Terror: a form of warfare
by N S Malik on 22 Sep 2008 1 Comment

Delhi lived through another horrific evening of jehadi terrorism on Saturday, 13 September. A series of bomb blasts rocked the city from one end to the other. Each location had children, young men, women, elderly people out on a Saturday evening. The heart of Delhi was pierced with impunity and such accuracy that it could hardly be deigned an act of misguided or disgruntled youth. No, professional terrorists were challenging the Indian State.


This is terror at its most offensive. It seeks to terrorize the nation to submission to the will of jehadis. Repeated attacks without retaliation in the form of deterrent punishment to the perpetrators of such inhumane violence encourage more violence.


To understand the aims and objectives behind the terror attacks, we need to understand the philosophy behind jihad. This is best explained by Brig S.K. Malik of the Pakistan Army in his book, ‘The Quranic Concept of War,’ penned under the tutelage of Gen Zia-ul-Haq, Islamic President of Pakistan, who diligently pursued the ‘thousand year war’ launched by deposed Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Zia fell back on the concept of ‘thousand cuts’ after Pakistan failed to defeat India on the battlefield – the ‘cuts’ were to be delivered through jihadi acts of terror.


What Malik in the Quranic concept of war explains most forcefully, is the role of ‘terror’ in the implementation of war: “In war our main objective is the opponent’s heart or soul, our main weapon of offence against this objective is the strength of our own souls, and to launch such an attack, we have to keep terror away from our own hearts…Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision on the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose on him.” (p. 59)


This is a stunning statement. His war doctrine states that terror is not a means, but an end, the main objective of that operation. He goes on to describes the role of terror as a destroyer of faith: "It (terror) can be instilled only if the opponent's faith is destroyed...To instill terror into the hearts of the enemy, it is essential, in the ultimate analysis, to dislocate his Faith" (p.60). Faith can be religious, patriotic values, cultural, but his thrust is on religious faith.


Here we see in explicit terms the religious dimension to terrorism. According to Malik, terror is designed to shake the faith of the enemy. Terror is a counter-religious attack. When Laskar-e-Toiba targetted Akshardham Mandir, Sankat Mochan and other temples and even mosques, Mumbai railway system, stock exchange, the Science Centre at Bangalore and the Indian Parliament, these were not military or economic targets as done in war. Even the Kaluchak attack on an army camp in Jammu was a symbolic target.


They were targetting the core elements of the Indian democracy, socio-religious beliefs, economic structures, military strength, and democratic values The terrorists understood that bringing the stock exchange down or hurting Mumbai railway system wasn’t going to cause the collapse of the Indian economy; destruction of the Kaluchak base wasn’t going to make military decisions and strikes impossible in J&K; and attacking Indian Parliament wasn’t going to end democracy in India. The strikes were designed to shake our confidence in everything.


Terror, it was hoped, would instill fear into our hearts and create conditions of hatred towards a particular community, and create conditions forcing the country to retaliate harshly against the Muslim community, as elements from within this community are responsible for planting mayhem. As people look upon Muslims with suspicion, the jihadi will achieve his first aim of creating discord in the socio-cultural fabric.


So how do we fight this terror, and particularly the philosophy of terror as ‘the end in itself,’ as advocated by Brig S.K. Malik and widely practiced by the followers of LeT, HUJI, SIMI and now Indian Mujahidin.


Unfortunately, we have allowed the terrorists to attain the second stage of this war of terror, where they get recruits within India and train them with the terror philosophy and methods from abroad. They make their own bombs, carry out reconnaissance, gather intelligence and target soft and sensitive areas. The precision, timing and demonstration of destructive power of the Indian Mujahidin is on the rise, and they may start selecting more critical targets. 


The ethnic cleansing of Hindus from the Kashmir valley was the first act of this attempted political takeover of India, to be followed by the total alienation of the valley and its attempt to break away as the writ of the government would stop running and mujahidin or Taliban in disguise would rule the state. Hurriyat and PDP constitute such disguised forms. Simultaneously, the rest of the country would be paralysed with ‘thousand cuts’ of terror.


The Quranic concept also advocates ‘an eye for an eye,’ and terror to fight terror. Could India adopt this method, or will it continue to turn the other cheek? We have a government today that believes in appeasement of minorities, in lieu of their support in elections. Though often disappointed with this route, failure somehow reinforces wrong beliefs and more effort is invested with more disappointing results. In the process, the nation is left open to terror in the name of Islam. The government dithers and shies away from firm measures to tackle the menace.


The only action taken after every attack is enhanced compensation for the killed and maimed. Worse, the statements by the guardians of our security shake our faith in the system. “With every blast we are gaining experience. In each incident you learn, gain experiences,” words of wisdom from Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta! Often enough there is a ‘Red Alert’ in cities as Home Minister Shivraj Patil “reviews steps to fill gaps in security.” The last straw to broke public confidence was “Gham ka pyala pee jayiye” – the inane advice of Mr. Shivraj Patil (Pioneer).  How long will this drama go on; and when will the ‘Gham ka pyala’ be empty?


Tough measures will alienate the minority, it is argued. As the minority a part of the nation, terrorist acts hurt the minority as well. In fact, the projected Quranic concept visualizes the greatest danger to jihad from the Muslim who does not adhere to the concept. So the terrorist’s first aim is to make ‘believers’ believe. It is thus an assault on ‘believers’ first, because once they are ready to fight for the cause of Islam as visualized by the jihadi, half the battle is won. The jihadi is not fighting for the cause of Indian Muslims, he is engaged in a bigger battle for the ‘Perceived Ummah’, and in that fight if a million or so Indian Muslims get killed, so be it.  


So, we need to fight the jihadi in a way that he is isolated and not able to infect other Muslims. We have to keep the nation together by ensuring socio-religious harmony. Then alone firm action against perpetrators of jihad with no mercy towards collaborators in their dastardly deeds will be seen in the correct perspective. The nation must realize this is every citizen’s war. Any person aiding, abetting or not actively supporting the war against terrorism is as guilty of waging war against the State as a terrorist per se. Religion or ethnicity has no role in this. 


This is a fight for the nation’s survival. Collateral damage has to be accepted if a few non-terrorists are killed in crossfire or by mistake. No mercy can be shown to willing or forced supporters. Terrorist cannot function without local logistics, intelligence and moral support.  This crucial support needs to be denied by strict action without letting human rights activists’ cow down the government machinery. Strict and foolproof legislative and judicial measures are imperative.


Media has an important role in this battle. Unfortunately, most citizens feel the media acts as a bystander, advocating even-handed treatment towards victims and murderers alike, and adding to the terror effect. Otherwise the likes of Afzal Guru would have met their maker a long time ago.


An anguished writer from the scene of the Delhi bomb blasts wrote: “My intention here is not only to condemn the terrorist attack but to bring to your notice another equally important point on behavior of our media and in particular the TV news channels. We all saw what was being shown immediately after the attacks, for example, the young woman in a yellow top and black trousers, hurt in the bombing of the Connaught Place’s Central Park. She was shown being carried away, four persons holding a limb each, to a police vehicle several yards away. She was dripping blood, her head snapped back under its own weight and in agony.   Several others were yelling for help, trying to figure out in vain what has happened to them. And here were our newsmen on their important job of covering this incidence giving live coverage and passing on every inch of information to people with the speed of light. Every one wanted to be faster than the other. In the process TV crew were more interested in getting the live footage of people lying down there waiting for help, the girl I mentioned above helplessly hoping that someone will give support to her head and bleeding neck…”


Besides the shocking callousness of such coverage, it is obvious that the media was insensitive to the importance of ‘First Aid.’ The prime consideration in such a tragedy should be to shift the injured and dying to hospital, after first giving first aid on the spot. This is the first duty of all citizens, as the major cause of death in such events is ‘bleeding’ and ’shock.’ Shock is controlled by ‘the helping hand’ on the victim’s head and encouraging him to keep hope alive. Bleeding requires local pressure to control the same. The girl above was dripping blood and needed a heavy cloth bandage over her wounds. All citizens must be trained in the simple art of saving lives.


Coming back to fighting terror, I quote from an American journal: “An interesting point has been the success achieved by the US Government against the terror. In denying ANY terrorist successes, and by suppressing any knowledge or admission of terrorist success or of active planning in their operations - the US federal government has effectively mitigated and outrightly denied the primary goal of the Islamists. Thus the US government has prevented the terrorizing of the American population. It has been a resounding success and a significant defeat for the terrorists as relates to their Quranic concept of war.”


Fighting fight only requires a national will. Four points need immediate implementation - vigilance, accountability of law enforcement agencies, an effective legal regime, and check on sources of terrorist funding.


Vigilance has various connotations, especially the watchfulness of citizens at all times, as terrorists cannot survive in a vacuum. They need logistics, intelligence, and resource support from the local area, which a vigilant community can deny. Government takes certain security measures but unless we help in enforcing them, the measures will remain on paper. 


Accountability of law enforcing agencies, including intelligence agencies, gets results. Every failure to prevent terror, to persecute terrorists, must be accounted for at the political and executive level. An effective legal regime with fast track courts to try cases of terrorism with adequate powers to impose exemplary punishment is imperative. Terror attacks cannot be treated as normal criminal cases and allowed to linger for years, like the Mumbai railway blast. The legal system must strengthen the hands of the law enforcement agencies and of the judiciary. Resources to terrorist organizations must be blocked. Most funds are either from abroad or from narco-terrorism – they can be curbed by keeping a strict watch on the accounts of criminal and narco-related personnel. Certain religious endowments and NGOs are also used for funding by terrorists.   


Our thrust has to be to move India from a soft state to a firm nationalist state that will not brook any anti-national activity. There must be no place for hesitancy and helplessness. We must also deny the terrorist the oxygen of publicity. Roadblocks in the form of the politician-criminal-police nexus and votebank politics must be demolished. Gujarat has shown the way in bringing the perpetrators of Ahmedabad terrorist attack to justice at the earliest.


Lt. Gen. N.S. Malik, PVSM, is former Deputy Chief of Army Staff

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