Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Criminology

Motivations for Pakistani Religious Extremists to Become Terrorists

Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Criminology

Motivations for Pakistani Religious Extremists to Become Terrorists

Article excerpt

1. Motives of Individuals and Groups to Employ Terrorism

Terrorism may be a rational choice from the standpoint of the terrorists but the strategy is not rational as such. Here rational means that terrorism is employed by individuals and groups after threadbare analysis of the prevailing conditions, individual/group aims, objectives, advantages and disadvantages as well as practicability of various courses of action to attain these objectives. But the terrorists' rationality is relative and subjective and not absolute or objective. In other words terrorists may believe that no other way but terrorism could achieve for them which is otherwise unachievable by adopting other ways. However, there is substantial evidence that terrorism as a strategy has failed to achieve its aims. The Rand Corporation in the 1980s concluded that "terrorists have been unable to translate the consequences of terrorism into concrete political gains." Around the same time on the other hand Crenshaw was of the view that terrorist organizations were unsuccessful to get "the longterm ideological objectives they claim to seek, and therefore one must conclude that terrorism is objectively a failure." (Crenshaw, 2001: 15, as cited by Abrahms, 2008: 49) In the 1990s Thomas Schelling arrived at the same conclusion observing terrorism "never appear to accomplish anything politically significant." (Schelling, 1991) Due to the ineffectiveness of terrorism as a political strategy scholars have questioned the so-called rationality of its employment. For instance, Crenshaw questioned the purpose of terrorism when it cannot be justified. In response most terrorism experts argue that terrorist outfits have a compulsive proclivity to employ terrorism. This assertion contradicts the validity of the assumptions of the Strategic Model that terrorism is the weapon of last choice when all other non-violent ways lead to nowhere.

Regarding the motivations of terrorists a world-renowned terrorism expert Alex Schmidt stated:

Those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for class, race or religion are promised certain rewards. In the case of religious terrorism these rewards are supposedly delivered in another world which makes it special. The objectives ofterrorism are the same for secular and religious groups-gain or maintain power here on earth-but the rewards promised to the footsoldiers who do the killing and dying are different in the case of religious terrorism.4

These findings and observations are very important from understanding the objectives of perpetrators of terrorism in Pakistan and the formulation of a counterterrorism strategy. At the same time it must be remembered that each country and society has its own peculiar political environment and sociocultural dynamics as well as the nature of terrorist outfits, which provide either permissive conditions for or inhibitive atmosphere to terrorism and therefore, the findings of one country cannot be generalized across several states or societies. Therefore, in order to understand the phenomenon of terrorism and to devise effective counterterrorism policy, the phenomenon should be studied within the cultural and political context of each country. In Pakistan the terrorist groups have justified the adoption of terrorism in the name of Islam, therefore, unlike the Western countries, where all the above findings were documented, at least Pakistani terrorist groups have a very strong engineered justification for violence. Although it is equally true that overall terrorism cannot achieve for its perpetrators what they desire-to compel the state to replace the existing political and governance systems with such political and social structures as desiredby the terrorists.

In the context of Pakistan, the leaders of the terrorist outfits operating in the name of Islam seem to have an innate compulsion to use violence. As most of the commanders of Pakistani terrorist outfits have come from extremely tribal and rural background particularly from the FATA, the KP and the Punjab, so feeling powerless to carve a niche for themselves in the urban power centres of the country as well as are unable to understand how modem world, systems and institutions operate and how one can move forward in these systems and structures, they resorted to violence. …

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