National and International Issues

Financial Lifelines of the Terrorists and Terrorism

“Terrorism has a purpose, writing it off as a mindless and irrational activity is not useful at all” (Bruce Hoffman) Men, Mind and Material are critical elements in pursuing political violence by the non-state actors (in this case, the terrorists) against the state. The challenge for inn2the governments is always to dismantle the public support, infrastructure, counter the narrative and cutoff the financial lifelines of the terrorists whether of the developed or the developing world equally. Terrorism today is a fully acknowledged and evaluated threat especially since the 9/11 World Trade Center (WTC) incident in the United States. Consequently, the states have been developing the sophisticated security structure that involves legal, political, social and financial aspects. However, a holistic and comprehensive Counter Terrorism (CT) policy remains a constant challenge for the governments.

To understand the gaps in the counter terrorism policies of the states one needs to comprehend the fluid nature of the terrorist organizations working within and beyond the territorial boundaries of the states. The fact is that terrorism in the contemporary world is a highly globalised and transnational phenomenon. This in turn requires coordination between the states to counter this threat. To deny terrorists the means to finance their activities, we must know how terrorists manage their finances. The possible means for them to move the money to operational levels include: formal banking channels, non-banking channels like physical smuggling of cash (self / courier), NGOs and Charity Organizations, and, alternative remittance systems.

In the South Asian scenario, the Hawala and Hundi describe the ways used by the non-state actors, both militants and non-combatants, to sustain their activities financially. Hawala means trust or reference, is historically more recent as compared to Hundi, which means – bill of exchange, promising note; existed as early as 5000 BC – several legends associated with its usage. The presence of such a diverse and deep rooted mechanism call for a holistic anti-terrorism policy-making, comprising all short and long-term measures. Unless the nature of the black money used by the terrorists at the sub-national, national, regional, and international level is fully grasped, no policy can be instituted on the sustainable footings. The terrorists in this globalised world are very intelligent and are aware of the means to manipulate the loopholes in the contemporary international financial landscape. The snapshots of the different ways and means of the financial tracks of the terrorists are as depicted in figures 1 to 4. These figures show that financial support mechanism of terrorism is not an isolated phenomenon, rather it has well entrenched and well spread roots in society. Due to various reasons, terrorists find sympathizers and supporters among common masses, and use this soft niche for their terror motives. Therefore, role of public support and public opinion is essential in stemming terrorism. The fact is terrorists’ narrative thrives in the sea of perceived injustice. When population suffers from continuing social or economic hardships, especially as a result of incompetence and corruption of the governments, it tends to provoke widespread unrest. In the developing states where there is little chance to institute an alternative governance mode particularly in case of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it can (and has) result in the formation of societal groups who stand by non-state actors groupings against the government and the rest of the country's population respectively.

fin3It is considered opinion amongst experts on terrorism that economic hardship is, and will be, an indirect factor and one of the underlying cause of terrorism in the world. This is because the world's wealth is in so few hands; developing nations have little chance to make significant economic progress. This causes widespread resentment which often, when coupled with government corruption, results in revolt, insurrection and terrorism. Thus, the real battle and challenge for the governments is to change the militant as well as public mindset through creation and provision of economic opportunities to people.

In case of Pakistan, the challenge for the government is to dismantle the militants (particularly Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan – TTP) supply chain and carrying out a financial vivisection that dries up militant cash flows. Service delivery vacuums and tattered governance structures in the tribal areas of the country have allowed the TTP to forge patronage networks, profiteering from kidnapping, extortion and bank robberies in the mainland as well. A secondary, but equally vital financial lubricant comes from smuggling and a flourishing drug trade through Afghanistan. To stem this flow of capital, the government will have to surgically subvert fraudulent religious charities and introduce intelligence monitoring in local thanas (police stations)and, stringent border regulations and narcotics control will have to be brought under a centralized intelligence apparatus. There is no magic bullet to end the terrorism from the contemporary world. Similarly, no universal formula exits to be applicable to all the states to combat the quagmire of terrorism in one go. Each state has to devise its own counter-terrorism policy keeping in view its peculiar environment. Few of the measures to effectively combat the menace of terrorism are suggested below.

The media plays (has to play) a critical role in de-legitimizing the militants’ ideology. The fact is that, society, particularly in case of Pakistan, suffers from 'information deficit' despite access to a large number of information sources. From the perspective of changing the way people think, all we need is an information battle – to change how people think. Public campaigns by the terrorist outfits who advocate for zakat, hides and so on – on television, radio, newspapers and pamphlets – need to be monitored on regular basis. The media should expose the sources of black money that adds to terrorists’ viability/ability to survive and execute their attacks within and beyond Pakistan. Constructive role of media needs to be harnessed to the maximum. In short, media must act as bridging the gap in perceptions on the issue of terrorism and bring forward the true stories of public disenchantment with the on-going violence. Here, the government must ensure the security of the independent media. Pakistan's Counter-terrorism policy should be a reflection of multilateral strands of political, social, cultural, economic, and developmental measures. It must hinge around following strands:

Prevention: The first objective should be to prevent people turning to terrorism by tackling the factors or root causes particularly economic in nature which can lead to marginalization and radicalization of the society as a whole. Protect: Secondly, the government must aim to protect citizens and economic infrastructure and reduce vulnerability to attacks by the terrorists. This includes improved security of borders, cities and critical infrastructure.

Pursue: Thirdly, to pursue and investigate terrorists’ activities across borders and globally; to impede planning, travel, and communication; to disrupt supportive networks; to cut off funding and access to attack materials, and to bring terrorists to justice. Respond: Lastly, to prepare the regional states in the spirit of solidarity; to manage and minimize the consequences of terrorist attacks, by improved capabilities to deal with the aftermath; the coordination of the responses, and; respond to the needs of the victims of the terrorist attacks. Counter-terrorism is essentially a joint work of different state institutions and society based on judicious mix of military, political, social, cultural, and economic elements of national power. An integrated approach of counter-terrorism must be pro-active and preventative in nature and sustainable on long-term basis. Reactive and only military based tactical measures are counter-productive and often result in the creation of more sympathy pools for the terrorists. “Reach-out” measures needs to be included in the counter terrorism policies. That is, vulnerabilities, sore points and grievances of the people needs to be seriously addressed. Mutual stakes – political, economic, legal, and social – must be created through engagement.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, not establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate .... Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." (Martin Luther King, Jr.)


The writer is on the faculty of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad
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