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Terrorism

There is no single universally recognised definition of terrorism because; one man’s terrorist is often another man’s freedom fighter or hero.

Terrorism is perhaps the most widely used term in today’s world. But at the same time, it is perhaps the most complicated phenomenon to explain and the most difficult menace to contain. There is no single universally recognised definition of terrorism because; one man’s terrorist is often another man’s freedom fighter or hero.

This was stated by Brig(r) Syed Ghazanfar Ali at a lecture arranged by World Times at the Superior University.

Use of violence against colonialism and racism is now generally regarded as legitimate but terrorism involves deliberate and intentional use of force, violence and threat by some individual, group or even some entity of a state against apparently innocent people to achieve some political, social, economic or ideological objectives. It is directed against those who do not expect it.

In most cases, terrorism is the use of force which is the reaction of some injustice or denial of basic rights. It is a mode of reaction for those people who are fully convinced that their sufferings and miseries are being constantly ignored and whose frustration motivates them to a do or die situation.

Over the past few years, terrorism has grown in magnitude. The growing links between the terrorist groups, their easy access to modern media and weapons and easy availability of funds and sanctuaries for them have thrown the law enforcing agencies off balance. Terrorism is now generally recognised as a major strategic threat to many nations domestically.

In most cases, terrorism is the use of force which is the reaction of some injustice or denial of basic rights.
The use of violence at the state and non-state level is not something new. The ancient Romans used to persecute, banish and even kill their rebels and opponents in a ruthless manner. After the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans, the extremist Jews formed a number of militant groups such as the Zealots, who used to stab to death the Romans and their Jewish collaborators.

Generally, such murders were committed in broad daylight and in front of the masses. Later on, for their own specific ends, the followers of other religions also adopted such tactics which may now be termed as terrorist acts. In the 11th and 12th centuries, secret murders of Crusaders, politicians and religious figures were committed in Persia and Syria by a group called Assassins, who were also known as Hashish eaters. Such murders were committed at religious sites to give the message that the killers were making sacrifice to enter Paradise.

About a million murders were committed in India from the 17th to the 19th century by a Hindu religious cult known as Thugs, mainly consisting of robbers and killers, who strangled their victims and made their offering to the black goddess of the Hindus.
Besides the above mentioned religious motive, force and violence were also used for political and other objectives. Thus, shortly after the French Revolution, the newly established revolutionary government used ruthless force and oppression to suppress those elements which it regarded as subversive. The use of the Guillotine and other such tactics are well-known to everyone.

Quite interestingly, such acts of terrorism were regarded as vital by some leading revolutionaries for the success of their cause. In the subsequent years, the use of terror for bringing about change was considered to be a viable method for the promotion of some new secular ideologies such as Marxism, Anarchism and Nationalism.

After the American civil war, some extremist White southerners formed a secret terrorist organisation called Ku Klux Klan to resist the emancipation of slaves and to suppress the blacks. The anarchists, who were opposed to all forms of government and authority were very active in America in the late 19th century, killing leading politicians and state officials.

What we now describe as state-sponsored terrorism also began manifesting itself in the early 20th century. A number of Serbian government officials were involved in the training and arming of the militant Balkan groups responsible for the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo which started the First World War. Later in the 20th century, Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy used brute force for the suppression and elimination of their opponents.

Such misguided youngsters are easily entrapped by the terrorist organisations that use their youthful energies for destructive purpose. Thus, most of the suicide bombers are less than 20 years of age.
Similar techniques were used by the dictatorial regimes of South America a few decades ago. Israel’s aggression in Palestine is a classic example of state-sponsored terrorism.

After the Second World War, a number of nationalist anti-colonial and anti-imperialistic guerrilla movements started in Indo-China and Africa. Their bloody struggle for independence is now generally regarded as legitimate, yet there was a marked element of terror and violence in their insurgencies.

Some Marxist terrorist organisations like the Red Army faction and the Red Brigades also caused panic in Europe in the 70s and 80s. Towards the end of the 20th century, religiously motivated terrorism re-emerged with the chemical attack on Tokyo’s subway by a Japanese religious cult in 1995. The 9/11 attacks are also said to have been religiously motivated, though it is a much debatable and controversial assumption and will remain so till the future historians discover the real truth.

Economic disparities at the national and international level, poverty and unemployment are the issues often exploited by the terrorist organisations to recruit poor, uneducated and depressed people for carrying out terrorist activities. The crumbling of old social and cultural bonds shatters national identity causing a vacuum leading to anarchy, violence and terrorism.

Our educational system only produces paid civil servants without any creative, productive or moral ability. They believe that money is the only objective of education and at times, some highly educated unemployed people join terrorist organisations, assist the terrorists with their technical skills and make money or hope to use terrorism as a magic formula for changing the social order.

Some people are dissatisfied with their place in society, irritated at the attitude of others towards them and overwhelmed with the sense of neglect, isolation and non-participation. They become violent and aggressive and try to vent out their fury and frustration through acts of terrorism.

Some of the worst terrorists are those who are known as psychopaths. They are anti-social and inherently rebellious people opposed to all authority, law, discipline and order and are against every social custom, norm and convention. They commit the worst crimes for sheer enjoyment and are often intolerable, merciless and callous to the last extent. They can do any harm to achieve their objectives and often end up as drug addicts and bombers.

The young people are the most valuable asset for a nation, but due to the lack of proper training and education, most of them are highly emotional, reckless and immature; though full of energy, vigour and courage, without any proper sense of direction.

Such misguided youngsters are easily entrapped by the terrorist organisations that use their youthful energies for destructive purpose. Thus, most of the suicide bombers are less than 20 years of age.

Instead of learning any lesson from that grim tragedy, we are pursuing the same policies in Balochistan, paving the way for the emergence of terrorist organisations like Baloch Republican Army and Baloch Liberation Army, etc.

Similar techniques were used by the dictatorial regimes of South America a few decades ago. Israel’s aggression in Palestine is a classic example of state-sponsored terrorism.

After the Second World War, a number of nationalist anti-colonial and anti-imperialistic guerrilla movements started in Indo-China and Africa. Their bloody struggle for independence is now generally regarded as legitimate, yet there was a marked element of terror and violence in their insurgencies.

Some Marxist terrorist organisations like the Red Army faction and the Red Brigades also caused panic in Europe in the 70s and 80s. Towards the end of the 20th century, religiously motivated terrorism re-emerged with the chemical attack on Tokyo’s subway by a Japanese religious cult in 1995. The 9/11 attacks are also said to have been religiously motivated, though it is a much debatable and controversial assumption and will remain so till the future historians discover the real truth.

Economic disparities at the national and international level, poverty and unemployment are the issues often exploited by the terrorist organisations to recruit poor, uneducated and depressed people for carrying out terrorist activities. The crumbling of old social and cultural bonds shatters national identity causing a vacuum leading to anarchy, violence and terrorism.

Our educational system only produces paid civil servants without any creative, productive or moral ability. They believe that money is the only objective of education and at times, some highly educated unemployed people join terrorist organisations, assist the terrorists with their technical skills and make money or hope to use terrorism as a magic formula for changing the social order.

Some people are dissatisfied with their place in society, irritated at the attitude of others towards them and overwhelmed with the sense of neglect, isolation and non-participation. They become violent and aggressive and try to vent out their fury and frustration through acts of terrorism.

Some of the worst terrorists are those who are known as psychopaths. They are anti-social and inherently rebellious people opposed to all authority, law, discipline and order and are against every social custom, norm and convention. They commit the worst crimes for sheer enjoyment and are often intolerable, merciless and callous to the last extent. They can do any harm to achieve their objectives and often end up as drug addicts and bombers.

The young people are the most valuable asset for a nation, but due to the lack of proper training and education, most of them are highly emotional, reckless and immature; though full of energy, vigour and courage, without any proper sense of direction.

Such misguided youngsters are easily entrapped by the terrorist organisations that use their youthful energies for destructive purpose. Thus, most of the suicide bombers are less than 20 years of age.

People often resort to terrorism when they are oppressed by a sense of injustice and when they believe that their legitimate political, social, economic and religious rights are being usurped. This is exactly what is happening in Balochistan whose people have been subjected too much injustice and exploitation, forcing them to take up arms.

The threatened Tamil minority in Sri Lanka formed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil (LTTE) to resist against Sinhala domination. Similarly, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was formed to protest against the injustices done to the Catholics in Northern Ireland. Same is the case with Kurdish and Basque separatists.

Religiously inspired terrorism is growing everywhere. Almost half of the 56 most notable terrorist organisations of the world have religious connections.

Thus, we have the Jewish extremists who attacked Gaza two years ago and Hindu extremists, who demolished the Babri Mosque and burnt the Samjhota Express. Some right-wing terrorists are also present in the world. The government building in Oklahoma was bombed and destroyed by an American right-wing extremist named Timothy Macway.

American foreign policy based on arrogance, aggression, narrow selfish interests, continuous support for Israel, desire to dominate the whole world and impose its own cultural and social values on all other nations are creating irrepressible hatred for America in the hearts of all the Muslims. Such feelings are being further aggravated by its policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

In this way, Americans who claim to be leading the global war on terror are themselves the main promoters of terrorism. In the same way, various intelligence agencies of the world are in one way or the other, encouraging the growth of terrorist activities. The so-called Mujahideen who fought against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan were trained by The American CIA and Pakistan’s ISI.

Many of these terrorists are now causing havoc in Pakistan and other parts of the world. It is now firmly established that Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies are actively supporting the terrorist networks in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan. The Pakistani Taliban who frequently carry out suicide attacks in the country often try to justify their activities by referring to the drone attacks in the tribal areas. These drone attacks are planned and carried out by the CIA. Israeli intelligence agency Musad has a vast network of its secret agents who can kill their enemies anywhere in the world.

Pakistan is a victim of domestic as well as international terrorism which has led to horrible consequences for the country. At the time of its establishment some people had thought that the presence of common religion would overcome territorial, social, cultural and linguistic differences.

But unfortunately, the political use of religion has made religion one of the major causes of terrorism in the country. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, the Shias of Pakistan formed Tehrike-i-Nifaze-i-Fiqah Jafria with the active support from Iran. Shortly afterwards, Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) was formed with the support of the Zia regime and Saudi Arabia. To counter the influence of this mainly Deobandi organisation, Sipah-i-Muhammad came into being.

Soon afterwards, tit for tat killings started in this Shia-Sunni conflict. Later, Lashkar-i-Taiba, Jeshe Muhammad and other such terrorist organisations also emerged on the scene. In addition to this sectarian terrorism, a cycle of violence is going on between Sindhis and Muhajirs, Punjabis and Balochis and other communities. This communal violence gained a fresh momentum with the formation of Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM).

It is often said that some foreign hands are also involved in promoting terrorism in Pakistan but the fact is that the social, economic and political conditions prevailing in our country are to a large extent responsible for this evil. Continuous injustice and exploitation forced the Bengalis to form Mukti Bahini in East Pakistan (New Bangladesh) and secede from the country.

Instead of learning any lesson from that grim tragedy, we are pursuing the same policies in Balochistan, paving the way for the emergence of terrorist organisations like Baloch Republican Army and Baloch Liberation Army, etc.

The terrorists are fully benefiting from the latest scientific advancements such as computers, internet and mobile phones. Globalisation is shrinking the world and bringing the nations together. It is also enabling the terrorists to coordinate their activities and conduct them jointly. They have got highly sophisticated networks. A terrorist organisation or group generally has a command cell consisting of the main leadership.

Then there is the intelligence cell which gathers all the information regarding the proposed target. It assesses the accessibility, accuracy and utility of the proposed attack. The support cell provides all the logistical support, including the weapons and shelter to the members of the tactical cell who actually launches the attack. The traditional methods of counter terrorism and counter insurgency are quite ineffective in these circumstances. The urgency of the situation calls for a thorough review of our anti-terrorism strategies.

We are generally more focused on apprehending the terrorists but we should also make concerted efforts to root out the above mentioned causes of terrorism. The neglected and deprived people must be brought into the mainstream. Economic disparities should be removed. The sheer use of force will further frustrate and outrage the people and instigate them to commit even deadlier attacks. It is, therefore, necessary that their genuine grievances should be honestly addressed. Through proper education, people should be given the real understanding of religion.

By: Brig Syed Ghazanfar Ali (retd)

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