Flood zones: A breeding ground for terrorism
In Pakistan, no matter how bad the situation is, no matter how hopeless the facts, things can always get worse. So while the recent incidents of terrorism in Lahore and Quetta added much pain to an already heartbreaking situation, they were not really surprising.
With the Armed Forces and most of the administrative machinery busy catering to the millions rendered homeless and penniless, the terrorists have had ample chance to regroup and recharge. Even though some of the flood hit areas in the tribal belt were home to the TTP and other mainstream terrorist groups including the Haqqani Group, terrorists do not seem to be hindered by the calamity.
Low level terrorist activities have continued since the very start of the floods and seem to be on the rise. Starting with the demand to refuse foreign aid, the TTP has progressed to issuing threats of doom and destruction to UN and US NGOs working in the flood affected areas.
Have floods impacted terrorist attacks?
While threats to attack the so called enemies of Islam have remained just threats, terror has been unleashed on hundreds of innocent Muslims in three major cities. The firing in Karachi, multiple suicide blasts in Lahore and the horrific suicide attack in Quetta, are proof that terrorists are going to take full advantage of the unfortunate situation in the country. The floods have diverted our collective attention from the war on terror and as a result we have to face the consequences.
All through last month, we have had almost a daily report of a random blast in one or the other Agency in the Tribal belt, but the massive death toll in the recent attacks has driven home the reality of living in a war zone yet again.
Terrorism, specially the kind promoted by our own local terrorist groups has always had its roots in deprivation. The seemingly endless stock of suicide bombers, who remain the most lethal weapon of destruction, are basically a product of wide spread poverty in the country.
The floods, unfortunately, haven’t only provided the perfect chance for terrorists to regroup and attack now, but could also become the reason for a long term increase in terrorism.
How have terrorists impacted floods?
With the official machinery totally failing to provide ample relief, various fundamentalist groups have come forth to provide much needed relief to the affected. According to a report banned outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammad, plus Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba have joined hands with various Islamic charity organizations and are actively involved in gathering and distribution of aid.
When such radical elements fill the gap and help the deprived, they succeed in infiltrating a potential terrorist market. They have helped the poor, when they could not survive without it and thus, have won their trust.
Post the flood, thousands of families have been left homeless and without a permanent source of income. With life savings already gone, desperation is on the rise. In such conditions more and more families will be prone to trusting these elements with their youngsters.
In media interviews and leaked interrogation tapes, one factor is common amongst the potential suicide bombers. Lack of education and lack of resources – thousands of the flood affected people in both KP and Punjab fall under this umbrella. A massive percentage of flood victims no longer have much to live for. For some one like this, one can see the appeal of endless treasure, 75 virgins and a happily ever after ending.
Does this mean recruiting for terrorists will be easy?
I hope not, but considering the realities on ground, this possibility remains quite strong.