Dr. Nazir Hussain
Dr. Nazir Hussain, Associate Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Previously, he was associated with the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies. He has to his credit a Post-Doc Research Fellowship from the French Institute of International Relations, IFRI, Paris-France (May-November 2010). He has Post Graduate Diploma in Conflict Resolution from the University of Uppsala-Sweden. He was Visiting Fellow at the Henry L. Stimson Centre, Washington DC., in summer 2000 working on ‘Nuclear Risk Reduction Measures in South Asia’, Research Associate with the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in 1996-97 working on ‘International Humanitarian Law’, and Visiting Researcher at the Institute of Political and International Studies (IPIS), Tehran-Iran in summer 1995. He has also done a joint research project on ‘Enlighten Moderation’ sponsored by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), Paris-France.
He has written 48 research articles and is author of two books; Defence Production in the Muslim World: Limitations and Prospects and Strategic Dynamics of West Asia. He has also been associated with the electronic media since 1999.
Pakistan remained a peaceful and tolerant society between from the years 1947 to 1977, and during this period, various the religious injunctions were incorporated very peacefully by the state and into society, injunctions such as the Objective Resolution (1949), Bhutto’s Islamisation (1974) and the Nizam-e-Mustafa Movement (1977). However, Zia’s Islamisation led Pakistan into gradual but devastating extremism, which has since penetrated the societal fabric and state apparatus alike. The results were religious intolerance, social hatred, economic discrimination, and sectarianism. The impact of those Islamisation policies still resonates with and haunts both Pakistani society and the state, with far-reaching implications.
The spread of radical-extremism has both internal and external causes and reasons; Zia’s Islamisation, the Jihadi and Madrasah culture, marginalization of political forces, Afghan war, the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Saudi proxy war. Consequently, due to radical-extremism, the writ of the state is has been eroded and the extremist elements have penetrated into all spheres and directions; state functionaries, government employees, traders, and commoners. The results are that Pakistan is a fragmented and polarized society, insecurity/law & order issues and above all the imposition of minority extremist views on a silent majority of enlightened Pakistanis. Moreover, the notion of ‘religiosity’ has become a common fashion in the Pakistani society. Today radical-extremist groups, such as Hizbul Tehrir and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan want to impose their will by coercion and force to convert Pakistan into a Khilafat with their own brand of strict Islamic laws.
Though the majority of Pakistanis do not subscribe to radical-extremist tendencies and their notions of Islam, but they cannot help but be are concerned about this violent and forceful change. Therefore, prevention of this societal erosion and political anarchy requires concentrated, serious and consensus efforts in the shape of educational reforms, both formal and Madrasah-related, a socio-economic uplift, promoting a strong, democratic political culture, integrating incorporating the role of civil society and media, and political resolve by the government with broad consensus of all political forces in the country. However, while militancy and terrorism can be handled through short-term strategies, but radical-extremism requires long-term, policy initiatives and varied implementation means and mechanisms to de-radicalize the segregated elements of Pakistani society.
Concepts like, radicalism, extremism and terrorism are interchangeably used in academic discourses and political debates. However, while these terms are different in nature and meaning, they s but being are often used in with interchangeably by different entities, varying the connotations of both words by different entities. In simple terms, radicalism means anti-status quo tendencies in socio-political and economic spheres, aimed at changing the existing structure and system. Radicalism may not necessarily be violent, but some radical movements in the political history have employed violent means to fulfill their objectives.
In the contemporary global security environment, especially the post 9/11 scenario, radical-extremism is equated with ‘radical Islam’ and violent ‘Islamic Movements’, which later converted convert into religious terrorism. Therefore, radical-extremism is not an exceptional phenomenon limited to Pakistan but is also associated with a majority of the Muslim states today, who are confronting confronted with the same problem. As the EU Commission Report on Violent Radicalization states, that ‘one finding of this Report is that there are remarkable similarities between radicalization to current Islamist or jihadist terrorism and radicalization associated with left-wing, right-wing or ethno-nationalist terrorism in Western Europe since the 1960s. The Report also concludes that radicalization leading to acts of terrorism is context-specific
For addressing radical extremism in Pakistan, experiences of other Muslim states, such as Malaysia, Bangladesh, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who have also tackled radical extremism, can be utilized to take on this challenge. Some models were employed in Swat but could not be sustained due to various reasons. However, it is pertinent to mention that radical extremism in the country is a home-grown phenomenon, embedded in Pakistan’s socio-political and economic deprivations; therefore, it needs local solutions with innovative ideas. However, this is not the job of government alone, state institutions, think-tanks, media, civil society and individuals share this responsibility.
Therefore, in the light of above discussion and analyses, I’d like to put forward some ‘innovative’ suggestions to address the menace of radical extremism in Pakistan. However, it should be borne in mind that it is a long-term process, which needs patience, prudence and power.
Creation of CNSP and NSC
It is long overdue that Pakistan should focus on making a long-term and visionary Comprehensive National Security Policy. This would encompass diplomatic, military, political, economic and social policies with a futuristic objective. This CNSP should be drafted either by a think-tank, a University or a sub-committee of the Parliament. The draft must be put to the Parliament for debate to create a consensus national document. Coupled with the CNSP, there is a dire need to create National Security Council by a parliamentary legislation, which should be a permanent institution, backed by a vibrant team of experts/researchers in a think tank.
Re-setting of the Foreign Policy
Over the year, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy has been reactive to the moves of its regional rivals; it is high time that Pakistan should have a proactive foreign policy genuinely based on its national security interests. Importantly, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and the Senate Committee on Defence have done excellent work to prepare policy recommendations for the government. Therefore, in the light of these recommendations and CNSP guidelines, Pakistan has to re-set its Foreign Policy, as some of the radical extremist groups are funded from outside and their funding have to be stopped in order to effectively deal with radical extremism.
Political Consensus and Will
The above two would provide the very bases for creating a political consensus of all the stack-holders that would reflect in government’s resolve and will to deal with the issue of radical extremism.
During the past few years, the Pakistani political forces have shown tremendous maturity and have tried to develop a culture of political accommodation by accepting the diverse electoral verdict of the people. It is amazing that different political parties are ruling three different provinces, which reflects some level of maturity and continuity of Pakistani political process. The political stability would result in good and effective governance in the country for the benefit of the common people. Moreover, in order to ensure good governance, corruption, favoritism and incompetency have to be removed.
It is important to highlight that radical extremism and terrorism flourished in a vacuum creating by socio-economic and political deprivation. Some of the underdeveloped and backward areas need massive socio-economic developments; FATA, parts of Baluchistan, interior Sindh and southern Punjab; the hotbeds of radical extremist tendencies. The Central and Provincial governments, for the time being, may hold on the urban areas development to bring the above mentioned areas at par with the developed cities and towns.
Educational Reforms and Syllabus Revisions
In the privatization of education, private English schools attract the affluent population and religious schools offered incentives to poor class of the society. In this situation, reforming public education system is a long term objective to be achieved. The government should take the responsibility to implement a universal enrolment policy to register all school going children, with free education. Importantly, in the 2013 elections, all political parties have pledged to increase the education budget, which should be increased to 5% of the GDP. Because it is the denial of school education that Madrassas have been over-burdened with young generation, easily to be indoctrinated and brainwashed. Moreover, there is urgent need to revise the syllabi of all educational levels; removal of hate material, incorporation of national cohesion and preaching the true spirit of Islam.
Madrassas are the largest NGOs and hold special place in the Pakistani social set up, to provide free education, food and training. However, these Madrassas have been misused by the religious elite for their own narrow interests, and over the years their role has come under question. For creating a vibrant and progressive Pakistani new generation, it is high time that unchecked growth of Madrassas be stopped, Madrassas should be registered, (a mechanism can be devised with the help of Religious Boards), and their syllabi should include subjects like science, computers and one foreign language; English, Chinese or French.
Role of Media and Civil Society
Unfortunately, due to immaturity and non-professionalism, media has played in the hands of radical extremists and terrorists unwillingly; the projection and highlighting their demands, deeds and actions, the media has unknowingly, furthered their objectives. Moreover, in the absence of a national media policy, the governments have also not been able to harness the true potential of media in this direction. Same is the case with Civil Society and NGOs, who have been particularly focused on their respective fields and have not been able to prove their true worth. It is incumbent upon the government and media/civil society that they should play their national duties to educate the masses and create awareness about the negativities of radical extremist tendencies and behaviors.
The Silent Majority
This has been the real dilemma; the moderate and enlightened majority of Pakistanis have been silent, giving way to the minority view to prevail and remain dominant. In fact the true face of Pakistan has not been reflected to the world. It is high time that people of Pakistan must show their resolve against radical extremism by supporting the government efforts and actions. At least, they must voice their concerns through social media, social campaigns and talks/debates.
The 5Ds and 3E
- Deconstruct, in order to incorporate alternate narrative, it is important to deconstruct the present mind-set of radical extremists;
- Debate, an important tool to discuss and debate their point of view and negotiate their grievances;
- Dialogue, to counter-argue the true perspective with conviction;
- Development, the improvement of socio-economic conditions with 3Es; education, employment and empowerment;
- Democracy, governance has lot to do with equal distribution of resources and opportunities. By accepting the will of the people and incorporating the popular political participation, the government will earn the trust and respect of the masses.
Hopefully, the above if implemented with serious, sincere and sustained efforts, will bring a marked change in Pakistan within years.
Pakistan’s drift into radical extremism was slow but fatal and its solution is also long-term but positive. Instead of focusing on militancy and terrorism, there is a dire need to fight against that mind-set which produces militants and terrorists. There have been half-hearted efforts in the past to tackle these issues but this time around there is broad consensus by all the stockholders; government, armed forces, political parties and people at large that to combat terrorism and radical extremism, Pakistan needs immediate, serious and concentrated steps.
It is heartening to note that the present government is devising a National Security Policy with the consensus of all political parties in the country. Instead of taking on a Comprehensive National Security Policy, encompassing diplomatic, military, political, social and economic policies, the government is focusing alone on combating terrorism but leaving its causes and reasons, i.e. radicalism and extremism unaddressed. On the face of daunting challenges facing Pakistan, it is high time that Pakistan devise a Comprehensive National Security Policy with a futuristic vision backed by an effective National Security Council to fulfill the vision of Allama Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah of a progressive, prosperous and peaceful Pakistan.