“Radicalization is undermining tolerance, co-existence and pluralism in society”
“The radical groups and radicalization are undermining the norms and values of tolerance, co-existence, peace and pluralism in Pakistani society.” Hussain Naqi, National Coordinator for HRCP Core Groups, said this while giving his expert opinion in the PIPS media workshop on “Radicalization in Pakistan” on November 25, 2008, in Lahore. Mr. Naqi explained the tolerant and peaceful features of the tribal and Pakhtun areas in historical perspective. He mentioned the prevalence of non-violence in the areas when secular schools were run by Baacha Khan.
Qazi Javed, a renowned intellectual and Resident Director, Pakistan Academy of Letters, Lahore seconded him saying, “The war against extremism and terrorism is our own war. It is not others’ war. Who are becoming victims of this war; obviously, we ourselves and our Pakistani society. Those who are fighting are not fighting just to change Afghanistan or Pakistan. They aim at transforming the world order. In this sense, it can be identified as the first world war in the real sense, opined Mr. Qazi.
Bilal Sufi, Director Research Society of International Law (RSIL), explained in detail [in the third session] the legal dimensions of terrorism and radicalization in the framework of international law and requirements for its compliance by the states.
The PIPS Director Muhammad Amir Rana explained [in his presentation] historical evolution of radicalization and extremism in Pakistan, level and increasing trends of religious radicalization in the country at various points in time and the threats the phenomenon of radicalization poses for national and international security in the near future.
The media workshop on “Radicalization in Pakistan” was organized by the PIPS on November 25, 2008 at a local hotel in Lahore. The workshop was the third of the ongoing series. The first one was held at Peshawar on August 21, 2008 and second one at Islamabad on October 9.
1st session of the workshop was chaired by Qazi Javed, Resident Director, Pakistan Academy of Letters, Lahore. He asserted that the war against extremism and terrorism is our own war. It is not others’ war. Who are becoming victims of this war; obviously, we ourselves and our Pakistani brethren, said Mr. Qazi.
Those who are fighting are not fighting just to change Afghanistan or Pakistan. They aim at transforming the world order. In this sense, it can be identified as the first world war in the real sense, opined Mr. Qazi. He said that the international community should support Pakistan to win this war.
On the one hand, we need to promote pluralism, which is found among the sufis, to defeat extremism and terrorism. The sufis like Ali Hajveri and Baba Farid have been preaching peace, tolerance, co-existence and pluralism. On the other hand, we need to rise against those so-called thinkers and philosophers who negate pluralism and preach narrowness and intolerance. Furthermore, we need to modernize our education system. Mr. Qazi said that the state needs to see what role has it played in radicalizing the society and what role its various institutions have played in this regard?
He further said that our economic condition has also played a role in the process of radicalization. Although poverty and economy cannot be separated, poverty is not a factor in this process; otherwise, the phenomenon would have caused a bigger problem in India where poverty is higher than that in Pakistan. He was of the view that leadership of the radical groups and organizations hails from the upper class.
Muhammad Amir Rana, Director PIPS introduced topics of the presentations in the beginning of the 1st session. First of the presentations was made by Muhammad Azam on defining radicalization and differentiating it from extremism and terrorism. The second presentation of the session was made by Amir Rana on the topic of “Radicalization in Pakistan.” The issues discussed in these presentations included characteristics of radicalization and extremism, differentiation between radicalization and extremism, relationship between radicalization and terrorism, baselines of radicalization in Pakistan, level and increasing trends of religious radicalization in the country at various points in time and the threats the phenomenon of radicalization poses for national and international security in the near future.
Safdar Sial, a research analyst, presented his findings on “Radicalization in Pakistan’s Tribal Region” in the 2nd session. His presentation was followed by a presentation on the impact of radicalization on Pakistani media by Muhammad Azam. Hussain Naqi, National Coordinator for HRCP Core Groups, chaired the session and Qazi Javed spoke as the discussant. In Naqi’s opinion, it is not appropriate to take the word of ‘radicalism’ as entirely negative; sometimes it is also positive. For example, radical reforms are required by the government to address certain policy areas.
Mr. Naqi explained the tolerant and peaceful features of the tribal and Pakhtun areas in historical perspective. He mentioned the prevalence of non-violence in the areas when secular schools were run by Baacha Khan. These schools promoted peace and tolerance in the society through education. The effort was successful to a large extent. The state and the governments maligned him because of ‘certain purposes.’ In fact, radicalization was promoted (by design) in the area, he said.
Mr. Naqi also observed that the economic conditions improved in FATA during the Afghan Wars partly because of the increased drugs trade.
Presentations in the second session revolved around the points like media as a factor and victim of radicalization in Pakistan, glorification of the radicals by the media, nature, level, methods and modes of pressure on the media by the radical groups and organizations, self-censorship imposed by the writers, differentiation between mainstream and alternate media, factors behind the phenomenon of radicalization in the country, levels, forms and fallout of radicalization in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In his presentation “Radicalization in Pakistan’s Tribal Region,” Mr. Safdar Sial discussed the Afghan Wars and the “War on Terror” while talking about the factors behind the increase of radicalization in the area. It was observed that the alternate media in Pakistan is more sensational and more critical to government policies as compared to the mainstream media. Similarly, it glorifies the radicals much more than the mainstream.
The 3rd session was chaired by Bilal Sufi, Director Research Society of International Law. Before his address, Saba Noor presented her findings on “Radicalization and Government Response.” Her presentation touched upon the issues like phases of terrorism in the historical perspective in Pakistan, counter-terrorism and deradicalizing strategies and policies adopted by the governments at different times, pieces of legislation formulated to this end, ordinances, important amendments in the laws and ordinances, establishment of new security structures in Pakistan, banned jihadi and sectarian organizations, search operations, numbers of terrorists arrested, peace agreements and missing people.
Bilal Sufi explained in detail the legal dimensions of terrorism and radicalization in the framework of international law and requirements for its compliance by the states. He mentioned that Pakistan is a party in more than fifty thousand (50,000) international agreements and treaties. The fact makes the phenomenon extremely complex to be comprehended. He urged the media as well as the authorities to keep abreast with the rapidly changing international environment as more and more new laws are being enacted by international bodies like the United Nations. He commented that the legislation process in these international institutions provides many opportunities to the third world countries. The only thing required is to be vigilant. The responsibility lies on the shoulders of the diplomats who take part in the negotiations.
All three sessions were followed by lively question and answer sessions. The participants were very eager to express themselves as well as to know about the subject. Some of them put their questions forward to the speakers and the guests to explore the responsibilities of the media regarding critical issues of radicalization, extremism and terrorism. Some others wanted to have more and more information on the phenomenon of radicalization.
Observations and questions raised by the audiences
Apart from the presentations and addresses by those who chaired the sessions, observations made and questions raised by the audiences are very pertinent and helpful to take the debate and research on these critical security issues forward. Some of these observations and questions are in order.
There are so many radical groups functioning in the tribal areas but just two or three names are mentioned by the media. Does it not mean that the media is either under pressure or the miscreants are being spared.
Baitullah Mehsud was brought to the limelight after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Is it by design or by default that whenever a big event takes place a new name is highlighted to divert the attention from real issues.
Are the security measures and options adopted by the government to tackle the problem justified? Is the abuse of military power by the government not causing an increase in the
What is the real solution of the problem?
There is so much confusion about the meanings of jihad. Common people are confused on whether the terrorist activities being carried out by the militants are a manifestation of jihad or its opposite. Why does the media not write extensively on the real meanings and manifestations of jihad? How the people would be able to know about the reality i.e. who has the legitimate right to announce jihad? Are the groups, who are engaged in militancy in the name of jihad in the tribal areas, really waging jihad? Do they have the legitimate right to announce jihad?
Should the media create excitement on such issues?