By Sobhya Agha
March 16th, 2017
TERRORISM, in one form or another, has
existed for centuries. While its goals change according to the prevailing
context, the basic technique ie using force to achieve political, social and
religious ends has been the same throughout history, and has often included the
use of suicide attackers.
Modern suicide terrorism began in the 1980s
under conditions where the coercer was the weaker actor and the target the
stronger. From Hezbollah, Hamas, the Tamil Tigers and Chechnyan rebel groups to
Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group, the rhetoric of major suicide
terrorist groups reflects the logic of coercive punishment. This technique’s
purpose is to inflict punishment and provoke fear. Triggered in part by suicide
attacks elsewhere, a trend of such attacks took off in Pakistan in 2004, with
waves of increased frequency.
The protracted terrorism campaign in
Pakistan seems to base itself on three levels of validation: strategic, social
and individual — the strategy being to induce changes in the status quo through
political coercion. If terrorist groups did not believe that suicide attacks
would advance their political goals, they would not carry them out. The reason
behind the uptick in such attacks is that its sponsors know that the strategy
pays off and is effective in achieving some political and societal changes.
People belonging to minority Islamic sects and minority religions, security
forces, lawyers, etc are tactically selected to maximise the damage in terms of
casualties and intimidation.
Social validation comes from terrorist
groups’ ability to exist, nurture and thrive in society. Our government and
society seem to tolerate their existence and recruitment efforts, and
legitimise their proclamations of hate and religious purity.
The endless supply of individuals willing
to give up their lives to attack innocent people provides the third validation.
Religious indoctrination, weak states, hegemonic structures, inequality,
poverty, and a lack of democracy and rule of law enable this supply of ‘willing
Suicide attacks do not appear out of thin
air, they require systematic efforts. Stopping this heinous act requires a
multi-pronged strategy involving intelligence, security and operational
measures, response and deterrence mechanisms, awareness campaigns and community
involvement, and influencing the attitudes of such groups’ constituencies.
Intelligence is key, and both the federal
and provincial law-enforcement agencies need to enhance their capabilities.
Data collection and analysis, with support from modern technologies, is vital
for eliminating terrorism’s infrastructure. Increased coordination among
intelligence and law enforcement to collect, share and analyse data on
terrorist threats is needed.
Even with such measures, attacks may occur,
which is why the government must have effective response measures. Disaster
preparedness plans and structures must be developed, and technical, mitigation
and relief teams formed, to deal with rescue and evacuation. This would reduce
public apprehension and panicked demands for extreme measures that may imperil
democracy. Involving the community in emergency disaster preparedness would be
Terrorism is a group endeavour and, thus,
deterrence efforts should be mainly directed at groups rather than individuals.
A credible threat of severe punishment that implies a group’s demise would
presumably act as a deterrent, while addressing the grievances of larger
population groups, to which the terrorists belong, may be effective in changing
sympathies. A consistent, well-publicised de-radicalisation and reintegration
plan for deserters and sympathisers would also be invaluable.
It is imperative to gain insights into the
conditions and processes leading up to terrorist atrocities to identify
possible interventions to prevent/ break the cycle of retaliation. Physical
security measures may prevent attacks from occurring, but they do not eliminate
the ideology or the enthusiasm for it.
When we tolerate religious parties and
schools censuring religious minorities, women, and progressive sections of
society, and subscribe to the absence of separation between religion and state,
terrorism is inevitable. Collective efforts are needed at all levels of
government and society to create an environment that discourages militancy and
An outright rejection of sectarian
religious education, and advocating for policies and laws that create a more
unprejudiced and equal society, can serve as an antidote to terrorism. The
syllabi taught in madrasas must be regulated. Civil society, progressive
writers, academics, activists, and print and electronic media must be given
support and protection to counter prevailing narratives that inspire extremism
through education and awareness campaigns that promote tolerance.
Agha is adjunct faculty, Dept of Homeland Security, San Diego State University,
The act of suicide attack is against the words of
Quran. The following is the quranic
(سورة البقرة, Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #195)-Mohsin Khan translation:
‘And spend in the Cause of Allah (i.e. Jihad of all kinds)
and do not throw yourselves into destruction (by not spending your wealth in
the Cause of Allah), and do good. Truly, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (the
As the phrase, Jihad of all kinds, is mentioned in Quran
2:195 with the phrase, do not throw yourselves into destruction, it implies
that Quran forbids suicide attack since suicide attack would cause one to throw
himself or herself into destruction.
Thus, Quran forbids suicide attack.