Tuesday, April 7, 2009



We have not seen an act of jihadi terrorism--- suicide or suicidal--- committed or attempted by self-radicalised Muslims originating from the sub-continent since the attempted terrorist strikes in London and Glasgow in June,2007, internationally and since the wave of suicide terrorism in Pakistan during 2007-08 in the wake of the commando raid in the Lal Mosque of Islamabad in July,2007.Many tribal girls coming from poor families in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were killed when they resisted the commandoes of the Pakistan Army.

2. The years 2007 and 2008 saw a large number of acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistan committed or attempted by the so-called Jundullas---soldiers of Allah. These were self-radicalised individual Muslims, not belonging to any organisation, who took to suicide or suicidal terrorism --- either on their own or in association with acqaintances--- in order to give vent to their anger against the Pakistan Army or the US or both. These self-radicalised individuals were also called free-lance jihadis. They indulged in terrorism as an act of reprisal and for upholding the honour of Islam and not for earning money.

3. While the level of suicide terrorism in Pakistan remains as high as it was during 2007 and 2008, the perpetrators are increasingly teen-age or even child mercenaries who joined the terrorist organisations for money and were then motivated to volunteer for suicide terrorism by the leaders of these organisations. As the Time magazine has pointed out in a very good analysis of the confessional statement of Azam Amir Kasab of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), who participated in the terrorist attack in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, what initially drove him into the waiting arms of the LET was the poverty of his family and his own miserable life. It was not religious anger, but frustration arising rom a miserable existence which made him join the LET. The brain-washers of the LET converted this frustration into religious anger by showing videos of alleged atrocities against Muslims in Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of India and the world and made him volunteer for the suicidal mission. The offer of money for him and his family helped in converting a poor, frustrated boy into a religious fanatic, who was prepared to kill and be killed.

4. Available details of some of the recent terrorist strikes in Pakistan---- whether by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) headed by Baitullah Mehsud or the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ)---- show that the extreme poverty in Pakistan's tribal belt and in the villages of Punjab is increasingly being exploited by the Pakistani jihadi organisations----including the anti-India ones such as the LET--- to recruit volunteers from poor families with offers of money to them and their families for brain-washing and subsequent exploitation for suicide or suicidal missions.In the past, the promises made to such volunteers related to heaven after their death, but the promises now being made relate to a better life for their near and dear ones if they undertake a suicide or suicidal mission. Promise of money for their families and not virgins for them in heaven if they "martyr" themselves is the new motivating factor.

5. The leaders of the Pakistani jihadi organisations such as Baitullah, Prof-Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed of the LET, Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), Qari Saifullah Akhtar of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and of the Afghan Taliban such as Jalluddin Haqqani and his son Serajuddin have stepped up their recruitment through offers of money to children and teen-agers from poor families and turning them into suicide or suicidal terrorists. A suicide terrorist who killed nearly 30 Shias at Chakwal in Pakistani Punjab on April 5 was reportedly only 15 years old. The other suicide terrorist from the TTP, who killed eight persons in an attack on the barracks of a Frontier Constabulary unit at Islamabad on April 4, was reportedly less than 20 years old. Well-informed Pakistani sources say that Baitullah has about 300 child and teenager recruits from poor families at his disposal for undertaking suicide and suicidal missions.

6. The phenomenon of an increased flow of recruits from poor families has been accompanied by a decline in instances of acts of suicide or suicidal terrorism by self-radicalised individuals. This decrease can be attributed to four factors. Firstly, the intense tribal anger after the Lal Mosque raid has started subsiding. Secondly, the improvement in the ground situation in Iraq, which has consequently practically disappeared from the TV screen. Thirdly, the greater care observed by the US forces in Afghanistan while using air strikes against the Neo Taliban, which has reduced the number of civilian casualties. And fourthly, the equal care observed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US in using Predator strikes on Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in the Pakistani tribal belt, which too has reduced casualties of innocent civilians. One no longer sees the kind of large demonstrations by local civilians which one used to see after the Predator strikes in 2006 and 2007. The anti-US anger in the tribal belt has not subsided, but it is not as intense and as virulent as it was during the period when civilian casualties due to US air and Predator strikes were high.

7. The phenomenon of suicide or suicidal terrorism by self-radicalised Muslims is not yet dead, but it is declining, but it could pick up again if the civilian casualties due to the actions of the US-led NATO forces go up again. The decision of the NATO to appoint Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Danish Prime Minister, as the NATO Secretary-General is likely to become a new source of anger and could lead to fresh acts of terrorism by self-radicalised Muslims. The former Danish Prime Minister is widely disliked in the Islamic world because of what was seen as his failure to act against a cartoonist who produced cartoons which hurt the feelings of the Muslims of the world.

8.How to prevent the stepped-up exploitation of poverty by the jihadi leaders mentioned above for maintaining the tempo of suicide or suicidal terrorism? Economic development and lesser poverty is a long-term solution. Equally important is the targeted elimination of such jihadi leaders who transform frustration due to poverty into religious fanaticism and the targeted destruction of their infrastructure which transform the recruits from poverty into suicide or suicidal terrorists. ( (8-4-09).

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )