Sohana's experience triggered concerns among human rights organizations that the Taliban are now increasingly using children as their main weapon. “I believe that the Taliban are becoming desperate,” says a leading activist, Farzana Bari. “It is worrisome that now they [ the Taliban] want to destroy the young generation and use these innocent kids as their soldiers in the name of holy war."
Among those who took the girl into custody was Saleem Marwat, a senior police official in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. He says police are on the hunt for her kidnappers and are still working to verify her story with witness accounts. “We have had instances of the Taliban recruiting young boys as suicide bombers, but kidnapping of children and turning them into suicide bombers is a worrying sign,” he says.
Only a week ago, police investigators arrested a Taliban militant recruiter in Karachi whose job it was to reportedly convert madrasa children into suicide bombers.
They also took two teenage madrasa students into custody who had been trained as suicide bombers in North Waziristan. The Monitor published a detailed interview of Arshad Khan, a teenager, who disclosed how his life changed from a madrasa student to a suicide bomber.
Khan and his friend Waqar barely survived a drone attack two years ago, and were sent back by the Taliban to Karachi as they had gotten injured. Their recruiter was the arrested militant commander Abdur Razzaq. Officials say that failure to introduce reforms to unregulated madrasas across the country could be partly to blame for recruitment in youths among militants. In order to eliminate the overall jihadi culture in the country, they say experts must address the unregulated madrasa problem.
Meanwhile, Sohana – which may be a pseudonym used for her security – is back with her family. Police officials do not want to disclose the location of the family due to security concerns. “She is happy but holding on to her mother tightly and not letting go,” says a police official.