In Their Own Words

Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba

November 2018 9781849045728 272pp


This path-breaking volume reveals a little-known aspect of how Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a jihadist terrorist group, functions in Pakistan and beyond by translating and commenting upon a range of publications produced and disseminated by Dar-ul-Andlus, the publishing wing of LeT.

Only a fraction of LeT’s cadres ever see battle: most of them are despatched on nation-wide ‘proselytising’ (dawa) missions to convert Pakistanis to their particular interpretation of Islam, in support of which LeT has developed a sophisticated propagandist literature. This canon of Islamist texts is the most popular and potent weapon in LeT’s arsenal, and its scrutiny affords insights into how and who the group recruits; LeT’s justification for jihad; its vision of itself in global and regional politics; the enemies LeT identifies and the allies it cultivates; and how and where it conducts its operations. Particular attention is paid to the role that LeT assigns to women by examining those writings which heap extravagant praise upon the mothers of aspirant jihadis, who bless their operations and martyrdom. It is only by understanding LeT’s domestic functions as set out in these texts that one can begin to appreciate why Pakistan so fiercely supports it, despite mounting international pressure to disband the group.


One of the ‘five books that explain Kashmir’s decades long crisis’ — Financial Times, 2019

‘A detailed and academic text, [In Their Own Words] draws on an impressive array of primary texts. […] Given LeT’s continuing importance, such insightful work is to be welcomed and shows the complex and diverse array of extremist groups that the world continues to face.’ — The RUSI Journal

‘This book is a very readable, engaging, in-depth, and critical analysis of one of the most lethal jihadi organisations in the world, and its role in the broader security, regional and domestic framework of Pakistan, which makes this work a must read for years to come.’ — Asian Affairs

‘Fair’s rich experience of the region and her flair for language make her an exceptional author. … [Her] well-written book, an excellent addition to the corpus of security studies in South Asia, fills a significant gap in the existing literature.’ — South Asia Research

‘This book is a very welcome academic treatment of an important ‘security’ institution in Pakistan.’ — Commonwealth & Comparative Politics

‘Fair gives a detailed account of the LeT’s ideological roots, organisational structure and its evolution as a hydra-headed social and militant outfit.’ — The Hindu

‘Navigating the complexities of one of the world’s most ambitious modern Muslim states, Fair brings an impressive thoroughness of research to unpacking the internal doctrines, recruitment strategies, and objectives of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. With unflinching verve, Fair shows why conflict resolution focusing on bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan or on de-radicalising militant networks of young men ignore deeper causes of violence.’ — Flagg Miller, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of California, Davis, and author of The Audacious Ascetic: What the Bin Laden Tapes Reveal About Al-Qa’ida

‘No one has done more than Christine Fair to educate the international community about terrorism in Pakistan. Now she opens a window into the mind of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, providing penetrating, even if disconcerting, insights into a terrorist group that is likely to thrive for a long time to come. This is essential reading for anyone who cares about Pakistan or peace and stability in South Asia.’ — Ashley Tellis, Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

‘Christine Fair has written the definitive volume for understanding Pakistan’s most dangerous militant group. Using the group’s own publications, she brings us into the world of its operatives and illuminates the strategic thinking of its leaders. Her history is precise and encompassing, her methodology ingenious, her conclusions groundbreaking.’ — Jacob Shapiro, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

‘Leveraging Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s own writings, Fair sheds light on the domestic politics that render it the Pakistan Army’s most valuable tool of proxy warfare. Indispensable for understanding one of the world’s most potent terrorist groups.’ — Walter C. Ladwig III, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, King’s College London; author of The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relationships in Counterinsurgency

‘Christine Fair has been following Lashkar-e-Taiba for many years, and her familiarity with its literature and history is evident in this finely grained account. Leveraging LeT’s multitude of publications and her own knowledge of its operations, she provides new insights into the organisation, the people it recruits, and their families.’ — Stephen Tankel, Associate Professor, American University, and author of Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba


C. Christine Fair is Provost's Distinguished Associate Professor, Georgetown University, and author of the acclaimed book Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War.

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