Pakistan Terrorist Groups
Of the various ideological
streams that currently inspire and provoke political violence and terrorism
in South Asia, the most destabilizing and lethal, and the one with the
greatest extra-regional impact, is Islamist terrorism. A multiplicity
of sub-sets and a complex, sometimes conflicting scheme of inter-linkages,
has been documented in connection with the extended range of Islamist
terrorist groups operating in the region.
Various shades of radical
political Islam colour, indeed define, the Pakistani identity and nation,
even as the country is positioned at the heart of contemporary Islamist
terrorism. Extremist Islam is, and has long been, the state’s principal
tool of internal political mobilisation and of external projection in
an extraordinary and audacious enterprise of strategic overextension.
Crucially, the footprint of almost every major act of international
Islamist terrorism, for some time before 9/11 and continuously thereafter,
invariably passes through Pakistan. After 9/11, the U.S. campaign in
Afghanistan, and the stark choice given to the Pakistani leadership,
the dynamics of the Islamist terrorist enterprise in South Asia have
undergone dramatic adaptive adjustments and modifications. Essentially,
however, this dynamic, its underlying ideologies, and its motivational
and institutional structures, remain intact.
There is strong and cumulative
evidence that the Pakistani power elite, located in the regressive military-mullah-feudal
combine, is yet to abandon terrorism as a tactical and strategic tool
to secure what it perceives as the country’s quest for ‘strategic depth’
in the region. This remains the case despite the increasing ‘blowback’
of Islamist terrorist violence within the country, and the progressive
erosion of the Army’s status and control in expanding areas of the country.
While the Pakistani Army has taken selective action against particular
groups of Islamist terrorists – particularly those who have turned against
the state, who have attacked President Musharraf and senior Army and
Government functionaries, who have engaged in sectarian terrorism within
the country, or who are targeted specifically on behalf of, and under
pressure from, the US – it is the case that Pakistan continues to support
and encourage the activities of a wide range of terrorist and Islamist
extremist organisations. This is particularly the case with organisations
that are active in Afghanistan – including remnants of the Taliban –
and in India.
Despite cosmetic policy
changes and some tokenism – including formal bans on a number of terrorist
organisations – many prominent Islamist terrorist organisations continue
to operate with a high measure of freedom in and from Pakistan.