Women and suicide-bombing

Published: February 10, 2011
An army soldier stands guard at the World Food Programme distribution point where a woman wearing a bomb under her burqa struck on December 25. PHOTO: AFP

An army soldier stands guard at the World Food Programme distribution point where a woman wearing a bomb under her burqa struck on December 25. PHOTO: AFP

Near Khar, Bajaur agency’s headquarters, authorities have arrested a would-be female suicide-bomber wearing an explosives-laden vest. In all, six people were apprehended after a tip-off that women were being trained as suicide bombers. Bajaur is where terrorists are most under pressure because our security forces have carried out a series of effective military operations in the area since August 2008.

Bajaur also has the distinction of experiencing the first woman suicide bomber attack, although women have been reported as receiving training in neighbouring Malakand for attacks in Afghanistan. A woman wearing a bomb under her burqa had struck near a UN food distribution point on December 25. It is not possible to confirm if the women involved in such attacks do so of their own volition or are forced into doing so. Indeed, there is evidence that they have been forced to kill themselves ‘in the name of Islam’ by their handlers who often happen to be their close relatives.

In Khar, three more girls meant for human sacrifice were discovered from the house of a Taliban warrior charged with handling the suicide brigade. The girl caught wearing a suicide-vest was under his care, which conforms to the pattern earlier discovered in Malakand-Swat where a girl had actually succeeded in running away from an underground nursery of suicide-bombers for sale to Taliban commanders in South Waziristan.

The induction of women in suicide-bombing is not new and was first adopted in the Middle East and in Tamil Nadu in India. It indicates a level of desperation on the part of the terrorists who seem to confront better pre-attack detection methods employed by victim societies. There are additional factors too, especially applicable in the case of Pashtun families involved in the Taliban terrorist enterprise. Perhaps this can be explained sociologically, especially given a deeply conservative and misogynistic society that sees a girl as a burden and a liability. Meena of Malakand was told by her brother: The place for a woman is either at home or in the grave. If you leave the house I’ll cut off your head and put it on your chest. What better end than earning some money by sending her to her grave in the way of Islam?

Late commander of the Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud used to buy suicide bombers from all over the Tribal Areas which, in turn, exploited the ‘market’ in south Punjab where ancillary jihadi organisations, earlier nurtured by the state, served as suppliers. It was discovered by the Punjab police that most of the south Punjab outfits that supplied suicide-bombers to the Taliban and al Qaeda also committed crimes to collect funds for their patrons who were already assisted by private funding from the Middle East.

Punjab, too, has been on record for buying suicide bombers to settle personal scores. In 2008, Bhakkar in Punjab — adjacent to DI Khan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa — experienced a blast that left over 26 people dead. Rs1.2 million were paid to someone who trained suicide bombers for warlord Baitullah Mehsud, and the bomber was delivered at Bhakkar one day before the incident. The target was killed, but so was PML-N MNA Rashid Akbar Khan Niwani. The induction of women is the beginning of a new tactic and indicates difficulties experienced by the terrorists in the face of the growing capacity of the Pakistani security agencies to prevent male suicide attackers. A woman is difficult to detect as a suicide-bomber as she wears an all-covering burqa to hide her body under Islamic injunctions. It is also improper to body-search a woman in public places unless there is a special arrangement made for doing so.

In the coming days, a more desperate al Qaeda and a more hunted Tehreek-i-Taliban are expected to resort to using women-bombers. The tragedy is that women are more dispensable in Pakistani society and are prevented by their low social status from resisting their induction into the terrorist enterprise. The Taliban routinely bomb girls’ schools in order to further reduce the nation’s ability to educate itself and make progress in raising its collective consciousness which is already at a low level. We may be on the threshold of a new trend in killing.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Wow
    Feb 11, 2011 - 11:45AM

    ……earning some money by sending her to her grave in the way of Islam?
    *shameful. unIslamic , Are these people not blasphemers who are killing women as goats in the name of Islam Are these women not sisters and mothers
    These are the only example in world in which fathers and brothers who are care taker of mothers and sisters ,they are selling their sisters in the name of Islam

  • Feb 11, 2011 - 3:50PM

    Well, it’s here finally! The “late” Musharraf and his followers must be glad to see their “enlightened moderation” penetrating amongst the terrorists as well…Recommend

  • rehan
    Feb 11, 2011 - 11:45PM

    If a deprived/poor/underprivileged/uneducated/ individual who has lost hope in the system and anything our government “promises” to deliver,and has most probably lost very near and dear ones in “drone attacks”/target killings/missing persons..is picked up by a group who show him the picture of a much better life in the hereafter,then who is to blame,the group or our government?These groups are mere opportunists.And our governments are merely a bunch of “elected blind elites”.Recommend

  • Ashutosh
    Feb 12, 2011 - 10:23PM

    The establishments and people in Pakistan had not put their priorities right yet. These type of things are likely to continue or go worse in the foreseeable future.

    The turning point will come when Pakistan appropriately realize its problem and then take steps to rectify it. If you don’t know the problem, you can never cure it …

    Till then no point explaining or arguing … they are happy with their win with the likes of Zaid Hamid …

    The strategic assets had moved from male to female bombers already, hope they do not more to the old or the kids from where they are already …Recommend

  • ahmed
    Feb 13, 2011 - 12:34PM

    The conclusion :

    The Taliban train suicide-bombers .
    For this they brainwash their candidates.
    They get hold of women and enforce the suicide-bomber code.

    Usually sane societies value their WOMEN-Folk above all other values.
    Not in the case of the Taliban !

    Theologically how do they justify such violence ?Recommend

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