Book Review: In their own words – Understanding the Lashkar e Tayyaba by Dr. C Christine Fair

Finished reading.

What a fabulous book by Dr. Christine Fair.  Describing the book she writes, “‘In their own words’ informs contemporary discussions and analysis of this organisation by mobilizing the vast corpus of LeT’s own writing. In this work, I analyse a sample of LeT’s own publications and present new information about its recruits, the families that produce them and the external and domestic political imperatives that motivates the LeT’s operations within and beyond Pakistan”. In the course of her research not only has she analysed LeT’s publications like books, pamphlets, calendars and periodicals brought out by their exclusive publisher, Dar ul Andlus but also about 1000 so called shaheed biographies of those LeT cadres who died on their terrorist missions.

Though I surely will make detailed notes for my reference from this book, for this FB post, let me highlight some basic takeaways from the book;

1. It should be clear to all that the deep state of Pakistan will NEVER take any action ever, against the LeT. This is because it serves as an important tool to further the foreign and domestic policy objectives of the deep state. LeT remains implacable in its opposition to India and will continue to wage ‘jihad’ against India thus serving the most important foreign policy objective of the deep state. As far as the domestic policy of LeT is concerned, it stands for stability, peace and tranquility in Pakistan at all costs. Unlike other Deobandi organisations, who have at times declared the rulers and regime as Takfirs (apostates), and not sufficiently Islamic, and so have justified waging wars against it, the LeT clearly stands in opposition to declaring any class/category/maslaq of Muslims as apostates (within Pakistan) and strictly prohibits its cadres and supporters from waging a war/causing instability in Pakistan. So much so that it has an extremely ambivalent attitude towards even the Ahmadis of Pakistan (against whom they do not openly advocate violence) unlike other Deobandi groups who consider then wazib ul qatl.
Thus it supports the deep state in its quest of maintaining stability in Pakistan. It also helps the deep state in its propaganda of externalising all internal security challenges of Pakistan as a Indian, Jewish and American conspiracy.

2. While LeT has no qualms about killing Hindus and Christians outside Pakistan (in India and Afghanistan), it opposes violence against them in Pakistan. It seeks to convert these minorities to Islam through ‘dawa’ and proselytization. It however opposes any attempt to secularize any Pakistani law and remains committed to an Islamic state.

3. Dr. Fair dispenses this myth (often bandied) by many that most of the terrorist recruits are uneducated and drawn from madrassas. As her earlier research had shown, in case of LeT too, an average LeT recruit is more likely to be more educated than an average Pakistani and he/she is most likely to start his madrassah education only after joining LeT (To know more about Islam).

4. Interestingly, the study of the 1000 odd so called shaheed biographies shows the important role mothers and sisters played in motivating these recruits in seeking matrydom. This is because the Pakistani society greatly values the so called ‘ghazis’ and ‘shaheeds’, and this in turn increases the social standing of their family. The family member (especially mother and sisters) further believe that on the judgement day, their son or brother will intercede on their behalf and take 70 of their relatives with them to ‘jannat’. So when states seek to deradicalize these terrorists, the fact of family support needs to be factored in their plans.

5. LeT functions like a tightly controlled, hierarchical and bureaucratic organisation (Hafiz Saeed and his cohorts in control of most of the organisation). It however has a large geographical footprint, operating in practically all districts of Pakistan. It’s district commanders keep in constant touch not only with its cadres/recruits/supporters but also their families and in case of the death of its cadres, provides them with monetary support. So in many ways they function like mafias where the mafia builds relationship not only with its members but also their families.

In the final chapter Dr. Fair provides important policy prescriptions to both India and USA to deal with LeT in general and Pakistan in particular. Time for policy planners mull on these.

A wonderful read and an important addition to Dr. Fair’s earlier book on Pak Army and Stephen Tankel’s book on LeT. I must say the last 6 days have been most satisfying for me as I managed to finish 3 excellent books. Will write about the other 2 book separately.

PS: I would request all to buy this book. Dr. Fair has pledged the proceeds of this book for helping Indian victims of terrorism. Kindly support her in this noble cause.

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