KARACHI: Counter-terrorism experts interpret the recently launched women’s magazine of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as an attempt by the banned outfit to tap into women’s familial and social networks in a bid to facilitate operations of its male members. They say that the recent success in military operations have made it difficult for TTP to operate freely. Like, Al-Qaeda, the TTP is trying to expand its appeal among educated urban women. “Counter-terrorism authorities need to take this seriously,” says Asfandyar Mir, an expert on armed groups based at the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago, United States. Mir says that faced with government crackdown militant outfits often innovate to sustain their operations. “They use familial and social ties and networks to sustain their high-risk activities. Such networks can help these groups re-emerge. These should be taken seriously,” he warns. He notes that the TTP had followed in the footsteps of organisations like Al-Qaeda in delegating important organisational roles to women. “This is a response to constraints on the organisation’s formal operations,” he says. The TTP women’s magazine has also brought back memories of the December 2015 revelation by law enforcement agencies in Karachi about network of women facilitators of Al Qaeda and Islamic State militant activities. In July 2015, the police had arrested one Sadia Jalal, a university teacher and third wife of an Al Qaeda militant based in Pakistan, on allegations that she was ‘facilitating suspects caught for the Safoora carnage’. Later on December 18, 2015, the Sindh CTD announced arrests of more women part of the militancy networks. “We have arrested people for providing financial support and facilitation to terrorists,” CTD chief Raja Umar Khattab told reporters in a news conference later that day. He said that one of those arrested, identified as Khalid Yousaf Bari, was a former employee of the state-owned Pakistan International Airlines. Bari’s wife Naheed Bari was running a religious group – Al Zikra Academy – whose members included over 20 well-off women who were actively collecting donations, brainwashing new members, proliferating jihadist propaganda, and even helping alleged terrorists find suitable spouses, the CTD chief said. Later, the police uncovered that many of women suspects were related to men caught in connection with the Safoora attack. “They had brainwashed women in the name of Islamic education. Naheed had mentored more than a hundred women,” Khattab told this scribe after the conference that day. “Almost every member of about 20 jihadi families carries out one task or another for the terrorist group. These families are strongly tied to one another through intermarriages. Naheed collected around Rs 215,000 a month in donations, mostly from affluent localities like Baloch Colony, Bahadurabad and PCEHS,” he said. Safoora attack key suspect Saad Aziz’s mother and wife were also believed to be members of the network. Alongside urging women to raise funds for militancy, the TTP magazine has asks them to publish and distribute jihadi literature and do what it terms as ‘jihad by pen’. It calls upon women to write essays supporting the cause of jihad and organise religious gatherings at home. It also urges women to learn how to operate weapons like grenades. The magazine urges women to preach militant outfit’s literature to their family members. It also encourages women to support TTP fighters in their secret hideouts away from cities by providing them intelligence on attacks by law enforcement and security agencies. It seeks women’s help with planning of suicide attacks as well as gathering of information on security agencies’ installations and on possible new targets for militants. Published in Daily Times, August 3nd 2017.