Amsterdam: The European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), in collaboration with the Center for International Criminal Justice (CICJ) and Enactus Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam, organised a day-long Seminar, ‘Terrorism in South Asia’ at the VU University on December 3, during which experts deliberated on the “development and future of terrorism” in South Asia.
The conference was moderated by Joris van Wijk, a professor at VU, and was comprised of four speakers including Dorothee Vandamme, Paul Stott, Danielle DePaulis and Junaid Qureshi (the Director of EFSAS).
Stott, a lecturer at the University of Leicester and in the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London, examined the links between Jihadism in Great Britain, Belgium, Netherlands, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He took the example of a British health practitioner of Pakistani origins, Mirza Ali, who travelled Pakistan to fight for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTPJA) to prove that extremist groups targetted young disenfranchised vulnerable young men, often first or second-generation migrants, in Western countries for recruitment.
“Stott said that there is ample evidence to demonstrate that Pakistan takes centre-stage in terms of jihadism in the West, which made Gordon Brown say in 2008 that, ’75 per cent of UK terrorist plots originate in Pakistan’,” an official press release stated. He also expressed his fears that Jammu and Kashmir could be seen as a possible next battlefield of the Jihadi movement by terrorists.
The second speaker, Vandamme, a research associate at the University of Louvain examined the ongoing radicalisation of young people in Pakistan. She divided the radicalisation process into three sub-categories based on factors which attract individuals – micro, meso and macro factors.
“In order to substantiate her theoretical framework, Vandamme used the example of Pakistan, demonstrating how the Pakistani identity is far from homogenous, thus creating tensions and conflicts between the different ethnic groups, which feel disenfranchised, rejected and humiliated by the Pakistani State, as argued that the State particularly benefits and favours those living in the Punjab province. Therefore, seeing those feelings of perceived social injustice triggered by the State, many radical groups across the country, especially in rural and remote areas have started preying upon and recruiting vulnerable individuals and luring them into joining their corrupt cause,” the press release mentioned while referring to the speaker’s work.
“On top of that, the current mainstreaming of extremist outfits into Pakistani politics by the Pakistani Military establishment has given even a bigger platform to those groups to promulgate their ideologies,” the release further stated. She also examined the role of the Pakistani Army in sponsoring terrorist groups and facilitating access of these radical outfits into politics.
“Vandamme gave the example of the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has been used by the Army as a strategic asset in its proxy war with India, while Pakistan continues fighting against the TTP, which imposes risks on its own integrity,” the release mentioned while quoting Vandamme’s work The third speaker DePaulis analysed the ongoing terrorism and violent conflict in Afghanistan.
The Director EFSAS, Junaid Qureshi talked about the terrorism and radicalisation taking place in Jammu and Kashmir. He mentioned that violent extremism “became a reality in the region of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 during the partition of British India when the newly created State of Pakistan invaded Jammu and Kashmir, and still 70 years after, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are suffering heavily from it.”
“The incursion of the Jammu and Kashmir State by frontier tribesmen under Pakistan’s sponsorship, and assisted by regulars of its Army on 22 October 1947 resulted in the division of the State into two parts, one controlled by India and the other by Pakistan. The invasion led by Pakistan was against all canons of International Law and a clear contravention of the UN Charter,” the press release quoted Qureshi as saying.
Qureshi narrowed down on the reason behind violent extremism in the region to the training of young Muslims from the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir by the Pakistani State and its military establishment after the Soviet-Afghan war.
“Qureshi explained how terrorism has changed the makeup of the Kashmir conflict since once the gun has started ruling, the conflict has lost any of its legitimacy, demands for justice and credibility in the eyes of the international community. He argued that in order to address political issues, it is of utmost importance that terrorism should be brought to a complete halt,” the press release noted. He concluded his speech by underscoring that the main objective should be an end to terrorism for peaceful long-term effects.