The Jaish madrassa fronts a quiet street. Because it was the holy month of Ramadan, the seminary was not in session when we arrived, but construction work on a new fourth floor suggested that it suffered no lack of resources. A street-level store sold alcohol-free perfume along with books glorifying insurgent martyrs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I didn't expect to get past the gate, so I was surprised when, after a phone call or two, we were invited to return later that day to meet the nazim, or chief administrator. "It is in the tradition of the Prophet to be hospitable," said Maulana Imdad Ullah, greeting us in a small anteroom over tea and lemon biscuits.
A self-assured man with an unexpectedly warm smile, the nazim asserted that the madrassa was purely a religious institution. But he made no secret of his sympathy for Jaish or its leader, Massood Azhar, whose father founded and runs the school. "It should be a natural desire for every Muslim to follow in his footsteps," he said. I asked if students were encouraged to take up arms against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. "When they graduate, it's their own choice if they want to go to jihad or not," he said. And what exactly did he mean by "jihad," which can be defined in many ways? "Jihad is fighting and killing."
The nazim's candor was striking, as was the government's apparent willingness to let him operate unhindered. So the following morning I paid a visit to Mushtaq Sukhera, the senior police officer for the region, at his official residence. He turned out to be a charming, well-educated man with a practice green on his front lawn and a son at New York University. Sukhera was no fan of extremists and said that his men kept a close eye on the madrassa we had visited. But, he added, "they are teaching the normal syllabus that is being taught in any madrassa, so what does one do about that?"
Dangerous as they are, Punjab's militants only recently arrived in the province. For a glimpse at a more established pillar of society, we traveled to Multan, the largest city in southern Punjab and a stomping ground of the wealthy, landed aristocrats known as feudals. Faizal Abbas, 39, with close-cropped, gray hair and the hint of a double chin, greeted us outside his air-conditioned reception hall in a walled garden stocked with peacocks and miniature ponies. A huge lion paced in a cage.
Anything less would have been a disappointment. The feudals acquired their land in colonial times or even earlier, and many have parlayed their riches into political careers. As the city grew up around them, Abbas and his brothers sold off some of their land for development and now earn part of their living from a gas station. Lunch arrived in a box from Pizza Hut.