Understanding extremism in Pakistan

KP police has revealed that out of 1000 militants arrested in last several years by CTD and police, 72 persons belonged to well-off families and 36 had master’s degree in various disciplines while the rest of them were graduates

There is a common misconception that extremism is a result of lack of education and takes place in the absence of modern education. The curious case of Hassan Bin Nazeer clearly debunks this theory.

Hassan Bin Nazeer was born in a Sindhi family known for having many well-lettered and erudite men. His father, Nazeer Alam, was a professor at the National University of Science and Technology.

His mother, Dr Syeda Arfa, was a practicing medical doctor who has worked in different parts of Sindh. Nazeer himself had acquired a Master degree from UET and was working as a lab engineer at Dawood University in Karachi. He also taught at the same university.

Nazeer belonged to a well-off educated family. But yet, he fell prey to the religious radicalisation: he would visit a local mosque where he attended the conferences of militant outfits that later made him to assassinate MQM leader Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hassan.

It should be now clear that education does not serve as a preventive element that safeguards one from extremism. It plays no role when a person falls prey to religious radicalisation.

According to the police, Nazeer used to donate his salary to banned militants outlets.

Another myth that is linked to extremism is the poor economic background of the person. This theory has also been proved to be baseless and unfounded as several studies have revealed that youth from even better economic backgrounds have also had strong links with militant outfits. Many of them have even died after committing suicide bombing in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I can recall many faces from my school life, both in FATA and KP, who either committed suicide bombing or lost their lives during clashes with the security forces. Six of them belonged to elite families, but were indoctrinated by extremist teachings.

There are various case studies from over all Pakistan but the most important case study is of Noreen Laghari, a medical student at LUMS from a very well-off family. She got radicalised through social media and later joined ISIS.

She was later arrested in Lahore by the security forces along with their fellows who were planning to attack the Christian community on Easter. Noreen’s father, Abdul Jabbar Laghari taught at the Sindh University and was living a happy life. The second myth related to extremism is also baseless.

A third myth that is often linked to extremist tendencies suggests that the radicalised youth is actually avenging the state and security forces for the deaths of their relatives who died in drone or other attacks.

The fourth myth comes from FATA. It says that due to the black draconian law, FCR and the poor justice system galvanise people to join militant outlets for a speedy justice. On the contrary, I know more than hundred profiles of people who joined militant wings but never cited it as cause of their extremist tendencies.

It should be now clear that education does not serve as a preventive element that safeguards one from extremism. It plays no role when a person falls prey to religious radicalisation

A recent report by KP police should be shocking for the state institutions as well for the think-tank’s to understand the real causes of extremism in the country. KP police has revealed that out of 1000 militants arrested in last several years by CTD and police, 72 persons belonged to well-off families and 36 had master’s degree in various disciplines while other 36 were graduates.

Without understanding the root causes of the extremism, we cannot counter this challenge effectively… We should sit and think about the problems in our course curriculum and environment that are producing human bombs not human beings.

The writer is Correspondent at Daily Times, Islamabad

Published in Daily Times, February 2nd 2018.