Socio-Political Profile Of Terrorism In South Asia – Analysis


In fact the intermingling of Pak-Afghan society at various levels led to the formation of the Taliban, a home-grown – Pak militia. It was the product of extreme Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan. Taliban of Afghanistan is the product of Deoband thinking as it evolved in Pakistan after partition. The Wahabis and the Salaifis of Saudi Arabia can be counted as clones of the Talibanised mindset.

At the height of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan, the USA had fostered Talibans through the Benazir Bhutto government of Pakistan to help Mujahideens fight the Soviets. Alignment and realignment of forces took place periodically with a view to marginalising various national movements within Afghanistan until it suited the Pakistan-American coalition interests. Several similar organisations, leaders-Tajik-leader Ahmed Shah Masood, Uzbek leader General Rashid Dastum, the Northern Alliance leader Mohammed Fakim Khan and Pashtuns chieftain Gulbuddin Hekhmatyar were constantly put at loggerheads with one another to facilitate the prospects of Talibans.

The Taliban began as reformers, following a tradition in Muslim history based on the notion of Jihad-holy war against infidels. Jihad however, does not sanction the killing of fellow Muslims on the basis of ethnicity or sect. Yet the Taliban has used it for just that. Taliban, a force which grew out of Afghan refugee students who got their religious and military training in Pakistani madrassas, gradually established close ties not only with the military but with many sectors of Pakistani society and later formed a government in Afghanistan when Soviet army withdrew at the close of the eighties.

Main motivation and programming

Al-Qaeda, meaning “the base” is a global terror group is the main threat to our open and democratic societies. In its quest to establish the global Kalifat, organisations as Al-Qaeda are seeking to direct a deadly blow to the fundamental set-up of our societies and of the international community as a whole. Osama bin Laden, its supreme leader, was a Saudi fugitive and the Emir General of Al-Qaeda.

There is a Majlis called al Shura or governing Council with active member–citizens from many countries, who are loyal to Osama. Al-Qaeda does not have specific territorial boundaries. Their borders stretch up to wherever Islam has spread. Osama’s greatest success was to make this particular interpretation of radical Islamism globally known.

There are other strands of militant thinking and strategy but 20 years of “propaganda by deed” made it the dominant one. A thriving Jihadi subculture has emerged, and it has become, in many ways a social movement. its ideology spawned a Pan Islamic thrust. It emphasised that a Muslim’s first loyalty was to his creed, not his nation; any means of violence could be employed including weapons of mass destruction to achieve political and other aims; and belonging to one Ummah a Muslim could participate in any struggle world wide where Islam or its believers were being victimised.

With this ideology, drawn–from scriptures, a Muslim was freed from the need of having any further organisational guidance. The result was that many Muslim groups in many parts of the world, started thinking and acting on identical lines. There was an upsurge in fundamentalism world wide and of terror.

Born in March 1957, Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was the seventh son among 50 or more siblings. He had united disparate militant groups, from Egypt to Chechnya, from Yemen to the Philippines, under the banner of his Al-Qaeda organisation and his ideal of a borderless brotherhood of radical Islam. Initially, for years when he was not a known face bin Laden had sought to become the principal leader of the Jihadist movement, by developing loose alliances with ideologically–affiliated organisations–alliances that were built around personal relationships, and cemented with cash from his coffers.

Osama was then a non-entity, going from one ethnic leader to another to seek protection and favour of a fugitive until he settled down with the Taliban leader, Mulla Omar, who had allegedly married his eldest daughter. Marital relations between the families of Osama and Omar fermented their politico– religious alliance to fortitude. Defence of Islam became the common platform of unity. Money got from opium cultivation and narcotic trade cemented the bond between Taliban and Al-Qaeda and over the years both became invincible enemies of democracy. For the first time during 1979-89 bin Laden built reputation helping US-sponsored Mujahideen fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

Encashment of an opportunity

The Soviet takeover in Afghanistan ended in February 1989 marked the end of an era. The supply of US arms which were given to Afghan rebels to fight against the Soviet army and, Pakistan to protect itself from Soviet influences were suddenly came to a halt. The US was not in favor of establishing the kind of government in Kabul that Afghan rebels wanted.

The pro-US elements in Kabul also suffered a set back on account of Gulf crisis that prevented them to be famous internationally but, more to Soviet disintegration which marked the end of cold war between the two super powers and made US least interested in Afghan affairs. In the whole Afghan episode, Pakistan created and nurtured Taliban-Al-Qaeda for transnational terrorism to achieve predominance in the Islamic world. The Pakistan establishment apparently felt that by facilitating the various partners in the Taliban-Al-Qaeda it can obtain their help in pursuing its own foreign policy objectives.

The most commonly given rationale for this belief by people like General Hamid Gul, General Durani and General Aslam Beg was that this collective effort succeeded in defeating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. When a superpower is defeated by this strategy, it will work in other places also, The Taliban’s military success in Afghanistan and their missionary zeal has infected Pakistani brethren influencing them with renewed fervour to bring a truly Islamic state.

The terror organisation Al-Qaeda had, at the beginning, a core of just under 200 cadre-120-odd grouped together in a crack unit, and a small number of foot-soldiers handling logistical work and training. By the time a thousand men had graduated from the training camps it ran in Afghanistan, but they were riven by ideological disputation and personal feuds. However, in a decade Osama’s Al-Qaeda was linked to its different branches proliferated all over the world and the number of Al-Qaeda training camps rose to 30 in Afghanistan only. Al-Qaeda has always been an organisation that depended as much on local initiative as on top–down direction.

Its complex organisational structure is something between a centralised hierarchy and a decentralised flat network. It is a flexible and adaptable organisation that has survived well beyond the lifespan of most other terrorist organisation. But decentralisation remained an integral part of the strategy of Osama. Al-Qaeda was conceived as an umbrella group, channeling and focusing the diverse energies of the various groups active across the Islamic world in the 1990s.

This worked for a while but the main regional groups now Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (largely the Yemen), Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (largely Algeria) and Al-Qaeda in Iraq are largely independent of the main leadership. Each is rooted in specific local factors and history. The terrorist organisations spread all over the world made it a wider phenomenon.

After Soviet retreat in Afghanistan

Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, after the 1989 Soviet retreat, returned to Saudi Arabia to be showered with praise but soon during the Gulf conflict he tried to dissuade Saudi government from allowing infidel armies into Saudi Arabia. The Saudi leadership then turned to US for protection. Bin Laden bitterly criticised both–Saudi government and Washington.

As a result in 1992 Saudi Arabia freezed Laden’s bank account that was followed by his expulsion from the country on known international pressure in 1996. Now he returned to Afghanistan, set up several training camps, the same year, and had sought attention of the world by declaring war against the United States of America, a super power. On August 7, 1998 Al-Qaeda bombed US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed 231 people. He gave radical Islam another push by crafting the World Islamic Front in 1998.

Interestingly, five extremist organisations of Pakistan including Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Hizbul-e-Jihad-e-Islami had joined the Front among others from the Islamic countries and became founder members of the organisation. The Front was mainly meant for Jihad against the Crusaders and the Jews. However, joining of Pakistani extremist organisation and guidance of ISI included Hindu India in the list of enemies and in later years the Front became a tool to fulfil the Islamist ambitions of Pakistan, against India in particular.

Today’s Islamists, a conglomerate of several groups, want to bring the entire contemporary society under what they call God’s sovereignty and laws laid down in the scriptures – as interpreted by them. There are differences in their methods of operations but their focus basically remains on achieving political power by use of force.

Terrorism is one manifestation of inordinate use of force for gaining political objectives. Of the terror philosophers the two-Syed Qutb of Egypt (1906-66) and Maulana Abdul A’la Maududi in India (1903-47) and later in Pakistan (1948-79) deserve special mention in this context. Syed Qutb belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt interpreted some traditional Islamic norms to mean that use of violent means for achieving power and influence is justified and to fight non-believers was a duty towards God. He preached that any system not based on divine revelation or ‘Hadith’ is Jahilleye–pagan state of object ignorance that prevailed in pre-Islamic Arabia. Likewise Maududi preached fundamentalist Islam of the Qutb variety. He was the founder of Jama’at-e-Islami in Pakistan which he visualised as a party that must wage Jihad against all infidels and non-conformist Muslim societies.These were the founding fathers of the contemporary fundamentalist movement and Jihad in its present violent form. They wanted to create a religion–based world order in which non–believers have to be converted or destroyed. Thus terrorism poses a threat to globalisation.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is a University Professor for the last 20 years and presently Head of the P.G. Department of Political Science, B.N. Mandal University, West Campus, P.G. Centre,Saharsa (Bihar), India. In addition to 17 books published so far there are over 250 articles to his credit out of which above 100 are from 30 foreign countries. His recent published books include Transformation of modern Pak Society-Foundation, Militarisation, Islamisation and Terrorism (Germany, 2017),and New Surroundings of Pak Nuclear Bomb (Mauritius, 2018). He is an authority on Indian Politics and its relations with foreign countries.

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