Bifurcation of United India resulted in the creation of new states: Pakistan and India. Pakistan emerged to present a modern Islamic state, where principles of Islam were to have experimented. On the contrary, today Pakistan has become a dangerous place in the world. For many people, especially the Western world, it is thought to be the axis of the evils. The country is passing through the most horrible phase of its chequered history. Extremism, through a global threat, has gripped the whole of the country. A wave of suicide attacks, increasing violence, and deteriorating law and order situation suggest that extremism has become a formidable force in Pakistan. It is a mental illness in which a person not only considers his own perception absolutely right but also wants to thrust it on others, by hook or by crook. Scholars and social scientists believe that extremism finds its roots in the backwardness of society, social deprivation, and low level of consciousness, poverty, and ignorance. In addition to these factors, the state policy pursued during the 1980s, political instability in the country, and ongoing unjustifiable war on terror, have also played their part. This is how foundations were laid for extremism to grow in the past, the fruits of which we are reaping today in the form of brutal suicide attacks. The contemporary scenario calls for an analysis of the factors that have tormented the social fabric of the country.
Of the many factors, the state policy pursued during the 1980s is also the major contributor to the rise of extremism in Pakistan. Certain and sudden developments at the international level made Pakistan the focus of attention. The former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The United States, the other superpower of the bipolar era, made most of the opportunity in order to disintegrate the Soviet Union. America and its Western allies used the tribal areas of Pakistan as a forward launching pad for supporting their cause against the Soviets. To persuade Pakistan to join its hand in the fight against the Communist superpower was never a challenging task. A compliant dictator’s presence in Islamabad made this task much easier than expected. Under the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan opted to fight against Russians. Without national consensus, a militant struggle was launched against the Soviet occupation. Named as “Jihad” it was a proxy war of a world superpower, the U.S.A. Huge funds were spent on the recruitment of militants (Mujahideen). For this purpose, madrassahs (religious schools) were opened throughout the country. Jihadi training camps were established, where thousands of youngsters were trained, in the name of holy war. Resultantly, a good brigade of mujahideen was landed into Afghanistan to bleed the Soviet forces. As the mission accomplished, the U.S. turned a blind eye to the region. This was followed by a power struggle among different warring factions. In due course of time, the Taliban, backed by Pakistani authorities succeeded in subduing other forces and establishing their authority in the war-torn country. However, it did not last very long. A devastating tragedy took place in the U.S., which changed the whole scenario. Pakistan, under huge American pressure, reserved its policy of supporting the Taliban. The famous American declaration that “Either you are with us or against us” put Pakistan firmly on the front of American-led Global war on terror. Then the backlash of pro-Taliban elements followed.
Besides the state policy, the perpetual failure of democracy in Pakistan also aided to the upsurge of extremism in the country. The continual military intervention did not let the nation build according to the envisaged ideals of the Father of the Nation. Over 33 years of the military regimes gave us authoritarian rule, botched attempts reforming governments and assurances that democracy could only be delivered by midwives in Khaki. Frustrated by this scenario, the youth of the country had to have resources to contrasting sources. Some went into religious seminaries, while others left themselves at the mercy of circumstances. In fact, failure of democracy created a vacuum in our society and the extremist forces appeared on the surface, now asserting to establish an Islamic polity of their breed and thought.
Mass illiteracy and social and social injustice are also significant subscribers to rising extremism in Pakistan. In fact, mass illiteracy leads to unemployment and an unemployed mind is the home of evil. Uneducated people can easily be inflamed and provoked.
Similarly, social injustice creates a sense of deprivation and alienation among masses. And ultimately they blame the system for their grievances. As the intensity of grievances touches a particular point, the masses turn to violent means to change the system that denies them justice.
Poverty also causes a major rise in extremism. The Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said, “Poverty can lead to Kufr.” Poor people who are frustrated and dissatisfied with the world, are easy extremists. The poor people are used in suicide attacks in the name of the Holy War (Jihad).
Abhorrence of western values is also a notable factor. Naturally, when people are governed against their will, they retaliate. There are a number of people in our country who abhor western values. However, the imposition of certain West-oriented policies under the umbrella of modernization has created disequilibrium in our society. Owing to this, many disillusioned individuals have restored to violent means to punish the authorities.
In addition to that, the so-called war on terror also created resentment among the masses. The unilateral decision of invading Afghanistan and Iraq created hatred among Muslims for the Western world. Along with the United States, Pakistan had to cooperate willy-nilly. This unnatural alliance of Pakistan with the U.S. and Western world proved to be a bitter pill to swallow.
Ultimately, it resulted in a strong reaction by people as depicted in the rising wave of extremism.
The Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) crisis added fuel to the fire. Violent actions by security forces pushed thousands of Muslim youth into the valley of death. The ongoing spate of suicide bombing is a show of their response. Similarly, the military operation in tribal areas has inflamed the scale and intensity of fanaticism in the country.
As a result of extremism, the writ of the state is weakening day by day. In Swat Valley, it almost vanished a few months ago, due to which military invention becomes inevitable. Even the capital city could not remain isolated from the flames of extremism. The Marriot Hotel in the midst of the city was blown up with the explosive-laden truck. In this way, these terrible episodes have exposed the ability of our ill-equipped and ill-trained security personal.
The crippling economy is another factor due to a surge in extremism. Foreign Direct Investment (EDI) is on the decline. Inflation has surged to an alarming level. The adverse law and order situation has created a sense of insecurity in the minds of the investors. Huge capital is witnessed in the recent past, but the development project has now virtually come to a halt due to the dearth of funds.
The ailing economy of the country has compelled the authorities to resort to IMF and has placed Pakistan under its rigid conditionalities to meet. Had Pakistan not resorted to IMF, it was quite possible that it would have become a bankrupt state. These are indeed sickening development for a cash-starved country. The rising of extremism in different forms has wrought havoc with the economy of Pakistan.
Distortion of the image of Pakistan is also among the effects of extremism. Due to this unpleasant and unwanted development, efforts are being made at every possible level to get Pakistan declared a failed state. Not only this but also the West is thinking of rolling back of our nuclear program. In a bid to denuclearize the only atomic Muslim state, moves are being made by the rivals to pursue the international community about the vulnerability of Pakistan nukes. Conspiracies are being hatched against Pakistan, so as to isolate it in the comity of nations in order to pressurize it to renounce its nuclear program.
International media too has left no stone unturned in portraying Pakistan as the most dangerous place to live in. some have even turned it as the “Financier of Terrorism.” With the notable surges surge in Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, the international community has been blaming Pakistan quite often for orchestrating terror attacks in Afghanistan.
These are the causes and repercussions of extremism. Though extremism is a serious threat to the existence of our country, it can be uprooted from our society. Following are the remedial measures, if adopted sincerely, can ameliorate the situation.
First of all, mass illiteracy should be curtailed. For this, more and more schools should be reopened. Public awareness programs should be initiated. Eminent scholars are asked to devise a strategy for inculcating the importance of education among the youth of the country. Poor students should be given incentives so as to encourage them for further studies. True teachings of Islam with their relevance to problems of the modern era should be introduced.
Apart from that, denial of justice may provoke even an educated mind. Due to the dysfunction of institutions, justice, and equality have been elusive to Pakistani citizens. Therefore, both of these should be made certain at every tire of governance.
In addition to that, effective measures should be taken to exterminate poverty. Actions should speak louder than words. Much of the funds should be used for poverty-reduction measures. Poor people should be offered maximum opportunities to reap the benefits of the poverty-alleviation initiative. And more and more jobs should be created to lessen the level of unemployment. It is a matter of observation that when the socio-economic transformation of a society begins to occur, it dismantles old benefits and brings pragmatic values into prominence. These begin to change the outlook of the people for better.
Furthermore, development projects should be started in tribal areas. Local people should be given jobs on a priority basis. Local ulema should be asked to educate young students.
Effective legislation should be made in order to maintain the writ of the state. In order to remove the sense of deprivation among the poor masses, their quota in the services at the center should be increased.
Reforms should be made or introduce in madrassahs. First of all, all madrassahs should be taken into government custody. Their funding should be done through proper channels. An effective and vigilant check and balance system should be put into place. In addition to that, the curriculum of madrassahs should be revised and updated, with a bias towards modern physics and social sciences. Enlightened ulma should be assigned the task of making the curriculum according to the true teachings of Islam. The literature containing hatred and extremist views should be banned. An effective strategy should be devised to implement these reforms. Students in madrassahs should be taught subjects of science and technology along with the Holy Quran.
Our media can play a very effective rule in containing the menace of terrorism. Instead of glorifying the terrorists, it should unveil their evil designs and disclose their bigoted attitude. Also rather than criticize the government it should at the most project the devilish personality traits of these ill-directed people.
Apart from that, taking into confidence all stakeholders, a comprehensive and effective policy should be made so as to curb the menace of terrorism.
At the level of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), all the member countries should reach a joint agreement in order to restrain the ballooning potential threat of extremism.
Finally, in the current Pakistan context, the foreign policy of Pakistan needs to be restructured. Pakistan should revisit its pro-American policy. Keeping in view the national interest of the country, public aspiration should be given priority while formulating the foreign policy.
Extremism is lethal to our country. It has devastated our economic, political, and social institutions. The clouds of fear and despair are hovering over the poor masses. However, where there is a will there is away. If we are determined, undoubtedly, we can root out this evil from our society. By eradicating the evils of poverty, illiteracy, injustice, we can set the path towards progress. By adopting the progressives and reformative approach, we can become a great nation in the world.
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