Education – a pathway to deradicalisation (Pakistan)

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Education – a pathway to deradicalisation (Pakistan)

By Dr Musarat Amin

(Original article: Pakistan Observer.  January 23, 2017)

PAKISTAN, is combating terrorism and extremism through security and intelligence measures. But as terrorism is getting more lethal and annihilating there is a dire need to counter terrorism and extremism through deradicalistion, as this model is in vogue in Middle East, Europe and Southeast Asia. Pakistan’s losses in fight against terrorism are massive in magnitude indeed. But Pakistan’s government is still relying more on hard power than soft approach to deal with this issue. Zarb-i-Azb might have achieved greater success but it may not undo the individuals’ belief system and rejecting extremist ideology of their embracers. Therefore, government should take revolutionary measures to implement potential projects of deradicalistion to cope up this menace. 

This approach may not be much appealing for the practitioner as the rehabilitation of terrorists is bit unrealistic, but worldwide rehabilitation centres have shown that it’s quite effective in disengaging terrorists from extremist and terrorist ideologies. Worldwide counter-terrorist campaigns have restricted movement and actions of terrorist organisation, therefore, social media has emerged as a vibrant tool of recruitment for terrorist organisations, most notably Al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State (IS) where they promote their ideologies and identify followers. There is not much reaction to such propagation of extremism by the government. Pakistan is no different to establish deradicalisation centres. 

Different stages of deradicalisation are being practiced in most of the states which involve the following five stages. (i) identification, (ii), re-education, (iii) resocialisation, (iv) rehabilitation and (v) monitoring. All these measures might be effective but the reality on ground does not show better results in Pakistan. Counter-radicalisation of those who are in prison cells and educated by religious clerics also undergo psychological counselling for their reformation. It is primarily aimed at dislodging the concept of takfir (apostasy). The same methodology is required at school, college and university level. Pakistan armed forces have destroyed and debilitated many terrorist organisations on Pakistan’s soil but this would prove unending war until the upcoming generations are taught the valour of peace and its significance in the development of nations. 

Peace education should be imparted to the youth as a compulsory subject at the level of 8th, 9th and 10th in public schools as students of that age group are more prone to extremist ideologies. That peace education should be a combination of Islamic as well as Western literature that promotes tolerance, peaceful co-existence and harmony amongst different segments of the society. Government should arrange an interaction between former militants who have been successfully rehabilitated and the students of educational institutes to deter them from joining the ranks of terrorist organisations. Similar model is also in practice in Malaysia. Some of the released militants though not properly rehabilitated are still a threat to state. Families of such individuals may also play a crucial role in their reformation process as they may be monitored more closely after their release from prison. Additionally, a massive media campaign of reformed individuals talking to general public may spread their massage of relinquishing extremism would be quite helpful. 

War against terrorism can destroy already established networks whereas those who are influenced by extremist ideologies and constitute major segment of the society may not be prevented from the jaws of extremism. A softer approach of deradicalisation may prove more effective in this regard. Lastly, the most dominating and effective measure to counter-radicalisation is empowering those who are unemployed and impoverished. Transnational terrorist networks target poor and dejected people to recruit and lure them with hefty perks for their job. 

Government should introduce some funding programs for those reformed detainees who want to establish their small businesses to at least provide sources of subsistence for them and their families. If properly launched, deradicalisation is pretty effective in altering and reforming indoctrinated individuals and enabling them to imbibe in society as productive citizens. William James a famous American philosopher once said “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude of mind”. 

— The writer is Assistant Professor, Defence and Diplomatic Studies, FJWU, Rawalpindi. Email: [email protected]

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