Pakistan has an extremism problem. And mostly this is what is commonly termed as religious extremism---or to be more accurate, Sunni extremism. This problem has been created, developed and sustained by none other than the state itself. Intentionally, the state creates both extremists as its strategic tool, and strategies to counter them when they become uncontrolled violent enemies. They (extremists-terrorists) are created and trained both physically and ideologically, and ultimately sent to the seventy-two beautiful virgins in the Heaven. This obnoxious combination, as a result of dual role played by the state, of lies and truths, drops of blood and pieces of paper, and tears and laughter, enable different – smaller yet powerful – groups (mostly backed by the high-profile politicians or army generals) to get organized in a way which ultimately benefits the state---or‘some’of its institutions—but greatly harms the masses.

Recently, the National Action Plan gave us a reason to think about the change in state’s ideological position. But with the passage of time two things have been clarified. One, the state is still reluctant to take significant actions against all the extremist and terrorist organizations no matter whether they belong to any religious or political parties.  Probably there were some political as well as ideological hurdles in order to completely curb the extremism phenomenon. Two, NAP alone is not a sufficient means to clean up the mess of decades. The state needs to do something more fundamental and substantial to get rid of this bane.

There are two examples that show us the state’s failure with reference to the NAP and its inefficiency.

Maulana Masroor Nawaz, a son of Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, defeated PML-N and PPP candidates by a remarkable margin of almost 13,000 votes in a by-election for the Punjab Assembly constituency PP-78. It has been learnt that there was no rigging or malpractice at the day of polling. “Rangers and Army personnel supervised the polling and the process was completed without any disturbance”, reported The Express Tribune.

Furthermore, it is important to note that Maulana Masroor, now member of the Punjab Assembly, was supported by his father’s party Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan which has been renamed as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. This party is officially banned in Pakistan.

Soon after Maulana Masroor’s victory in a by-election, a debate across Pakistan regarding the implementation of NAP just erupted. Some ridiculed the plan, others questioned the role of the government, and a few talked about the role of military establishment. But one thing remained common during these discussions that they all were NAP-centered.

As a matter of fact, this seems true that the idea of NAP was nothing more than a dark comedy. As the government and the military have been targeting selected individuals and organizations since its (NAP) inception. May be the idea of ‘good terrorists and bad terrorists’ is dominating the thinking of people sitting in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

But a focused observation and deeper examination of the situation reveals something more than this. Can NAP, or any other plan, be successful if the general public starts electing terrorists as their representatives? Probably, No.

The other recent example of extremist mindset, which compels us to draw a conclusion that only a plan to capture or kill a few selected people won’t work, is the legacy of former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer’s murderer Mumtaz Qadri.

A shrine is being constructed in memory of the Governor’s killer. We must understand that a shrine is constructed on the graves of pious and generally Sufi-saints so that after their demise their followers may come, pray and get spiritualized.  As a matter of fact as we see thousands of people who come at the grave of Mumtaz Qadri pay him tributes, buy his snaps, put flowers on the grave, and show a commitment to the ideology Qadri got ‘martyred’ for, shows us an awkward side of the picture. Is it not worth worrying that the killer is being portrayed as the hero of many?

This construction of the shrine actually reveals a mindset of a large part of the society. And unfortunately no NAP can stop people from following their ‘heroes’.  Can it?

How this extremist mindset developed at such broad level in our society? Who brought such radical thinking in our society? And why? Who is responsible for all this extremism and terrorism across the country?

India? May be. USA? Probably. Israel? Perhaps, yes. Who else? Well, let’s open up our own textbooks. See them. Read them. Read all the words very carefully.

Do we not present murderers as our heroes? Do we not teach a sense of hatred to those who are not like us? Do we not urge our children to prefer faith over reason? Do we not teach them to get ready to cut-off the heads of all those who utter a single word against our faith? Unfortunately, we do.

This is, however, the beginning of the extremist mindset. Later on different groups propagate the same ideas and make promises that they will create the system based upon these ideals and thus an armed struggle for the promised-order just begins.  And as a result we see Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat.

What is the way forward, then?

The foremost important step to solve this bane of extremism is to confess our blunders and to admit that there is a problem within us and not in our stars. Second, a plan like NAP can prove effective only if implemented with letter and spirit, but presents only a short term solution. For a long-term and permanent solution of the problem the state needs to review the educational curriculum being taught at our schools and colleges. Without comprehensive educational reforms the state may execute Mumtaz Qadris but it can never stop growing such mindset. It is high time the state decided on the type of individuals it intends to produce.