Radicalism or Radicalization means to extremely advocate a political, religious, or a socially fundamental ideology. A radical either an individual or a group favors uncompromising theories and policies and challenges other existing entities.
Resultantly, such extremity breeds extremism. Radicalism and Extremism are interdependent, in a way that the former phenomenon is prerequisite for the later one. These both are the link of the chains that, at the very end, terminates in terrorism. Not everyone, having radical ideas opt violence, but however, the one who becomes a terrorist today, was a radical yesterday.
Pakistan has long been suffering from hardcore extremism, and has paid the cost by losing the lives of thousands. The extremist/radical tendencies in Pakistan are the by products on interlinked local, national, religious, imperial and capitalist phenomena. Religion (Islam), as a tool, has been used as fuel for extremism. State and extremism have equivocally contributed in this regard. However, this also stands a fact that radical Islam is embraced by a tiny minority of Muslims in Pakistan particularly and in the world generally. Unfortunately, Extremism and its fearful clouds have reigned over Pakistan since decades.
Today, almost 60 percent of Pakistan’s population comprises of youth. And unfortunately, this very section is the most vulnerable to be swayed towards radicalization and extremism. Youth populace of the country are conveniently galvanized by the proprietors of militant agendas. Radicalization has its primitive roots in the poor standards of living. For extremist, the task becomes easier when an individual bashed by unemployment and income disparity is encountered. Such an individual retains radicalism, sectarianism, and extremism as his pathway. And he then challenges the status quo via violence which he thinks it has Responsible for his deprivation..
On its way to Radicalism, Pakistan has undergone through several phases. Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s speech on August, 11, 1947, was suffice to create a sense that the centrist idea of religion was no more applicable as the basis of nationhood. But the succeeding ruling elites thoroughly puzzled that narrative in order to perpetuate their regimes.
General Zia’s dark years gave rise to massive sectarian parties and fundamentalist factions. Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan proved to be a blessing for Zia and his rule. Zia’s vague Islamism project shuddered country’s mainstream sectors like education, political setup and institutional frameworks. Accordingly, Pakistan’s ruling classes forged alliances with the United States and Saudi Arabia, emerging long lasting impact on the country.
Interestingly, the civilian governments after Zia’s death were also not able to distance themselves from religious lobbies. Likewise, it was during Benazir’s second tenure that the country’s Minister of Interior, Naseerullah Babar, described Taliban as “our children”. Results of these misuses are better elaborated by having a look at figures of country’s extremist organizations.
According to NACTA, there are 64 banned outfits in Pakistan. This figure predicts that these organizations were, for sure, backed by thousands of people. The situation has worsened because the state education has failed to provide balanced education with an emphasis on political, religious, and cultural tolerance and pluralism.
So what is the way forward to release Pakistan from the web of extremism?
The problem is internal and so, the solution lies within. Primarily, a counter radicalization project is essential for the country. Application of soft power is the most appropriate recipe to undermine the radicalizing agents.
Education shapes the mind. If a person is poor but educated, he is less likely to be swayed towards extremism. Hence, the Curricular syllabus should be revised in order to provide space for pluralism, tolerance and acceptance.
Moreover, the marginalized regions must be integrated in broader security via education and employment opportunities. Sect based gatherings should be brought under monitoring.
This is the time to turn the tide by decisive strategies and steps. If not so, God forbid, the country will become more and more radicalized and the rule of fear will prolong. Sincere quest for solutions will hint at the fact that the hope still remains alive for a prosper and harmonious Pakistan.