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Youth radicalization in Pakistan: A session with Mr. Moeed Yusuf

Alienation, deprivation and marginalization coupled with three parallel and isolated education systems are the driving factors of youth radicalization in Pakistan, said Moeed Yusuf a Pakistani political analyst and researcher.

“The youth lies at the heart of the debate of radicalization in Pakistan. Being the only nuclear power of the Muslim world and the second largest Muslim populated country, Pakistan’s future direction is of vital concern for the West. To save the future direction of Pakistan, a structural transformation in the society’s outlook is required,” said  Yusuf at a session titled “Youth Radicalization in Pakistan” on 5th March 2010 organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) at its premises.
While expressing the importance of youth, he said that youth is the main entity in bringing the structural transformation at the societal level in Pakistan. Pakistan’s future direction depends on its young generation. He maintained that the Western view point that Pakistan is going to fail tomorrow is unfounded. According to him the existence of three parallel educational systems (elite education system, public and Madrassa education) operating in isolation with each other reinforced the radical tendencies in the country. The other critical area is the under employment.

While referring to the youth bulge which will continue well beyond 2025; in 2030, youth will constitute 48% of the population. Mr. Yusuf warned of such signals for Pakistan’s society taking into account the rising male number below the age of twenty four years. He said “If higher access to and demand for education is not matched by equitable expansion in the labor market, the expectation-reality disconnect would play out negatively in the short run. The interference of external actors like USA further complicated the whole scenario as the things that seem right before 9/11 immediately turned out dangerous for Pakistani society.

He argued that state needs to take effective measures for strengthening  its ‘safety valves’ as the places where state is weak that area becomes vulnerable to radicalization for young segment of the society. According to him Pakistan is an anomaly as the state’s inability to play a buffering role is not born out of its weakness; rather, it is a function of a deliberate policy. The states’ conducive role has been absent in Pakistan case, in fact it has acted as an “exacerbating factor”.. Islam has been used as a uniting factor to overcome sub-religious fault lines; the resultant paradigm has been exclusionary. Extremists have been utilized as a tool of military strategy.

However he describe that “Pakistan presents an interesting picture: on the one hand, the potential for a downward slide remains high, but on the other, addressing the warning signals and exacerbating factors could transform the bloated youth cohort, strong desire for education and employment, and anti-extremist outlook of mainstream society into drivers of positive growth”. He suggested that immediate threat from militancy must be addressed forthwith while in long run the population, education, economic opportunities, migration and role of the ‘safety valve’ must be issues of key concern.

The lecture was followed by insightful question answer session. While responding to a question about difference between religiosity and ideology Mr. Moeed referred to it as an identity issue dependent upon indicators and factors already explained. He said in the present scenario everyone is living with multiple identities in this interconnected world. One cannot disconnect one’s self neither can he survive with single identity our youth is also encountering this situation of identity crisis.