An independent think-tank

West looks at radicalization of Pakistani youth from a religious lens: Dr. Riffat

Dr Riffat Hussain (Chairman DSS), MS Shabana Fayyaz, Amir Rana (Director PIPS) and Safdar Sial accompanied by students of QAU during workshop on radicalization.

“The west has tried to look at the issue of motivation of the radicalization of youth in Pakistan from a religious lens. We need to go away from this and look at non-religious factors, which may be contributing as a motivating force,” commented Dr. Riffat Hussein, who is a prominent scholar and professor at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He graced a workshop on “Radicalization in Pakistani Youth” held at Quaid-i-Azam University by the PIPS in collaboration with the Department of Strategic Studies (DSS).

The workshop was held at the completion of a research project on Radicalization in Pakistan Youth. The study was a joint venture of the PIPS and the DSS. Dr. Riffat Hussein complimented Ms Shabana Fayyaz, DSS faculty, Amir Rana, Director PIPS and PIPS members for taking this initiative to learn something about the phenomena of radicalization of youth. He observed that the presentations suggest that a lot of good work has been done through this survey and we must disseminate the findings of this survey to correct some misperceptions that surround the issue.While making his presidential address, Dr. Riffat explained the phenomena of radicalization in Pakistan particularly, and, in general as well. He remarked that Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world, which actually have a youth bulge in a sense that the largest number of the people in Pakistan as a growing population (around 35 per cent) are within the age group of 15 to 22 years. It behooves us to understand the phenomenon of the radicalization of the youth or to generally get some sense or assessment of how the youth is looking at itself, in terms of its own role in the Pakistani society. He explained four issues one should keep in mind while conducting research on the subject.

Speakers addressing the workshop.

First issue is motivation. What is motivating youth to do certain things or refrain from doing certain things? Second is the action itself. What is the activity of youth that has been undertaken in Pakistan? Whether they engage in suicide terrorism or they get recruited by the terrorist organizations or they actually try to channel their radicalization towards more philanthropic social programs and social work? Third issue is the context. How we define it? Radicalization is occurring in certain context rather than in a vacuum. We need to develop contextual analysis of the radicalization. And the last one is the consequence. If it is true that some elements of the Pakistani youth have been radicalized then what are going to be socio-economic, political and religious consequences. Not only for the larger society but also for the youth itself, because the youth is not a monolithic entity. It is a very diverse group.

He urged the state and the society to come up with a consequence management strategy in trying to deal with some of these issues. In lot of the literature radicalization is seen as necessarily a bad thing which is something which youth should not be undertaking. I think we should not put a value-judgment on this, said the speaker.

Shabana Fayyaz, who presided over the first session, observed that the survey studies presented during the workshop “go against the writing on the wall, especially by the West, that all the youth in Pakistan are on the threshold of becoming radicals or they are radicalized.” She explained that radicalization happens in some context. Contextual factors are contributing. The roots of radicalization “can be indigenous, but it does have bilateral, regional and international connotations as well,” she asserted.

Four presentations – two in each of the two sessions – were made during the workshop. Safdar Sial talked about the works produced on the subject and major themes and strands therein. Definition and characteristics of radicalization and its linkage to extremism and terrorism were discussed by Muhammad Azam.

Sana Aslam and Sajida Hina – Master level students at the DSS – presented their research findings on “Trends of Radicalization in Pakistani Youth.” Sana’s study aimed at identifying the level of radicalization in Pakistani youth. Students of Quaid-i-Azam University were chosen as the sampling population. In this study, survey and interview methods were used to measure the relationship between the root-causes and trends and levels of radicalization in Pakistan. She found out that the religious radicalization in the youth of Pakistan is far less as perceived by the international community. And, that the youth of Pakistan are more inclined towards their traditional and cultural values and are in the process of evolving their political thinking.

Youth of Pakistan accept women as humans with same rights as that of men. People from the western part of Pakistan, however, are a little bit reluctant to allow women to work. She also noticed that students from cities were more interested in bringing change in society as compared to the students from the rural areas.

At the end, Dr. Riffat Hussein and Muhammad Amir Rana awarded certificates to the students who made presentations. Amir Rana announced that all 36 students – who participated in the research project – from the DSS and the Department of International Relations – would be awarded certificates and complimentary books on the issue by the PIPS.