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Pakistan may Revamp its Proxy War through LeT

Raising the spectre of a renewed conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a recent study has warned that Islamabad may well turn to trusted Pakistani militant groups, such as LeT, to do its bidding. For the past two decades LeT, the group behind the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166 people, has steadily emerged as one of Pakistan's most lethal and capable militant proxy groups. This group is sharply focused on ISI support and its integration into Pakistani society. Once the primary battleground for jihad in South Asia over the last decade the fight in Kashmir just hasn't been as relevant for jihadist actors with US and international troops in Afghanistan providing "a visible and seductive target" for militant groups.

It was difficult to predict the directional priorities of Pakistan-based militant groups after the US reduces its role in Afghanistan, especially in light of the internal security challenges faced by Pakistan and the state's own shifting threat priorities. But Historical precedent suggests that some of these militant groups will reorient to and invest more broadly in the conflict in Kashmir. The series of skirmishes between Pakistani and Indian forces along the Line of Control in Kashmir recently have brought the potential for renewed conflict in Kashmir into sharp relief, wondering whether these incidents were isolated or a harbinger of more violence to come between the two neighbours.
Should elements of Pakistan's security establishment view it in their interest to spoil peace or reignite conflict in the region? They will likely turn to trusted Pakistani militant groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), to do their bidding. This could be due potentially to serve as a release valve for domestic challenges or to redirect the actions of militants actively waging war against Islamabad. While the group has historically been used by Islamabad as an agent of regional foreign policy ... a steady array of incidents tied to the group over the last decade strongly suggest that LeT's interests are evolving and that its operations in the future might be less constrained.

The Pakistan government insists that Pakistanis are not engaging in acts of terrorism in India or elsewhere. But the database indicates that this claim is false and a staggering 94 per cent of fresh recruits of Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT) see Jammu and Kashmir as a "fighting front" and hail mostly from Pakistan's Punjab province from families having links with the powerful army and intelligence network. While LeT's recruitment is diversified across the north, central and southern parts of the Punjab, the highest concentration of militants have come (in order of frequency) from the districts of Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Lahore, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Sialkot, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Khanewal and Multan. LeT training has historically occurred in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's capital Muzaffarabad and in Afghanistan. Together these two locations have accounted for 75 per cent of LeT militant training over time. According to data, the districts of Kupwara, Baramulla and Poonch of J&K State account for almost half of all LeT militant deaths since 1989. Kupwara, the district with the largest number of militants killed, appears to be becoming less important overall as a fighting area, with its share of deaths declining over time.

The Pakistani government's assertion that its citizens are not engaged in acts of terrorism in India or elsewhere; rather, is only providing diplomatic and moral support to the militants fighting in India. While few entertain these claims as credible but the database indicates that this claim is false. First, the vast majority of LeT fighters are Pakistani and most are Punjabi, not Kashmiri. It is noteworthy that there is considerable overlap among the districts that produce LeT militants and those that produce Pakistan Army officers, a dynamic that raises a number of questions about potentially overlapping social networks between the army and LeT.





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