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Updated: April 10, 2013 13:06 IST

Young, educated and dangerous

Anita Joshua
Comment (15)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

An analysis of 900 biographies of Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives killed between 1989 and 2008 chips at the argument that youngsters in Pakistan take to terrorism out of poverty and deprivation alone

When Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American upwardly mobile son of a retired senior Pakistan Air Force officer was picked up for the bombing attempt at New York City’s Times Square in the summer of 2010, it was seen as an aberration but it chipped at the comforting argument that youngsters take to terrorism out of poverty and deprivation.

Subsequent studies have driven home this disconcerting fact. The radicalisation of Pakistani society was pervasive enough for analyst Ayesha Siddiqa to call it a “social pop culture” in her study of the socio-political attitudes among students of elite educational institutions in 2010.

Another concern that emerged in several attempts to understand terrorism in Pakistan was that it was not peripheral geographically — as in not just confined to the tribal areas adjoining Afghanistan — but flourishing right in the heart of the country, especially Punjab. The Pakistan Security Report of 2010, brought out by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, dwelt on “growing urban terrorism.”

And, more recently, a pre-election survey conducted by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute had Central Punjab showing the strongest support for punishment for blasphemy laws, maximum opposition to non-Muslims in public office, and anti-Ahmadi sentiments.

The recent analysis of 900 biographies of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives killed between 1989 and 2008, thus, fits the pattern that has been established though the powers that be in Pakistan seemingly refuse to read the writing on the wall. The LeT cadres were found to be well-educated compared to Pakistani men, and the bulk of the recruitment was from Punjab.

Locations and recruitments

Billed as one of Pakistan’s most “lethal and potent militant proxy groups” essentially focused on “waging a low-level war of attrition in Indian Kashmir,” a vast majority of LeT fighters were Punjabi, not Kashmiri.

As much as 89 per cent of the recruits were from Punjab and within the province, while a greater number of militants seem to have originated from the areas that border India or are quite close to it. A majority of the militants under the scanner in this study came from densely populated and urbanised districts of the province with Gujranwala, Faislabad and Lahore producing more terrorists than any other district in the country. These are also the locations where the LeT is active and has a lot of infrastructure.

Links with army

Conducted with the support of Combating Terrorism Centre at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, the study does not subscribe to 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 LeT.’’ “While certainly not the norm, at least 18 biographies in our data set describe connections between LeT fighters and immediate family members (i.e. fathers or brothers) who are currently serving or had served in Pakistan’s army or air force. In several of these cases, the militant’s father had fought with the Pakistani Army in the 1965 war in Kashmir and/or during the conflict in 1971 over the status of then East Pakistan. In one case a militant’s father was described as a senior officer in the Pakistan army.”

As for LeT’s training capacity, the authors of the study, titled “The Fighters of Lashkar-e-Taiba: Recruitment, Training, Deployment and Death,” quote estimates suggesting that at least three lakh men have received some form of LeT training over the last two decades.

They are picked young with 90 per cent of the militants joining the LeT before they turned 22. The youngest recruit this study threw up was 11, the oldest, 30. The mean age when a recruit joins LeT is 16.95 years and the militants’ median age at the time of death is 21. Among the 900 biographies, the youngest age at which a militant died was 14. While this analysis shows that some of the best educated men of Pakistan were sent to Indian Kashmir to die, it challenges the perception that they are all products of religious education offered through the madrassas. Religious education in all likelihood supplemented non-religious education rather than the former serving as a substitute for the latter. The amount of time fighters spent at a madrassa was less than three years on average. Fewer than five per cent of fighters had attained a sanad (a formal certificate signifying completion of a defined religious curriculum).

Stating that the data at hand attests “to the enduring nature of LeT and its sustained ability to attract high-quality recruits from across the Punjab and through a variety of means for operations throughout South Asia,” the authors of the study conclude that the ongoing programmes to Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) will not diminish the LeT’s ability to recruit, retain and deploy militants.

“For CVE programming in Pakistan to be effective, it would have to undermine the trust that exists between LeT and members of Pakistani society, and counter the narrative that LeT is an instrument for positive change,” says the study. This task is rendered challenging by the range of LeT’s social service activities through its reincarnate, the Jamat-ud-Da’wah. Add to this the LeT’s linkages with elements in the security establishment. Referring to the expansive and overt presence of the LeT throughout the country and its ability to recruit from schools, mosques and madrassas besides circulate its publications, the authors say this reflects a “degree of tolerance if not outright assistance from the Pakistani state.”

Having said this, the concern articulated is that should elements of Pakistan’s security establishment view it in their interest to spoil peace or reignite conflict in the region (potentially to serve as a release valve for domestic challenges or to direct the actions of militants actively waging war against Islamabad), they will likely turn to trusted Pakistani militant groups like LeT to do their bidding.

The article has been corrected for a typo error

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I read somewhere education makes man humble.But the topic of this ink
is bit contradictory.The crux of this ink is,the survey where it
revealed that young educated generation of Pakistan inclining towards
Shariya. There is two parallel line in this ink and both is getting
connected at terrorism junction.In pretext of contemporary world
situation,where a well fabricated scene 9/11 changed the paradigm of
world perception caused a major paranoia between Islam and world.Islam
and its follower being targeted overtly and covertly across the
globe.By deep paranoia and collusion of some developed nation some
country like Iraq Libya etc lost its course and momentum and humanity
got tampered.Everyday a world confined strip blinking eyeing on rest of
the world and waiting for good days.Perhaps how much author has done
justice by his articulation i do not know but,i wish we need to think
for how to enhance human value among the human and make this world a
viable,better and peaceful place to live.

from:  Rehan
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 12:43 IST

Educated or illiterate and poor, it is a case of indoctrination and misinformation. From the higher echelons of the government and military to the Mullahs in the mosques, if they indoctrinate the people then these Jihadi madmen will be created.

from:  Vipul
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 19:56 IST

@ Ahmad
According to your comments, anybody with any gripes against the establishment is justified in resorting to terrorism? The Tibetans who have been occupied by China since the 1950's have not resorted to terror. There are many other groups, like the Hindus and other minorities of Pakistan and Bangladesh, they have not resorted to terror. Unfortunately Islamic Jihad ideology takes over the heart and soul of its victims and destroys them.

from:  Vipul
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 19:10 IST

@Ahmad. While it is true that the Indian state might be guilty of all the oppressive
crimes you have listed, it does not justify the Pakistani security apparatus's
support of LeT terrorism in India. This is an illogical argument! If one wants a
friendly relationship with one's neighbour, you do not fire bombs their homes.
Would it be proper for India to offer aid and support to Baluchi separatists to
terrorize Pakistani civilians? Of course not! If Pakistan wants to enter the civilized
world of nations, then its Army & ISI must be brought under the control of a
civilian democracy. Then perhaps India & Pakistan can start talking about
normalizing their relationship.

from:  G Parameswaran
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 18:55 IST

@Mr.Ahmad you are just trying to cover the fact that even educated
Pakistanis are terrorists by stating some stray cases.Your logic is
skewed and thought ,narrow-minded.What is wrong in calling a spade a
spade?...And also justify the fads that you have stated like oppression
in J&K and NE..It is not India that is oppressing the people in J&K
but,fanatics from Pakistan...

from:  Akshay Bhatt
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 18:07 IST

A very good article but there is nothing surprising in the article. The dangerous and vicious ideology of Islamic Jihad all over the world is there for all to see. Once it invades your soul and mind, as in the case of all these 'Fidayeens and Mujahids', then these people are mere robots, thinking that eternal heaven is a guarantee. So whether the Jihadis are poor, illiterate or well educated, the people and governments who spread this deadly ideology need to be stopped.

from:  Vida
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 17:55 IST

The argument/hypothesis is definitely debatable. The study seems to have completely avoided the indirect influence on these educated minds to take to terrorism. The biggest reason could be their education, which made them think about their fellow human beings, as their life was comparatively better off; fact on which the whole argument of the study is based on. The injustice their fellow citizens had to face because of their societal situation, and their helplessness could be the trigger. The second important indirect cause could be their inability to find a decent job in their society which could equal the privileges offered by militant groups. Being related to defense family members, puts them in higher importance within militant groups, and the chances of them being sent off to die as foot soldiers is much less. They end up being in high ranks withing such groups enjoying much power and resources. The study seems to have missed these, raising doubts about its claim's authenticity.

from:  Satish
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:51 IST

First of all, I must say this is nice piece of research work.

But I want to criticize this article on two aspects:
1- 44% of the recruits have completed 10th standard (which is better than Pakistani average). But, can we call a group of people, 56% of whom have not even completed 10th std, "Educated"? I guess not.
2- The second issue with this article is an attempt to show relationship between military and LeT by claiming that 18 bios have direct relationships with armymen. But these are 18 out of 900 biographies! Lets do some maths.

Acc to dataset, % of terrorists with armymen in family = 18/900 = 2%
Pakistani armed forces = 1 million (reserves included)
Assume average family size in Pakistan = 5
=> People with immediate relationship to armymen in Pakistan = 5 m
Total Pakistani population = 176 m
=> % of terrorists with can have armymen in family at random = 5/176 = 2.8%

So, I don't see any positive correlation between a person joining LeT and presence of armymen in his family.

from:  TBM
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:41 IST

One thing is in serious error here. You should scrutinize it. What you call a secular education? 10th Matric? You should read pakistani books from nursery to 10th. They make every student irrespective of religion read Kalma. There are flamming remarks againsts hindus, christians and sikhs in their books which shapes a child's mind from a very early age. Don't discount such issues for a superlative issue like poverty. The level of poverty is also much more India considering the amount of population by this theory we would be having more terrorists joining the ranks.

from:  brij Singh
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:49 IST

Sir,the same is true for Lt Col Purohit and Swami Aseemanad, one a highly decorated Army officer and other a dual postgraduate degree holder. You will also find highly educated youth taking to extremism in Neo-Nazi groups of Germany. The problem of militancy can only be solved by addressing the root causes like the oppression in J&K, NE and denails of rights and land grabbing in case of Naxalism. People's support is important for survival of these militant movements and once the state addresses the problems of the people, militancy will automatically be defeated.

from:  Ahmad
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:07 IST

This is a dangerous sign that even people who are educated, who otherwise could
have had a decent living, are being recruited in LeT. If this was not the case then an
effective strategy would have been to ensure development and improve employment
opportunities for Pakistani youth. But, this finding raised doubts over sufficiency of
that strategy.
The problem is more fundamental than disillusionment with Indian state. A key
pointer is that they are recruited at very young ages when the mind is the most
vulnerable to whitewashing. This is the problem area. Recruiters are often egged on
by the security establishment to try to influence young people who are then ready to
sacrifice their lives.
The Pakistani security establishment must stop helping this recruiters. if this is not
checked then like India if Pakistan ever traverses the path of modernity and
democracy then these very people along with their recruits will stand in its way.

from:  Mukut Ray
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 11:49 IST

Even to day, our secular intellectuals camouflaging and arguing that,the poverty is the cause for Islamic terrorism

from:  C S Sundaresha
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 11:17 IST

They needed a study to know what the Indian Forces know for years? Maybe
the western press should be hauled up for publishing "No Pakistani
terrorists in Kashmir" for so long. Shades of Celia Dugger,(NYT)! Or
Mark Tully who recently 'apologised' for his misleading (lying)
articles. He could apologise to those who died, on both sides.

from:  bharati
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:32 IST

Indian security forces are aware that when the Naxalite movement started many university educated youths from well-placed families were involved. The student revolts in 1968, in Paris and in Berkeley,took place during a time of economic boom, and not during recession, but it was a time when the Vietnam War was escalated. Movements for violent social change historically have not been led by the poorest of the poor but by middle peasants, the petit and middle bourgeoisie. So, the trigger for violent reaction is not the direct experience of extreme poverty but the existence of oppression and gross injustice under which many others are seen to suffer.Such conditions seem to bring out the best and the worst from youth who turn to violence as the simplest way of protesting.

from:  vithal rajan
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 09:36 IST

Mohmood Katju please take note.

from:  Ram ram
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 05:46 IST
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