Tracing Lashkar-e-Toiba

Terrorism has proven to be one of the most imminent threats before nations and governments. Few regions of the world have been left untarnished by violent activities of terrorist groups. The Asian subcontinent has become the hub of several dissident groups, that often use terrorism as their modus operandi. Lashkar-e-Toiba is regarded as one of the most feared groups operating in India and Pakistan. As is the case with many extremist groups operating in the region, Lashkar-e-Toiba cites religion as a major motivation behind its ideological manifesto. The Lashkar-e-Toiba’s opposition to Indian sovereignty over Kashmir, combined with its religious fanaticism makes it a grave threat to peace and stability in the region.

The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) came into existence in 1990 in the Kunar province of Afghanistan. Also called the Jama’at-ud-Da’awa (Party of the Calling), it is based in Muridke near Lahore in Pakistan. The Lashkar-e-Toiba is the “militant arm” of the Dawat-ul-Irshad, a religious group established by Hafiz Saeed and Zafar Iqbal, professors at the Lahore Engineering University, in 1987. Lashkar-e-Toiba is considered to be “the largest jihadi organization of Pakistan with highly trained militants who are willing to go to war wherever and whenever the commander (Amir) orders.”

Until September 11, 2001, “Lashkar, with its reputation for being purely focused on fighting India in Kashmir, was able to operate openly inside Pakistan, raising funds and recruiting members.” (“Profile: Lashkar-e-Toiba”) Almost all shops in the market streets of every Pakistani street had a collection box to raise funds for Lashkar’s struggle in Kashmir. Disagreement with Musharaff’s post 9/11 policy, brought Lashkar in contact with sectarian groups. The military regimen of Pakistan, under Gen. Pervez Musharraf banned the Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan on January 12, 2002. Before that, the United States Government included the Lashkar-e-Toiba in the Terrorist Exclusion List on December 5, 2001. The India outlawed The Lashkar-e-Toiba under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the United Nations proscribed it in May 2005.

By mid-2002 the Lashkar-e-Toiba had renamed itself Jama’at-ud-Da’awa and affirmed that it would continue its activities in what India calls, PoK or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. On December 13, 2001, the Indian parliament in New Delhi was attacked jointly by the Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Lashkar-e-Taiba was blamed for October 2005 bomb blasts in Delhi, the Indian capital. The police had earlier accused the organization for executing explosions in the Indian city, Mumbai in August 2003. The blasts killed 55 people and injured at least 180. The aforesaid activities of the group are reflective of the two chief reasons why the group has taken to terrorism, first, religious fanaticism of its members, and second, the political milieu in South Asia, with India and Pakistan placing opposing claims to territorial rights over Kashmir.

The Lashkar-e-Toiba’s ‘agenda’, as has been outlined in a pamphlet entitled “Why are we waging jihad” which refers to the restoration of Islamic rule over all parts of India. Moreover, “the outfit seeks to bring about a union of all Muslim majority regions” surrounding Pakistan. Towards achieving this end, the Lashkar-e-Toiba is active in J&K, Chechnya and parts of Central Asia. Indian independence from British colonial rule in 1947 was accompanied by the partition of India and Pakistan into separate states. Kashmir’s accession to India was disputed and challenging India’s sovereignty over Kashmir has formed the core of the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s ideology. The turbulence in Kashmir, the shared borders with Pakistan and geographic extremities formed the ideal breeding ground for suicide terrorism. The Lashkar-e-Toiba is “credited for having initiated the strategy of Fidayeen (suicide squad) attacks in J&K” (“Lashkar-e-Toiba: Army of the Pure”). The Lashkar-e-Toiba succeeded in implementing five fidayeen attacks in Kashmir between April 2000 and November 2001.

While on one hand, the LeT’s strategy of suicide terrorism in Kashmir seems to have been a great success, on the other hand, “the insurgency in Kashmir has lost much of its initial popular appeal.” This has been due to several reasons: firstly, many Islamic hard-lined zealots claim to be fighting for Kashmir but do not have any organic relationship with the Kashmiri Muslim population; secondly, Indian counter-insurgency strategy has proved effective in “wearing down much of the initial resistance.” This makes us realize that although the ideology and personal beliefs of individuals lend soul to such a dissident movement, it cannot successfully use terrorism as a means to its end without the existence of turbulent socio-political conditions.

Kainaat Kinha