Pakistan's Jihad Culture

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This spring the U.S. State Department reported that South Asia has replaced the Middle East as the leading locus of terrorism in the world. Although much has been written about religious militants in the Middle East and Afghanistan, little is known in the West about those in Pakistan -- perhaps because they operate mainly in Kashmir and, for now at least, do not threaten security outside South Asia. General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler, calls them "freedom fighters" and admonishes the West not to confuse jihad with terrorism. Musharraf is right about the distinction -- the jihad doctrine delineates acceptable war behavior and explicitly outlaws terrorism -- but he is wrong about the militant groups' activities. Both sides of the war in Kashmir -- the Indian army and the Pakistani "mujahideen" -- are targeting and killing thousands of civilians, violating both the Islamic "just war" tradition and international law.

Pakistan has two reasons to support the so-called mujahideen. First, the Pakistani military is determined to pay India back for allegedly fomenting separatism in what was once East Pakistan and in 1971 became Bangladesh. Second, India dwarfs Pakistan in population, economic strength, and military might. In 1998 India spent about two percent of its $469 billion GDP on defense, including an active armed force of more than 1.1 million personnel. In the same year, Pakistan spent about five percent of its $61 billion GDP on defense, yielding an active armed force only half the size of India's. The U.S. government estimates that India has 400,000 troops in Indian-held Kashmir -- a force more than two-thirds as large as Pakistan's entire active army. The Pakistani government thus supports the irregulars as a relatively cheap way to keep Indian forces tied down.

What does such support entail? It includes, at a minimum, assisting the militants' passage into Indian-held Kashmir. This much Pakistani officials will admit, at least privately. The U.S. government believes that Pakistan also funds, trains, and equips the irregulars. Meanwhile, the Indian government claims that Pakistan uses them as an unofficial guerrilla force to carry out "dirty tricks," murders, and terrorism in India. Pakistan, in turn, accuses India's intelligence service of committing terrorism and killing hundreds of civilians in Pakistan.

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