Lashkar recruits come from same districts that produce Pak army officers: US report

The Lashkar-e-Toiba recruits most of its cadre from Pakistan’s Punjab province,and the districts they come from overlap those that produce Pakistan army officers

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | New Delhi | Published: April 8, 2013 1:54 am

The Lashkar-e-Toiba recruits most of its cadre from Pakistan’s Punjab province,and the districts they come from overlap those that produce Pakistan army officers,according to the findings of a US military study,which goes on to raise questions about potentially overlapping social networks too.

The study,conducted by the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy,was compiled from an analysis of the biographies of 917 slain militants. It also finds that family dynamics play a large part in influencing the entry of recruits,and that the militants had a higher level of nonreligious education than their peers in Pakisani society.

Amid international calls for Pakistan to show tangible action against the LeT,the study finds that 89 per cent of the Lashkar men came from Pakistan’s largest and politically influential province of Punjab and are deeply embedded into the social milieu. It adds the highest concentration came,in order of frequency,from the districts of Gujranwala,Faisalabad,Lahore,Sheikhupura,Kasur,Sialkot,Bahawalnagar,Bahawalpur,Khanewal and Multan.

“It is noteworthy that there is considerable overlap among the districts that produce LeT militants and those that produce Pakistan army officers,a dynamic that raises a number of questions about potentially overlapping social networks between the army and LeT,” it notes. “While certainly not the norm,at least eighteen biographies in our data set describe connections between LeT fighters and immediate family members (ie,fathers or brothers) who were currently serving or had served in Pakistan’s army or air force.”

The study finds family dynamics “an important driver of militant recruitment”. “The siblings and parents are central characters in the biographies and they play important roles in a fighter’s entry into and journey through LeT,” it notes.

“For example,siblings or other immediate family members were often the ones to drop off a LeT recruit at a training camp or at the border before his mission,” it adds. “This finding suggests that scholars should reconsider the value of parental influences in understanding radicalisation and a young person’s decision to participate in jihad.”

The study identifies 12 channels of LeT recruitment,“the most common forms of which include recruitment via: a current LeT member (20 per cent),a family member (20 per cent),mosque or madrassa (17 per cent),LeT speech or literature (12 per cent),and friends (5 per cent)… Since 2000 there has been a strong upward trend in recruitment via family members and by 2004,this channel contributed to over 40 per cent of LeT recruitment.”

The study dispels notions that it is the uneducated,the poor and the madrasa-educated who get lured to jihadi militancy. Also,it says,the data suggests religious education supplemented their nonreligious education,rather than the former serving as a substitute for the latter.

“Pakistan’s madrasas have been a focus of the policy community because of their alleged ties to producing terrorists since 2000,” it says. “The biographies studied for this report indicate that on average LeT’s cadres had higher levels of nonreligious education than Pakistani males — even relative to the Punjab,from which the vast majority of these cadres come. This is true whether we compare them with rural or urban men across Pakistan generally or in the Punjab in particular.”

As reported earlier,the study finds that 94 per cent of the militants had put Kashmir as their preferred fighting front,and expresses concern that the exit of US troops from Afghanistan may lead to Pakistani groups rekindling militancy in Kashmir.

Among other findings,one was that the militants whose biographies were studied had joined at a mean age of 16.95 years and died at 21. The study suggests between a lakh and three lakh men have been imparted some form of training at Lashkar camps. It says most of the training took place at two sites — Muzaffarabad and Afghanistan.

About reasons for fighters joining the LeT,it says,“In general,LeT fighters viewed association with the group as a means to live a more meaningful or purposeful life. Some were specifically motivated by corruption in their societies,others by what they saw as moral depravity that is inappropriate for a Muslim state. Some articulated a moral obligation to help fellow Muslims who experienced oppression and even death at the hands of non-Muslims,particularly in Indian Kashmir,as their motivation to join the organisation. Others were moved by images of mosques being destroyed or Qur’ans burned.”

The biographies were derived from four Lashkar publications: Hum Ma’en Lashkar-e-Toiba Ki (We,the Mothers of Lashkar-e-Toiba),Majallah Taibaat (Journal of Virtuous Women),Majallah al-Dawa (Journal for the Call to Islam),and Mahanah Zarb-e-Toiba (Monthly Strike of the Righteous).

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