taliban were helping local militants become more active.

"This is a triangle, this is a nexus between all the ideologies which are coming to one point, to one pyramid, and they all have connections, and they all are involved in it," he said.

U.S. and local officials argue that one of the militant groups' main recruiting grounds are schools, especially religious schools, or madrassas, most of which are based in southern Punjab.

Madrassas Used to Convert Youth to Terror

In the South Punjab city of Bawalpaur, where militant groups are particularly strong, residents say leaders of the militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad have taken over madrassas in an attempt to convert young students to their group.

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