An independent think-tank

“People are beings with human rights and human dignity”

The people we call radicals are alienated from rest of the society and don’t follow normative social and moral values. They are very vulnerable to be used by others. At the same time they have no motive of their own. They have never played any role for societal rights or any broader social change. These views were expressed by Mr. Akhlaq Ahmed, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, International Islamic University, Islamabad. He was addressing a session on “Defining the Phenomenon of Radicalization in Pakistan.” The PIPS is holding a series of sessions on this topic. It was the third in the series.The kinds of radicalization we are experiencing presently, like the bomb explosions, should be seen as a response to social deprivation, Mr. Akhlaq said. These are manifestations of xenophobia and these people are committing such acts out of frustration.

It clearly means these people are neither radicals nor extremists whom we call as Pakistani Taliban. They are struggling for their defence and survival.

He explained following causes of the prevailing chaos in Pakistani society:

Deprivation and alienation

First of all we will have to see whether the western discourse on radicalism fits in Pakistan’s context or not. Secondly, those who are identified as radicals in our country, are they really radicals or not? Thirdly, if yes, then what are the motives which attracted them or what are the forces which pushed them towards radicalism?

It seems that the definition we see in the discourse does not conform to the situation prevalent in Pakistan. In fact, origins of various radical movements in other parts of the world can be found in certain rights and privileges. It was a prominent feature of such movements. When we try to see the available definitions in our Pakistani context we see that none of the movements in Pakistan, either it was political or religious, was based on a demand for certain rights.

Though, the issues are there in some of the pockets but we do not observe any clash between the haves and the haves not in Pakistan. We have never observed a phenomenon of overall social change. It means that the definitions of radicalization borrowed from the west do not help. They take us nowhere.

The question which needs to be emphasized is that who are the people we identify as religious extremists? Are they being used by someone? Are these people instruments for others? Are they self-motivated or motivated by others? We need to analyze it.

Keeping the western definitions of radicalization in mind, when we look at these people we come to know that these people have been playing in others’ hands, sometimes against the Soviets, and sometimes against someone else. Iran used Pakistani Shia community and some of the parties used the Sunni community against the Shia. These are the only two three example of radicalism we have in the entire history of Pakistan, said Mr. Akhlaq.

He explained that our society is so much suffocated that the people are afraid of disclosing their religious identities. The society does not provide them much room for expressing their views. Disagreement is not tolerated.

“I call them ‘alienated’ rather than ‘radicals.’ The reason is they are cutoff from the whole process.” They have no association with the social process, asserted the speaker.
His address was followed by a question answer session.