Macquarie University
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Evolution of suicide terrorism: a case study of Pakistan

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posted on 2022-03-28, 22:28 authored by Khuram Iqbal
This study offers the first empirically grounded analysis of suicide terrorism in Pakistan and puts forth the argument that single-factor theories fall short of explaining the emergence and phenomenal rise of this deadly tactic. A multi-level analysis of Pakistani human bombs reveal that suicide terrorism is caused by multiple factors with perceived effectiveness, vengeance, poverty and religious fundamentalism playing a varying role at the individual, organisational and environmental levels. Nationalism and resistance to foreign occupation appears as the least relevant factors behind suicide terrorism in Pakistan. The findings of this study are based on a multi-level analysis of suicide bombings, incorporating primary and secondary data. In this study, the author also decodes personal, demographic, economic and marital characteristics of Pakistani human bombs. On average, Pakistani suicide bombers are the youngest but the deadliest in the world, and more than 71 per cent of their victims are civilians. Earlier concepts of a weak link linking terrorism with poverty and illiteracy do not hold up against the recent data gathered on the post-9/11 generation of fighters in Pakistan (in suicidal and non-suicidal categories), as the majority of fighters from a variety of terrorist organisations are economically deprived and semi-literate. The majority of Pakistani human bombs come from rural backgrounds, with very few from major urban centres. Suicide bombings in Pakistan remain a male-dominated phenomenon, with most bombers single men. Demographic profiling of Pakistani suicide bombers, based on a random sample of 80 failed and successful attackers, dent the notion that American drone strikes play a primary role in promoting terrorism in all its manifestations. The study concludes that previous scholarly attempts to explain suicide bombings are largely based on Middle Eastern data, thus their application in the case of Pakistan can be misleading. The Pakistani case study of suicide terrorism demonstrates unique characteristics, hence it needs to be understood and countered through a context-specific and multi-level approach.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1. History of suicide terrorism in Pakistan -- Chapter 2. Research problems and methodology -- Chapter 3. Militant landscape of Pakistan : the environmental level -- Chapter 4. Driving forces of suicide terrorism in Pakistan : the organisational level -- Chapter 5. Motivating factors of suicide terrorism in Pakistan : individual level -- Chapter 6. Suicide terrorism in Pakistan : a multi-causal phenomenon -- Chapter 7. Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 204-218

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism

Department, Centre or School

Department of Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Adam Dolnik

Additional Supervisor 1

Dalbir Ahlawat


Copyright Khuram Iqbal 2014. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (x, 218 pages)

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