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, according to a US military report.
The eye-opener report from the US Military Academy in West Point is result of a multi-year research effort conducted by a lead team of five eminent authors including C Christine Fair, Don Rassler and Anirban Ghosh, and is based on a study of over 900 biographies of the deceased LeT militants.
According to the report that runs into nearly 60 pages, the vast majority of LeT’s fighters are recruited from Pakistan’s Punjab province and are actually rather well educated compared with Pakistani males generally.
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, the report said.
“Ninety four per cent of fighters list Indian Kashmir as a fighting front,” the report said. Although less relevant, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Tajikistan and Bosnia are also identified in the biographies as other fronts.
“According to our data, the districts of Kupwara, Baramulla and Poonch in Indian Kashmir 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,” it said.
The report added that the number and share of LeT deaths in Baramulla and Poonch have been increasing.