The dissection of a terrorist

Police examines data collected during interrogation of 480 individuals to spot trends, dismiss entrenched narratives


Do you want to know if terrorists went to schools similar to the ones you studied at or if they studied at all? Do you ever wonder if all those held responsible for massacre and extortion are locals of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or if they are natives of another province as determined by their mother tongue? Is it corect to assume they were all trained in Afghanistan – the area we oft categorise as the mother ship of all evil and blame for cross-border infiltration?

These are the same kind of questions the police were also interested when they launched Evidence-Based Policing (EBP) in K-P. The decision was taken by IGP Nasir Khan Durrani to collate qualitative information from interrogation reports of terrorists, militants, target killers, extortionists and kidnappers arrested by the counter-terrorism department (CTD). The 480 individuals whose responses were combed through and analysed were arrested in 2014 and 2015. All 480 detainees are men.

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Evidence-Based Policing uses available proof to find trends and predict and prevent crimes. The analysis and research of this data set to help EBP was quite a challenge as when the K-P police started collating the data, it was based on information recorded in interrogation reports.

Variables which should be discreet became contiguous, such as the description of nationality. In some reports nationality would be stated as Pukhtun while in others Pathan, and at times Pukhtuns were described as Afghan – a term used for Pukhtuns for centuries. In some cases interrogators were more specific and wrote only a sub-clan in the report which was very difficult to trace to main tribe.

All this qualitative data was then run through statistical software. To improve EBP efforts, questionnaires are being developed to be used during interrogation to standardise information gathering. 

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Beyond the stereotypes

For many, the results were an eye-opener. For instance, it was discovered only 35 militants received formal “jihadi training”. Of these only one was trained in Afghanistan; 34 were trained inside Pakistan.

No information was gleaned about the location of the training camps or the duration of time spent there.

Of the 480 criminals and militants, 437 were locals and only 23 of them were Afghan refugees. The nationality of 20 had not been recorded by interrogators. That suggests almost all of the arrested individuals were estimated to be from Pakistan – a whopping 95%.

To the police analysts, this indicated the local element of militancy remains far greater than cross-border terrorism and crime. Those based in Afghanistan are then suspected to be mostly involved in planning.

Talking to The Express Tribune, CTD Director Research and Analysis Fasihuddin said EBP has been in widespread use in Europe and was considered highly effective. According to him, the K-P police had achieved another first in Pakistan by introducing something EBP.

“The result of this analysis is stunning—in spite of the limitations—for example I discovered each and every terrorist is not affiliated with a seminary as we often believe,” he said. Fasihuddin is also the president of Pakistan Society of Criminology.

“Then they are not being trained in Afghanistan,” he said. “A majority of them were Pashto speaking, Pakistani nationals.” Fasihuddin added this study would enable the police to introduce a realistic counter-terrorism strategy.

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“We further discovered most of the arrested were Pukhtuns, a significant number from the Afridi clan [at least 43]. This was followed by Mohmand, Marwat, Banochi, Gandapur and Gujjar,” he added.

“When we looked at why more Afridi tribesmen were involved in militancy than others, it was evident lack of job opportunities was a big factor,” said Fasihuddin. “IGP Nasir Durrani wrote to the government to address this root cause.” He explained this was just one example of how this would help understand militancy and its causes.

The director admitted incomplete data resulted in serious problems during analysis. “But every effort is being made to overcome these issues.” He explained interrogators were being trained and standard operating procedures were being developed.


Most of the terrorists and criminals arrested were found to be Pashto speaking. The following data set has overlaps as some people are bilingual or trilingual.

A matter of schooling

At the time, the interrogators felt no need to explore the educational background of the suspects. This threw up more obstacles for the analysts as around 60% of those interrogated did not offer a substantial answer.

Only four of the accused had purely a religious education – nominal in scope, mostly limited to Hafiz-e-Quran or initial schooling.

Only 14 or 3% of the accused were found to have an affiliation with certain seminaries.


Often dialogue on ISIS revolves around fighters’ foreign footprints. When it comes to home-grown militancy, this is limited to time spent in Afghanistan.

The interrogation data suggest otherwise as 62 of those arrested had been to a foreign country including Saudi Arabia and even the UK. The purpose of these visits varies from jihad to employment. Most visits to Saudi Arabia were aimed at performing Hajj and Umrah. One militant made repeated trips to Afghanistan for jihad from time to time.

Most of the criminals and terrorists were found to be married. At least 61% of all those in the study were married. The marital status of 14% could not be determined.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st,  2016.


Awais | 5 years ago | Reply This is by far the best report/analysis Express Tribune has ever published.
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