A detailed analysis of over 900 biographies of dead Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives has revealed that some of Pakistan’s best educated men are being “dispatched to die” in the unending conflict with India over Kashmir with Punjab providing the bulk of this cannon fodder.

Based on historical precedent, the study on ‘The Fighters of LeT: Recruitment, Training, Deployment and Death’ warns that the reduction of the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan could bring them back to Kashmir. While admitting difficulty in predicting the directional priorities of Pakistan-based militant groups, it warns that internal security challenges faced by Pakistan and the State’s own shifting threat priorities could result in some of these groups reorienting and investing more broadly in the conflict in Indian Kashmir; the preferred “fighting ground” for 94 per cent of LeT recruits.

The study — conducted with the support of the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point — challenges the official narrative that Pakistanis are not involved in acts of terrorism, and only “diplomatic and moral support” is rendered to indigenous mujahideens fighting in India. “There is considerable overlap among the districts that produce LeT militants and those that produce Pakistan Army officers, a dynamic that raises a number of questions about potentially overlapping social networks between the Army and the LeT.”

In fact, according to the study, the expansive and overt presence of LeT throughout the country and its ability to recruit from schools, mosques and madrasas besides circulate its publications “speaks to a degree of tolerance if not outright assistance from the Pakistani State.”

As for the best-educated men being sent for jihad by LeT, it does not reflect the quality of their education but the level. The biographies challenge conventional wisdom that these terrorists are the product of low or no education and are being produced in madrasas. The “LeT militants are actually rather well-educated compared to Pakistani males generally” and the data shows that a bulk of them are products of regular schooling, not madrasas.

About 63 per cent of them have at least a secondary education; “suggesting that their educational distribution is slightly higher than the national attainment levels.” A majority of them have completed secondary school with high grades and quite a few of them have gone up to graduation levels.

Reflecting a concern expressed in several quarters that Pakistan’s breeding grounds for terrorism are not just the tribal areas but a more fertile ground exists in the heart of the country, the study shows that 89 per cent of LeT terrorists are recruited in the country’s most populous and prosperous province of Punjab.

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