Ahmed’s [name changed for privacy reasons] young palms were sweating. He tried to busy his mind by peeking out of the car window and see the the cars and Rickshaws passing by him, the carts and pedestrians all walking to and from their daily tasks. He knew not where he was going, but knew that anywhere the driver and his handler, Ikram, from TTP Central might stop the car and order him to get out, and walk around the location where he would, until he received the specific keyword he had spent the past two weeks memorizing, as a text message from the head commander back in Khost, Afghanistan.
He also already knew that this was his last day on Earth, the Commander had told him that much when he had repeated for the thousandth time to him the promises of a higher purpose, a higher reward waiting for him in heaven as soon as he pushed the button hidden underneath his pocket, which was connected by two insulated wires that had been tightly wound around his chest, snaking their way up underneath his shirt, towards the packets of heavy explosives strapped around his chest. He had been strictly told to stand inconspicuously at the location he’d be dropped off, and wait for the Commander’s go-ahead.
“Stop Here!”, Ikram ordered the driver. As the tires screeched to a halt, Ahmed peered out of the window and saw the busy intersection, with dozens of ordinary Pakistanis passing by, shopping for winter clothes. He felt like he could feel every person that was passing through the road. Finally, it was time. As the car drove away, leaving Ahmed alone, standing on the side of the road inside the busy market, he knew that the time he had been drilled on for the past three months had finally arrived. He was lost in his thoughts when the phone he had been given by his handler buzzed. He picked it up, and there written in the black and white screen were the words: “Loy Afghanistan”. Ahmed could hear his own heart over the chimes coming from the phone as he reached inside his pocket and felt the little button underneath his thumb. He looked around at the many faces he could see and pushed down the button. Ahmed didn’t feel anything at first, then suddenly a flash of bright light and then, nothing.
Ahmed’s story is not unique, but rather a serious and grim issue that is being faced by many on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan International Border. The stark, horrifying reality faced by many poor families is the decades-running kidnapping ring where the Afghanistan-based terrorist organization, TTP, recruits students from both Pakistan and Afghanistan, mainly from impoverished families and sends them off to their training centers in Afghanistan which are usually located in Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan.
This phenomenon of deceitfully exploiting locals by the TTP, usually in the name of religion and sending them across borders to be killed is as scourge that needs to be talked about, highlighted and stopped as a negative against the security, safety and stability of not any one country but the entire region.
Read More: Pakistan, TTP and IEA
The on-ground consequences of such terror tactics is reflected statistically as well: Afghans are directly conducting and involved in 75 percent suicide bombings in Pakistan this year. The question to be asked is this: where do these young suicide bombers come from? What motivates them enough to leave the comforts of their home, train for terrorism and go blow themselves up somewhere in Pakistan? It could be self-motivated, or coming from hostile state and non-state actors, or something else, more fundamental, whichever the case is for people to decide on their own. The situation is such that the TTP finds it easy to take the young boys of some select villages on both sides of the border to known and designated PBIED (Personnel Borne Improvised Explosives Device, also known as suicide bombers) training installations inside the heart of east rural Afghanistan. It would be disingenuous to not assume the hint of underlying socioeconomic situations also playing a minor role in helping the terrorists get their human bomb-carriers.
Suicide attacks are preferred modes of operation by the TTP and other Afghanistan-based terrorist organizations because they stand out for their heightened lethality and destructiveness compared to other terror attacks. The TTP in this way being the perpetrators, benefit from the ability to conceal weapons, make last-minute adjustments, and the absence of the need for escape plans, rescue teams, or remote/delayed detonation in the case of suicide bombings. Statistically speaking worldwide, although constituting only 4% of all terrorist attacks between 1981 and 2006, they accounted for 32% of terrorism-related deaths (14,599). 90% of these attacks occurred in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (By mid-2015, about three-quarters of all suicide attacks occurred in just three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq). Suicide attacks are to be seen as a weapon of psychological warfare, aimed at instilling fear in the target population, diminishing areas where the public feels secure, and eroding the “fabric of trust that holds societies together”, The TTP knows this, and exploits it at the expense of poor families that have no option left, often taking away the sole breadwinner of the next generation, demonstrating the lengths to which the TTP will go to achieve their terrorist goals.
The most disturbing part of this whole ordeal is that in almost 90% of the cases where such boys have been taken from their families, most want to return, and their parents try every single avenue to get their boys back to their homes, yet the TTP continues this draconian measure, keeping dozens of children against their wills in dark caves and terror training centers. In the next part of this exposé, we will publish true stories and examples of such young lives being ruined by terrorist organizations like the TTP for their own nefarious gains, making money from foreign sponsors of terrorism to destabilize the very areas they pick these boys from.