The impact of Radicalization on Pakistan is causing a paralysis of tolerance. The viewpoint of a slim majority has assigned negative attributions to some of greatest Islamic provisions including freedom of education. The use of force to impose a particular ideological framework is at the center of this discourse. The expressions such as Islamic terrorist, Islamic extremist, fundamentalist and radical, have constructed a negative narrative and thus created a major human & national security threat to Pakistan.
Attacking young Malala Yousafzai by militants and the continuous worldwide media coverage of this event reflects an overall reaction and mood of popular opinion, especially against the unfortunate practice of devious ideology of force. In several ways, both powers of progressiveness and rigidity have tested each other, and in their relentless expansion, the “real balance” in dealing with such type of crisis is lost. This precedent is socially risky, and requires the public to retain confidence in traditional Pakistani cultural norms where every sect of this country had yielded to the inherent difference, and yet maintain a certain degree of dignity, pride and submission to the true Islamic injunctions of tolerance of other faiths and protection of minorities. Needless to say that beyond the defeat of tolerance in war on terror, the strongest course of war adopted by the US has imposed burden of terrorism, bloodshed, and civil-military strife. Looking at the current state of violence against minorities, and cross-border infiltration of TTP militants from Afghanistan, the US consideration of human security of young Pakistanis have been ambivalent, and is keeping the country hostage to underdevelopment and conservatism. Currently, there is no definition of the term radicalization or any of its derivatives, such as radicalism or radicalization. Nor any Eastern or Western scholar has been able to produce a “single” definition that can serve the Pakistani context.
The national narrative of radicalization however is constructed in the backdrop of continuous post-9/11 sociopolitical tensions, Afghan conflict, Iraq & Libyan wars, and there by disconnect between state’s governance and society in Pakistan. Unemployment, illiteracy and poverty among the youth population of Pakistan are some of the fundamental factors that have created vacuum for the militant organizations to operate against the most important segment of our society, that is, the youth of Pakistan. The human security challenges include threats of militant to the livelihood, educational aspiration of girls and boys and their choice to elect the future leaders of Pakistan. The contextual character of this statement is based on the fact that radicalized groups see violence as necessary for achieving political, social, economic and religious changes. This argument is backed up by the facts: that Pakistan has suffered both in terms of human and economic cost.
The loss of more than 42,000 precious lives (including more than 6000 security, military and civil law enforcement servicemen) and the loss of 90 billion dollars are two the main examples, which has severely disrupted the economic and social progress in Pakistan. In this process, those who flout rules of tolerance have caused property damage, terminate thousands of people, and then die for the invisible ideological cause. From religious extremism to unemployment and from illiteracy to the presence of foreign sponsored anti-state militant/terrorist outfits, are believed to be the main threats to stability of Pakistan.
The recent reaction to anti-Islamic film both in Muslim and Western worlds, and unjustifiable production of blasphemy related press material are some of the best examples that have produced a “system of hate” against the fellow human beings. The biggest beneficiary of this deepening rift between the West and Islam are the violent radical extremist groups, which orchestrate curriculum of hate in their ideological territories and then implement the narrow version of Islamic faith. The remarkable show of solidarity and support by both religious and political leadership to Malala Yousafzai, is an important way forward in tackling the psychological warfare of radicals.
Additionally, from across the border in Afghanistan, the TTP under the leadership of Mullah Fazlullah is capitalizing on non-responsive strategy of the US/NATO and Afghan forces, and thus creating further socio-tribal tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The infiltration of militants is also creating more recruits in Pakistan. The current process of radicalization is also dividing the communities and sub populations of both countries. The US and NATO should conceive that serving the cause of human security is greater than their ability of fighting a long and hard asymmetrical warfare. Building of Pakistan’s capacity in protecting youth will not only save the fragile social fabric of Pakistan, but it would also give young and more modern Pakistani leadership to understand the complex nature of radical ideology. It is therefore crucial to encapsulate the importance of ways in which individual or a group of people constructs its framework of relationship – based on “soft-links” within among themselves.
The most important conclusion is that the Islamic Ideology guarantees human security including the right of education both for girls and boys, and in this case the perception constructed by TTP militants and conservative sections of Western press is far from the whole reality. In order to prevent the radicalization process, it is important that the civilian authorities and law enforcement agencies comprehend the process and methods of radicals, as preventing radical beliefs from destroying the traditional facet of a tolerant society is crucial for integrity of Islam and Pakistan.
By Rana Athar Javed
—The author is a Denmark-based National Security Expert and Defence Analyst.