The history of terrorism is very old. The first known act of terrorism was held about 2,000 years ago, perpetrated by a radical offshoot of the Zealots, a Jewish sect active in Judea during the 1st century ad. The Zealots resisted the Roman Empire’s rule of what is today Israel through a determined campaign primarily involving assassination. Zealot fighters used the ’sica’, a primitive dagger, to attack their enemies in broad daylight, often in crowded market places or on feast days essentially wherever there were people to witness the violence. But the word terrorism was first used in France to describe a new system of government adopted during the French Revolution. The word, however, did not gain wider popularity until the late 19th century when it was adopted by a group of Russian revolutionaries to describe their violent struggle against tsarist rule, and now this term has gained a terrific popularity. The term ‘Terrorism’ may be defined as a deliberate intent along with prior planning and involves the killing of innocent people. Or it is a deliberate creation and exploitation of fear for bringing about political change. It includes murders, and killings, kidnapping, hijacking, bomb blasts and other activities creating violence or threatening to create violence.
Terrorism has occurred throughout history for a variety of reasons. Its causes can be historical, cultural, political, social, psychological, economic, or religious or any combination of these. In broad terms the causes that have commonly compelled people to engage in terrorism are grievances borne of political oppression, cultural domination, economic exploitation, ethnic discrimination, and religious persecution, perceived inequities in the distribution of wealth and political power.
The act of terrorism can be grouped into three categories; Individual’s act, group’s pursuit and state policy. Individual’s act is invariable the product of injustices, frustrations or denial of legitimate rights etc. A group’s attack is often the outcome of carefully calculated strategies, it may be aimed to highlight a particular point or gimmick people’s attention towards a particular demand of the group. The third one is state’s policy which is sometimes termed as ‘State Terrorism’. One thing which is common in all three categories is that, all terrorist acts involve violence or equally important the threat of violence.
The individual act of terrorism is mostly observed within a local area, while the group pursuit and the state policy acts of terrorism have broad area of influence, i.e. national and international level. Group terrorist attacks have some characteristics in common. First of all they never commit an attack randomly or senselessly. The act of terrorism is carefully planned; even some acts take decades to get planned. This planning includes collection of list of activities of the victim, patterns of daily activities, communication systems, bomb makers, specialists to ensure strategies, mapping of escaping routes, safe houses etc. another common characteristic is secrecy. For this purpose terrorists follow the narrowed pyramid organizational structure, according to which senior command structure and leadership lies at the top.
The most important aspect of terrorist attacks is the ‘target’. Most of the time innocent citizens are the victims of these attacks. Terrorists target innocent citizens to create fear. By generating such an atmosphere of fear they claim ‘power’. Sometimes, some specific people like government officials, business men, transport and vehicle facilities (air craft or train), building etc are also the victims of terrorist attacks. Second type of victims is targeted to draw more attention, some times this type of victims are freed after negotiations but many times the attack results as killings. The most common examples of these ilk of terrorist attacks are attacks of 9/11, hijacking of the air-craft of Indian Airlines in 1999, demolition of Babri Masjid, a recent bomb blast in NishtarPark.
Terrorists’ attacks not only sow panic but also undermine confidence in the government and political leadership of their target. Terrorism is therefore designed to have psychological effects that reach far beyond its impact on the immediate victims or object of an attack. Terrorism is by nature political because it involves the acquisition and use of power for the purpose of forcing others to submit, or agree, to terrorist demands. A terrorist attack, by generating publicity and focusing attention on the organization behind the attack, is designed to create this power.
Now comes the ‘state terrorism’, as I mentioned earlier that, it is state’s policy which is sometimes known as state terrorism. This type of terrorism is used a s a tool to maintain a country/ state’s influence on a particular area. Well known examples in this regard are the Indian occupation on Kashmir and Israel’s policy for Philistine. In both the cases hundred thousands of people have been killed, women have been raped, the basic rights of the natives have been denied. Regarding state terrorism we can’t forget US policy for Afghanistan and Iraq. But in case of Afghanistan and Iraq, the objective of the act is a little different, i.e. the natural resources found in these regions. Well whatever the objective is, it killed innocent people, so it is terrorism.
How to stop terrorism? The most crucial question, many attempts have been made through out the world to lessen the acts of terrorism, but its increasing day by day. New techniques and innovations are being brought in action. Terrorism has existed for at least 2,000 years and is likely to remain a fixture on political agendas, both domestic and international, for years to come. Terrorism provides a means by which the weak can confront much stronger opponents. It therefore has an enduring appeal to the alienated and the disenfranchised, the aggrieved and vengeful, the powerless and the would-be powerful. In addition, it is relatively inexpensive to conduct while offering a vast potential payoff: the ability to evoke fear and alarm and inflict pain and suffering in the hope of compelling agreement to demands made.
Concisely, terrorism is evolving constantly to overcome governmental countermeasures designed to defeat it. It also involves an ongoing search for new targets and unidentified vulnerabilities in its opponents. This quest also raises the possibility that terrorists may pursue unconventional means of attack, such as chemical, biological, or radiological weapons, or nuclear weapons. The latest terrorist tactics include cyber-terrorism, using computers to destroy computer networks or systems, in future it may be electronic warfare that targets critical infrastructure, such as communications and power facilities, or societies in general.
Throughout the world, terrorism reinvents itself in new and more dangerous forms. As older groups are defeated or exhausted, more radical and more violent successors often take their place. Although terrorism likely can never be completely eradicated, countering its threat requires continuing vigilance. The highly individual nature of terrorism’s causes, the diversity of its perpetrators, and the complexity of its fundamental characteristics present enormous challenges to those who must effectively counter this menace.
Filed under: World Affairs |