Out of 180 million, 60 percent of Pakistan’s population comprises of youth. This statistic becomes a cause of concern when the radicalisation ratio increases by the day. A number of political, religious, and militant organisations are operating within Pakistan, and create an environment supportive of extremist thought and violent action. The result of this is that educational institutes, the purpose of which is intellectual inquiry and growth of the thought process, become hubs of the extremist ideology.

The report released by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week highlighted how the education system is suffering at the hands of the terrorists, but the conflict becomes grave when the terrorist ideology thrives within the university framework. We have witnessed several instances where university students were involved in terrorist activities. The recent case is that of Punjab University (PU). The place is known for the control of the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) over the student body, and violent action is the result when a culture of pluralism is promoted. On March 21, during the Pushtoon cultural event, activists of IJT attacked the participants and set the place on fire.

Punjab University has been a part of our history. It has produced outstanding scholars and has been one of the great learning centres of the country, but now its hostels are producing extremists. Same is the case with seminaries of Pakistan, as they are turning into centres of extremism.

These occurrences have become regular, and no one can stop them because of the narrative that they promote; a tainted Islamic identity. According to a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Pakistan, education is one of the enablers of youth radicalisation. As a result of a conscious effort to revive the Islamic identity, a majority of youth identify primarily through their religion over nationality. The second enabler is the state itself which offers tacit or active support to these groups.

Education and educational institutes should be as objective as possible. When gangs or extremist groups are allowed to work within and promote their narrative, the environment not only becomes suffocating but dangerous as well.