Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which means “Army of the Pure”, is a jihadist terrorist organization based in Pakistan that was founded in the early 1990’s by an Islamic group named Markaz al-Dawa wal-Irshad (MDI) as its militant wing. LeT was founded to engage in jihad against “non believers” in India controlled Kashmir. Pakistan’s intelligence agency the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and military, encouraged LeT, “to target Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir and to train Muslim extremists on Indian soil” (2).
After pressure from the United States Lashkar-e-Taiba was banned in Pakistan by the government and added to terrorist organization lists in both the U.S. and the UN. Since LeT has been banned the group has not claimed responsibility for any attacks, including the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008. LeT is considered one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world with alleged links to Al Qaeda, and has the ability to commit attacks outside of Pakistani borders. During the dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Pakistan began to take on a face that more closely resembles today’s Pakistan. Pakistan’s separation from India in 1947 was to give the millions of Muslims who resided in India their own Islamic state. Thus began an era of change and the formulation of a state that would continue to be in conflict with India up to present time for various reasons, the central reason being the difference in the dominant religion in each respective country. General Zia ul-Haq decided he wanted to establish Pakistan as an Islamic state that followed a Sharia style of law, with an emphasis on national pride and hate for India (3).
Prior to the dictatorship of General ul-Haq Pakistan was lead by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto a man who himself was a Muslim, but did not lead the country as solely an Islamic state. This allowed for secular parties to thrive in the country, as well as several Islamic parties, however none of them held a significant amount of support form the population. There was more freedom to support and be apart of the various parties that did not represent Islamic values under the leadership of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto; according to writers like Maulana Abul Ala Maududi the founder and leader of Jamat-e-Islami (Islamic party) of India, this was a problem in the Muslim country and many would follow his lead (5).
Pakistan is a country located in a region full of turmoil and violence based on statehood and religious differences. Bordering both Afghanistan and India the country has been a location for Muslims to practice their religion without the persecution from the government in India. With the writings of men like Maududi the climate in Pakistan began to gradually change, from a secular state with Muslim leaders to a state ran by the law of the Koran also known as Sharia (5).
In 1986, years after the military coup of Prime Minister Bhutto, a group called Markaz al-Dawa wal-Irshad (MDI) emerged and was founded by militant Islamist based in Afghanistan and funded by the Pakistani government. MDI was considered a social service organization focused on helping Muslims in the country. With the help of the Pakistani government MDI was able to focus most of its own funds on creating, training, and indoctrinating its militant wing dubbed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which means Army of the Pure.
For the next few years MDI would dedicate a great deal of monetary funds to LeT and the growth of the militant wing. In 1990 MDI made its militant wing official and began to promote its jihadist views across Pakistan and mainly in Kashmir the disputed territory ran by the Indian government. Kashmir has been an area that causes great tension between the sovereign nations, and LeT began most of its activities in that area. The leaders of the group wanted Kashmir to be free of all people who weren’t Muslim. A Pakistani man named Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi took part in the jihad against the Soviet invaders of neighboring Pakistan in the 1980’s. Using his experience from that war Lakhvi started his own militant organization with intent on jihad in his own country and Kashmir. Lakhvi and his partner Hafiz Mohammad Saeed were able to gain more power as the most significant jihadist organization after the assassination of a rival jihad leader (3).
After the assassination of their rival Lakhvi and Saeed were able to gain more followers and ultimately the aid of the Pakistani government. Lakhvi was not only a founder of MDI he also had a great deal to do with the successful growth of LeT in the 1990’s. Having the reputation as a mujahedeen fighter during the Afghanistan-Soviet Union war Lakhvi found it easy to recruit more young Muslims to his cause. He was able to convince many of them that jihad was necessary and required in order to be considered a true Muslim.
Lakhvi along with Saeed would use their influence to create a group that was very relevant in the region, and able to create havoc in Kashmir by using violence to promote its ultimate goal, which was a territory for Muslims only.
During this period LeT began its campaign of violent jihad in Kashmir indiscriminately killing all who opposed the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran. Men, women and children were targeted for being what they consider infidels with bombings and other forms of violence (3).
LeT started as somewhat of a rural group but moved into more urban areas with the intent to disrupt the Indian government and wage jihad. With the support the Pakistani intelligence service the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), LeT grew into a force that would eventually have to be seriously dealt with by the Indian government. After about a year of focusing mainly on Kashmir LeT began to operate in India. One of the first and most notable attack occurred on trains in Mumbai, India in 1993.
With the help of the ISI LeT grew stronger and some Muslim Indians began to join the jihadist group by aiding and in some cases committing attacks in India. The first half of the 1990’s was LeT’s most active period, and several jihadist camps were known for training its militants. Along with the Pakistani government the factions within the Saudi government also funded schools and camps that trained members of LeT in the practice of violent jihad. During this period most of its attacks were bombs and well planned events with the intent of surviving the ordeal. That drastically changed in late 1999 when LeT carried out its first suicide attack where the militants expected to die. This period also further established the group as a jihadist terrorist organization bent on exterminating all Muslims from the area (2).
The group felt that the injustices and discrimination carried out by the Indian government in Kashmir were reason enough to kill all who opposed its views, including other Muslims. LeT also seen Kashmir as a Muslim territory dominated by non-believers, who in their opinion deserved to be killed on site, and completely removed from the area.
This perceived injustice has been the main reason for the existence of the terrorist group. Pakistan, having its own issues with India used LeT as a proxy militant group to disrupt and destabilize India’s control over the territory. Some people within the Indian government feel that LeT focused on Kashmir because of its location; its location made it more accessible to LeT.
Because of the interpretation of Islam that the leaders of LeT believe in, women are present in the militant wing of the group as supporters only. They play no role in the organization, action, or process of LeT. This is a normal trend for jihadist organizations because of their interpretations of the Koran. The group is composed of few leaders and many foot soldiers willing to die for their cause. Its bases its organization on the fact that many of the believers feel the only way to salvation is through jihad, which is the central idea of violent jihad.
Among the many countries that consider LeT a terrorist organization India perhaps is leading in this view. Most Western countries also label the group as a terrorist organization, because of its activities within Kashmir, Pakistan, and India. LeT is considered a terrorist group because it believes the only way to change political policy is through violence and intimidation. Most of its attacks started out as bombings but the group gradually changed its tactics to suicide commando style missions.
The most devastating attack since the 9/11 attacks were carried out by LeT in 2008 in Mumbai were scores of people were killed using assault rifles, improvised explosive devises and grenades. All but one of the terrorist were killed during the attack, and they Indian government would use him along with intercepted cell phone calls to bring the leaders of the Mumbai attacks to justice (4).
The network known as Laskar-e-Taiba was banned in Pakistan in 2001 by then President/Dictator President Musharraf, because of pressure from countries like the United States. At this point in the groups existence it splintered and took on a couple other names to throw off the authorities. They also stopped taking responsibility for the attacks they committed after the group was banned to avoid more attention from the Musharraf’s government (3)
After years of support from the ISI LeT grew to be a formidable terrorist group in South Asia and to this day has influence in the country and the ability to commit successful terrorist attacks. Many leaders in Western countries feel the group will eventually aspire to global jihad because of its alleged relationship with Al-Qaeda, and because of this have supported both the Indian and Pakistani governments in fighting the group. With the help of the international community Lashkar-e-Taiba can be neutralized to some extent, but presently still pose a threat especially to the Indian government and all non-Muslims in the area.
(2) Bajoria, Jayshree (2010). Laskar-e-Taiba. Retrieved from http://www.cfr.org/pakistan/lashkar-e-taiba-army-pure-aka-lashkar-e-tayyiba-lashkar-e-toiba-lashkar–taiba/p17882#p2
(3) Noonan, Sean & Stewart, Scott. (2011) The Evolution of a Pakistani Militant Network. Retrieved from http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110914-evolution-pakistans-militant-networks?utm_source=freelist-f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20110915&utm_term=sweekly&utm_content=readmore&elq=c0041a72acde403aa2b3ec35e8dfbccf
(4) Burke, Jason. (2010). Pakistan intelligence services aided Mumbai terror attacks. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/18/pakistan-isi-mumbai-terror-attacks
(5) Ahrari, Ehsan M. (2001). Jihadi Groups, Nuclear Pakistan, and the New Great Game. Retrieved from http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps14542/jihadi.pdf