State Sponsored Terrorism: The Evil within State Apparatus

In simple words, terrorism means the use of violence and force with the motive of terrorising people. The terrorist acts are carried out to achieve political, religious and ideological goals. The civilians are the easy target and one of the most fundamental defining elements of terrorism is the indiscriminate use of force against civilians and they are highly oppressive in nature. Terrorist outfits are considered as the most influential non state actors in international politics. Many countries have spent a lot of money and energy in combating terrorism. Previously terrorism was considered as a problem within one country or region but after the 9/11 attacks it was taken as the global problem. Terrorists operate from different parts of the world and some of them even have nexus with the state mechanism. Threats from the terrorists are the most challenging that a state faces from a non state actor. These days state sponsored terrorism has become a burning issue. State sponsored terrorism means the state supporting terrorist outfits against its political opponents and rival states. The support includes funding, training, arming and sheltering. While supporting the terrorist organization the state mechanism pays little or no attention to the threats it poses to its civilians and their property. The history of state sponsored terrorism can be traced back to the French Revolution. During the French Revolution the state apparatus used violence to intimidate its political opponents. Soviet Communist Regime, German Nazi Regime and Italy Fascist Regime were some of the examples of state sponsored terrorism. The definition and meaning of state sponsored terrorism has undergone a change in recent years. In the past it was the state intimidating its own people or the people of another country. Now it means the state supporting some non state actors to carry out the acts of violence against it’s own people or another state.

In this globalized world, terrorism is no more a regional activity only. The complex nature of terrorism has made it very difficult to understand what leads to the rise of terrorism. Technological advancement and financial aid from various arena of this society has contributed in its rise. If we look back in the history we can trace back the origin and roots of terrorism in the French Revolution. The state mechanism at that time used violence against its citizens indiscriminately. These days the definition of terrorism has changed to a larger degree. These days the terrorist groups are gaining some sort of political legitimacy. The use of violence, they believe is the only way for them to make the state hear their plight and aggression. There has been disagreement on what act should be regarded as terrorist activity and what not. Some people say it is legitimate if it follows the tradition of “just war”. It means if the violence is used as a last resort and for a just cause it gets a legitimate value. While others argue that as state is the only actor which is authorized to use force, the terrorist activities can not get a legitimate status. So, what is terrorism and which acts can be regarded as terrorist act can be a topic of open ended debate. The act of terrorism does not bring social or political change. They can only promote an extremist ideology. Terrorist groups can be of different types and they have their different historical connections and origins. Terrorist groups can be roughly divided into mainly four types- left wing terrorist, right wing terrorists, separatist terrorists and religious terrorists. Left wing terrorism draws its inspiration from Communist ideology, right wing terrorism is closely related with Fascism, separatist terrorism came in the aftermath of anti colonial movements and religious terrorism has its roots in the fundamentalist religious ideology. But, these categories are not always perfect, as many groups have a mix of motivating ideologies. Some ethno nationalist groups, for example have religious characteristics or agendas- but usually one ideology or motivation dominates. James D. Kiras says “as with definition of terrorism, there is general agreement on at least one aspect of globalization”. He says: [….] technologies allow the transfer of goods, services, and information almost anywhere quickly and efficiently. In the case of information, the transfer can be secure and is nearly instantaneous. The extent of social, cultural, and political change brought on by globalization , including increasing interconnectedness and homogeneity in the international system, remain the subject of much disagreement and debate.[….] these disagreements , in turn, influence discussion of the extent to which globalization has contributed to the rise of modern terrorism”. The terrorism is becoming dynamic day by day. In the past it was considered some non state actor revolting against the state mechanism with violent means. The state used to tackle them with force and tried to eliminate them by hook or by crook. These days we are witnessing another type of terrorism- state sponsored terrorism. State sponsored terrorism means the state funding, supporting, training and sheltering the terrorist outfits to terrorize its own people and another country. The most burning example is Pakistan. Pakistan is believed to have supported various terrorist outfits against India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran and other countries. Even Pakistani president accepted the fact that his country had in the past created and supported the terrorist organization for his country’s benefits. Pakistan’s army and the intelligence is believed to be supporting the terrorist outfits like Taliban, Jaish- e- Mohammed and other religious terrorist outfits against India and other countries. The terrorists have not only created havoc on other countries but also threatening the stability of Pakistan itself.

History of state sponsored terrorism

If we look at the history of state sponsored terrorism we have to look back French Revolution. At the time of French Revolution state used violence as a means to intimidate the supporter of revolution. In the cold era also there was a blame game between the then superpowers America and Russia for funding and supporting various terrorist organizations. America funded the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Russia during the cold war era. It led to the birth of Al Qaeda which America is fighting until now. Noam Chomsky, America’s foreign policy critic and a linguist branded America as a “leading terrorist country”. At the same time America blamed KGB(Russia’s intelligence agency) for funding the WAD terrorist networks which was responsible for bombing Pakistani cities in the decade of 1980s. Russia also funded and trained the Palestinian guerrillas in its country. Russia also funded the Irish Republican Army to fight against Great Britain. America and Russia also employed many false flag tactics to carry out the terror attacks. False flag tactics are usually the covet warfare where a group attacks making people believe that another group has attacked. It is done to hide the truth so that the blame is not placed on the real attackers. False flag tactics is probably the most hidden form of state sponsored terrorism. India trained and funded the LTTE in Sri Lanka during the 1980s and later stopped it after the movement of LTTE gained momentum and their activities spread all over Sri Lanka. Iran is also believed to have funded the Shia militias in Iraq and Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and Palestine respectively. Former US president George W. Bush declared Iran as “world primary state sponsors of terrorism”. Libya was included in the list of nation sponsoring terrorism due to its support to the various terrorist outfits. Later America removed Libya from that list and ended the sanctions.

Pakistan: The safe haven for terrorist?

Pakistan became the ally of America’s “war against terrorism” in the post 9/11 era but it has not become able to severe the ties with the terrorists groups which has drawn a serious flak from USA and other countries like India. Pakistan was heavily criticized when Osama Bin Laden was killed by US army in a raid near Islamabad. This led to the tension between two countries and their relationship is at stake. America has raised a question regarding Pakistan’s seriousness on fighting terrorism. Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, divided the terrorist groups operating from Pakistan into five distinct categories. They are Sectarian, Anti Indian, Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Talban, and Al Qaeda and its affiliates. The groups like Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e- Jhangvi and the Shia Tehrik-e- Jafria fall under the Sectarian group of Terrorist which are engaged in violence inside Pakistan. The terrorist groups like Lashkar-e- Taiba, Jaish- e -Muhammaed and the Harakat- ul- Mujahadeen are believed to have been funded by ISI and the Pakistani army to fight against India. The Kandahar based Taliban under the leadership of Mullah Omar is also operating from Queta inside Pakistan. Al Qaeda and other South Asian Terrorist are also getting safe haven in Pakistan. Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan and Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohamaddi(TNSM) are under the category of Pakistani Taliban. The promotion of Political Islam since the establishment of Pakistan has only fuelled the terrorist activities. Every political party in Pakistan sees some link between religion (Islam) and politics. It means they don’t want to separate religion and politics. To put it in the words of Malik Siraj Akber, “Political Islam in Pakistan is not only a political movement. It also constitutes a mind set”. He further says: […..]Western educated self styled liberals in Pakistan often insist that they have nothing to do with the actions of the Taliban. One also comes across the condemnation of Taliban by secular Pakistani politicians. This, nonetheless, is not the full truth. In Pakistan, political Islam has never remained the exclusive domain of traditional clergymen. The secular leaders and intellectuals have also exploited Political Islam but abruptly distanced themselves when they smelled trouble. […] the lower middle class students of religious schools, who end up becoming Taliban, are the exploited product of self-destructive policies pursued by politician and army generals in Pakistan. The problem with Taliban, unlike the politicians, is that they are caught in wrong time and wrong place. […] Hence, no matter how many Taliban leaders are detained or killed, the [Taliban] factory of violence and hate will not go away because it originates from somewhere else. Taliban operates with a cadre of adults who have religious and political motivations. They do not enjoy direct decision-making powers in Pakistani government to prepare and promote hateful textbooks inside the public school. This task, unfortunately, is performed by the Pakistani government itself that is composed of secular politicians and elements in the army because their political survival also hinges on perpetuation of political Islam.

Pakistan these days can not completely destroy the terrorists even if it wishes to do so.

Pakistan these days can not completely destroy the terrorists even if it wishes to do so. The terrorist outfits have grown in number and capabilities. Thus, they can not be totally eliminated. The fault lies within the state structures of Pakistan. In the past as well as in the present the Pakistani politicians helped in giving rise to the process of Islamization which later turned out to be very violent. In 1949 the then government introduced “Objective Resolution” which said that the sovereignty of Pakistan belonged to Allah not the people or parliament. This very thing was inducted in the constitution of 1956 which declared Pakistan as an Islamic Republic. According to Malik Siraj Akber, in 1974 Pakistan’s apparently secular Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto played the Islamic cards for political reasons and declared the ban on alcohol to get favour of Islamist fundamentalists. Akber further goes on to give the evidences of how the politicians tried to gain political benefits by accelerating the process of Islamization. In 1996 Pakistan’s first female Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto established the diplomatic relations with Taliban regime in Afghanistan making Pakistan only the third country after Saudi Arab and United Arab Emirates to have diplomatic ties with Taliban. This gave Taliban recognition and later helped them to increase their influence with Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif in 1998 tried to enforce the “Sharia law” in Pakistan by making the 15th amendment to the country’s constitution. The role of Pakistani army has always been supportive of the process of Islamization and it does it through many proxies, Akber says. In the 1980’s General Zia-ul-Haq, the military chief changed forever the dynamics of Pakistani society by introducing the massive process of Islamization. Malik Siraj Akber further puts: “[…] while the Taliban have been public supporters of Islamic rule in Pakistan, the secular politicians have also raised false hopes and unrealistic expectations among their voters for a romanticized aged of Islamic rule that will culminate in ubiquitous happiness and social justice. The Taliban and Pakistani politicians have taken these expectations to such an irreversibly high level that they find it impossible to replace the “Islamic dream” with the dream of a balanced society based on civic education and social justice without discriminating citizens based on their religiosity.”

Combating state sponsored terrorism

Pakistan army and intelligence supports the terrorist groups to destabilize the countries like India and Afghanistan. But, their effort is proving counter-productive day by day. The terrorist groups these days target Pakistani army and there have been some huge casualties on the part of Pakistan army also. So, these days they are launching some operation against the terrorists. Their counter terrorist operation has not become totally successful and the terrorists are now out of control. They are creating havoc on general public and gradually they are proving to be the threat for Pakistan’s internal stability. How they will combat terrorism will largely determine the future of Pakistan’s foreign policy too.The foreign policy of Pakistan is run by its military and it is still reluctant to combat terrorism. It thinks that the state should support the proxy militant to attack India, Afghanistan and thus threaten America and increase the bargaining power. The problem lies here. First of all, Pakistan should be clear on what it wants to do. It is high time that Pakistan decide whether they want to be isolated in the regional level and global level or they want to be the partners for further development and prosperity. If they go on supporting the terrorists in this level they will land themselves in trouble. They will lose their good friends and their internal stability will be in jeopardy. There might be more economic sanctions and their economy will collapse giving the chance to the religious fundamentalist to play in troubled water. But, if they are serious about combating terrorism first of all they should stop funding the terrorist outfits. They should be harsh on their dealing with the terrorists. They should not see the attack on India or Afghanistan as their victory. Eventually, the terrorists will become stronger and their own internal stability will be threatened as it is happening these days. Secondly, they should be clear on who is their enemy. Some see India as their enemy, while others see America and there are also people who see the fundamentalists as problems. After they see the terrorist as their enemy they should develop a clear policy on fighting the terror. The problem up to now is that they don’t have any clear policy on combating terrorism. They are confused on which group to fight against and which group to support. So, when they are fighting some terrorist organizations they try to use others for their strategic importance. They should not demarcate the terrorists as “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban”. This should be stopped and they should develop a strategy to combat terrorism collectively. Public awareness is another key in getting success in the fight against terror. The government should start a campaign against the extremists and they should revive the school curriculum which is full of hate materials and conspiracy theories. This type of course would develop a violent attitude in the minds of the students. So the school curriculum should be designed in such a way that it enhances the feeling of love and harmony not the hatred.


Pakistan should work with USA, India and other regional states to combat terrorism in a collective manner. USA should try to convince Pakistan that it does not only have its interest in fighting terrorism and Pakistan will also be benefited from it. To take Pakistani government, military and public into confidence it should manage the drone attacks in such a way that it reduces the civilian casualties while doing more harm to the terrorists. First of all America hold a very substantial dialogue with Pakistan and it should also stop demarcating good Taliban and bad Taliban because terrorists can not be divided into good or bad. This problem of demarcation should be stopped. Likewise, America, India and other countries should help Pakistan to rebuild and head in the direction of prosperity. Immediate action is needed to address the plight of Pakistanis lower middle class youths who might turn into “Jihadist” any day. They should be given proper education and skills for job so that they can lead a normal life without any chances of getting involved into terrorist activities. The regional forum of SAARC should be used to make policies for combating terrorism. As the problem is not only of Pakistan, the region should take the collective initiative. For this thing to happen, India and Pakistan should use their diplomatic channels to strengthen their relations instead of blaming each other. Democracy is the key in combating terrorism. Pakistan is prone to terrorism because democracy has not been institutionalized. Since its independence, it has witnessed several military coups. So, institutionalising democracy could be very effective in the war against terrorism.

11751132_857791500976017_1890949496_nBinod Dhakal is a guest editor at Kutniti. He is a freelance researcher and has interest in post colonialism and new historicism.


One thought on “State Sponsored Terrorism: The Evil within State Apparatus

  • July 28, 2015 at 5:17 am

    A full dignosis of the history,nature n operations of terrirism in the global world in general and Pakistan in particular.The article can become the self proved axiom to root out terrorism from the world!


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