The Indian political environment is ripe with stories of Islamic invasions, Hindu-Muslim tensions and land title disputes. The easiest emotional currency that politicians can use is Kashmir, terrorism and Pakistan’s LeT. While navigating through this fragile socio-political atmosphere, Christine Fair managed to very simply explain the workings of one of the biggest terror organisations in the world, the Lashkar- E-Taiba.
As she put it, it IS Pakistan’s LeT. Through Christine’s extensive travels throughout Asia and a detailed study of political and military events in South Asia, she has attempted at understanding the symbiotic relationship that Pakistan has nurtured with the LeT.
In understanding the LeT, their “wide collection of publications are the lowest hanging fruit,” she said. Pakistan never let her easily access propagandist material. However, post being ‘kicked out’ of the country, she could lay hands on some of their deep-rooted ideologies in the American Library of Congress! And since then, she has churned out a multitude of books that attempt at explaining the gruesome reality of this dynamic. Her long seated association hence opened up some rarely known facts about the terror group.
One, for instance, is that the LeT disassociate themselves completely from ISIS for ideological reasons. Unlike other organisations, they never attacked Pakistan and have attempted at creating a very pro-state repertoire for themselves. The LeT has become a very reliable proxy for Pakistan to carry out the needed in both India and Afghanistan while creating a reputation as removed from reality- that of non-violence and pure religious leanings. Their enormous social infrastructure goes as far as providing welfare to Hindus in the Sindh region. With close to no government support, such efforts have translated into very strong image building for the LeT.
The Problem: “Very few Pakistani’s ascribe to their ideological variant of Islam. Out of the 100 that are trained, only a handful get to India and get killed. A majority go back to their district and proselytize on behalf of them.”
According to Christine, to achieve this mission, it is very important for the LeT to follow a recruitment structure that can achieve large numbers. Interestingly, Christine drew a parallel between the American army recruiters and the LeT. The US Army begins recruitment at the age of 16. Post this age, individuals identify better opportunities for themselves and it gets tough to get them into army boots. With minors in the picture parental consent must be received. And the same model is followed by the LeT.
Exploring this dynamic revealed a lot about the importance of families and women in the terror groups’ singular mission and the instrument of Jihad. With women being the nurturers of children, they were the first to proscribe to the Jihadi ideology.
As Christine moved deeper into exploring the reasons behind this family dynamic, the first reason she arrived at was the status of a shahid’s (martyr’s) mother. Mothers, in the biographies they wrote for their sons, never made a distinction between being martyred as a terror group member or as a member of the Pakistan Military Army. “Do not come back a Ghazi- a veteran” the mothers said. We can never really define if these women really desired to be such Gold Star Mothers. But years of propaganda has set this as an ideal to aspire towards.
The second reason was that the mothers desired to move to heaven through their sons’ actions. With Islamic interpretations manipulated to justify the LeT’s creed of Islam, they convinced the mothers to send their sons on suicide operations so that they can intercede on their behalf and eventually attain ‘jannat’.
These interpretations, to a large extent, prescribe all sorts of correct Muslim behaviour- the need to veil correctly or to avoid engaging in pundi- maintaining inappropriate relationships with women. The LeT valued every death for the mission and high commanders, sometimes, Hafeez Saeed himself paid respects directly to families.
What we see is that the LeT has managed to run an organisation by not simply recruiting members but by recruiting families that have helped the community grow at a rapid pace.
As a listener in the session, it was interesting to look at the recruitment processes of the LeT. Their recruits are driven by a singular mission and a hope to achieve a goal bigger than themselves. It was surprising to learn how they managed to do this in an extremely cost-effective manner. When soldiers vow to kill themselves, the economics of war becomes very simple. As the soldiers chase ideological reconciliation, no tangible inputs are required.
With up to 90% of the LeT being homegrown in merely 10 districts of the Pakistani Punjab region, the PMA found a strong ally and a malleable instrument of war.
About the Author: Deepika Aiyer is a 20 year old Literature Fest enthusiast who looks forward to being blown away by new ideas, opinions and schools of thought. She currently writes for The Seer