Extremism thrives in Pakistan

2012-04-30 12:00

Islamabad - A year after Osama bin Laden died in a US raid, al-Qaeda keeps spreading its message of terror in Pakistan, analysts say, with splinter groups threatening the country's fragile stability.

A campaign of missile attacks by unmanned US drone aircraft in Pakistan's lawless northwest, long a hideout for militants, has weakened al-Qaeda's structure by eliminating some of its leadership.

But analysts say the group's ideology, its narrative of brave Muslim resistance against wicked American imperialism and the iconic figurehead that bin Laden represented have all struck a chord in a country beset by economic woes and weak political leadership.

Pakistani security officials say groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi work closely with al-Qaeda, feed off its ideology and pose a serious threat to security.

In the weeks after bin Laden's death, the TTP launched a series of high-profile attacks including a double suicide bombing on a police training centre that killed nearly 100 people.

Retired lieutenant general Talat Masood, a Pakistani security analyst, said the chaos in Afghanistan and lawlessness in tribal northwest Pakistan, an area largely beyond government control, have helped these outfits to arm and ally themselves to what he called al-Qaeda's "warped pan-Islamism".

Defining moment

"Today the threat is more from these militant groups which have left their mother group and [splintered] and are creating havoc in the form of sectarian conflicts, ethnic conflicts, developing mafias to gain control and power in pockets of Pakistan," Masood said.

Sectarian violence between majority Sunni and minority Shi'ite communities has been on the rise, flaring most recently in the far northern city of Gilgit, where at least 14 people were killed in clashes on 3 April.

Mariam Abou Zahab, a lecturer at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris, said the July 2007 government raid on extremists preaching at the Red Mosque in Islamabad marked an important moment in the spread of violence.

The TTP was born shortly after the raid, which drew militant Pashtuns from the northwest, al-Qaeda and extremists from Pakistan's most populous province Punjab closer together, she said, allowing them to share connections to strike all over Pakistan.

The influence of al-Qaeda and the public prominence enjoyed by groups associated with its ideology - such as the Defence of Pakistan Council, a coalition of right-wing and Islamist organisations - has made public opinion in Pakistan more conservative, according to Masood.

In the face of weak political leadership in Pakistan, these groups have offered a powerful narrative - evil Americans invading Afghanistan, killing Muslims and harbouring evil designs on Pakistan - and a strong figurehead in bin Laden, he said.

Vacuum of leadership

Liberal, moderate opinion has been marginalised by the fiery rhetoric of the extremists, he said, and the politicians have failed to offer a persuasive alternative.

"What Osama bin Laden has done is fill the vacuum of leadership. So it is a failure of Pakistan's leadership as I see it," Masood said.

The problem of militancy is economic as well as military. Pakistan's economy is struggling and, Masood said, the government has spent years neglecting the development of the northwest, where militants have their strongholds.

To the impoverished, disempowered men of these areas, groups such as the TTP offer both an income and the social standing that comes with having a gun in your hand.

Moreover, many extremist groups, such as the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, have charitable arms which provide social welfare in a country where state provision is limited.

"A lot of these groups are running hundreds of seminaries and these seminaries are providing education to young children, particularly children from poor families," said analyst and author Imtiaz Gul of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, an Islamabad think-tank.

Holistic approach

"How does the state take care of these children if it wants to crack down on these seminaries which are indirectly connected to one group or the other?"

There are signs that the military - considered the chief arbiter of power in Pakistan since independence - is recognising the importance of a holistic approach to militancy.

The army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, widely regarded as the most powerful man in Pakistan, recently stressed that national security should be about development and economic progress as much as defending borders.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  osama bin laden  |  pakistan  |  security

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


An uncomfortable election

The latter few weeks of election 2014, have seen South Africans reeling from an assault on their comfort zone when it comes to voting, writes Daniel Silke


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia Lumia 800

The stunningly social Nokia Lumia 800 features head-turning design, ...

From R2395.00

I'm shopping for:


You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.