Ayesha Siddiqa points out that upper-class jihadis in Pakistan is not a new trend:
The capture and confession of an IBA graduate to several acts of terrorism, including the Safoora chowk massacre and Sabeen Mahmud’s murder resulted in the publication of opinion pieces with most viewing these educated terrorists as heralding a new chapter in the history of terrorism in Pakistan. Notwithstanding that the confession reminded me of a joke about a Pakistani police constable forcing a donkey to confess to being Queen Elizabeth’s lost dog, I also realised that people don’t read, else how could they miss existing reports on radicalisation amongst the educated middle and upper-middle class? Reports were published and papers written that mentioned socioeconomically upscale jihadis. In a country like Pakistan, which rates very low in terms of book publication and reading, why am I not surprised to read such analyses?
The evidence of educated boys from the middle class randomly joining militancy is not a new phenomenon. It has happened before. For instance, the mastermind of the Parade Lane attack of 2009 was a student at the International Islamic University. One of the key people of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Islamabad is a student at the National Defense University. In 2012, an NED engineering graduate and leader of the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba (IJT) was killed in a drone attack in North Waziristan. During Pervez Musharraf’s rule, a federal secretary’s son had also gone for jihad. Not to forget the two nuclear scientists who went to Afghanistan to meet Osama bin Laden.
One particular analysis suggested these educated boys denoted a new trend since they were not connected with any militant organisation but were driven towards terror for ideological reasons. The writer probably forgot that Omar Sheikh was connected with both al Qaeda and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). The son of a PAF air marshal, Faisal Shahzad also had links with militant groups. In case we forget, David Headley worked for and trained with the LeT in order to do his bit in the Mumbai attacks. Despite that, one particular opinion piece tried to suggest that the new educated terrorists were courtesy the Jundullah. The fact is that our urban centres, especially Karachi, have no dearth of jihadi propaganda and inspiration. Not too long ago, civil society activists remembering Salmaan Taseer were attacked by educated Barelvi militant youth.Ms. Siddiqa thinks the trend is only strengthening:
Various militant organisations, especially those considered state proxies, have deep links in professional colleges and universities in major urban centres. In Karachi in particular, the NED engineering university and the Dow Medical College, for example, were centres of jihadi attention for long. In any case, outfits like the JeM and the LeT progressively shifted their attention away from totally madrassa trained militants to the more educated types. These outfits are more organised and created sophisticated structures. For instance, the LeT has associations of medical doctors, engineers, farmers and even factory workers. Just couple of months ago, French author, Laurant Gayer, speaking at T2F, mentioned the ASWJ’s presence amongst labour unions in Karachi.2.
Increasingly, internal terror financing in Pakistan points in the direction of the extended middle class.3.
One of the issues at this juncture is that our nationalism and radicalism have begun to collate. There is very little resistance against militant outfits and their leadership as they appear on television, issue statements on social media or give interviews in the print media presenting themselves as defenders of the state and its religious ideology.