"They want to capture the country by imposing their militant ideology. They want to silence the [dissenting, moderate] voices by eliminating them. They want to frighten common men," says Lahore-based analyst and leading historian Mubarak Ali.
Behind this extremist push are two strict branches of Sunni Islam: the Wahhabis and Deobandis. Members of Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and the Pakistani Taliban all generally belong to one of these though they hail from different countries. Both sects take a literalist approach to Islamic texts, are widely considered extremist, and view visiting shrines and worshipping saints as heresy.
The Wahhabi is the dominant faith in Saudi Arabia, while the Deobandi, a similar sect, is found in Pakistan and India. During the 1980s, Deobandis and the Wahhabis linked to help then-military ruler Zia-ul-Haq counter Shiite influence in the wake of the Iranian revolution.
They helped establish thousands of fundamentalist madrasas, mostly run by the religious political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam all over the country. It is believed that Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar revitalized the links between the two groups during the current Afghan war.