Generally, radicalisation is synonymously used with extreme political or religious disposition. The problem with this narrow understanding is that it fails to cover myriad facets of radicalisation and extremism. Second, it is hard to gauge the level of extremist ideology in any individuals, which makes it is difficult to quantify the level of radicalisation or extreme behaviour. Third, it does not provide information about the Pakistani context in terms of narrowing down the definitional aspect. Similarly, it opens a window of ambiguities impeding the process of formulating counter strategy. Also, is it merely the radical form of political or religious outlooks which promote extremist behaviour? It is, therefore, essential to define the contours of radicalisation in Pakistan before discussing deradicalisation.

While misuse of religion as tool is one of the causes of radicalisation in Pakistan, however, it is not the only cause of radicalisation and extremism. Even if one assumes it as a true statement, the question is why only Pakistan is associated with radicalisation in the Western discourse? Are secular and non-secular states free from it? The point is; the monks in Myanmar, for example, continue to kill Rohingya population due to their extreme religious views. So, is it not a clear indication that it is false to restrict radicalisation to one specific religion? Moreover, do religious and non-religious school of thoughts don’t possess the propensity to radicalism and extremism?

Contrary to popular perception, deradicalisation programs such as Mashaal and Saboon have been implemented in Swat, which are three tiered in nature. The first step focuses on changing the perspective of an extremist by acquainting with optimistic worldview followed by importance of honouring human life. In the second step, attempts are made to integrate victims into society by increasing engagement with different segments in order to nurture tolerance for contesting perspectives. The third step emphasises on imparting vocational training to make them self-sufficient individuals. However, when it comes to youth belonging to urban areas in Pakistan, exposure of fake news can contribute to confusion which makes them an ideal candidate regardless of their socioeconomic background for orchestrators of radicalisation and extremism. Therefore, there is a need to formulate special programs for this segment of society.

Deradicalisation in youth is important for nurturing a tolerant Pakistan in the long-term. Youth make up more than fifty percent of the population in Pakistan. Sadly, when individuals, particularly youth are not provided opportunities to become a productive member of the society in terms of job employment and clarity regarding their sense of purpose, it is bound to nurture grievances and radical views. Take, for example, the case of Hassan Bin Nazeer, who seemed to have all the basic necessities, yet he was found killed due to involvement in radical and extreme activities in Karachi. So, have we looked into such cases and made attempts to find the reasons so that it does not take the form of a pattern?

The ability to distinguish between freedom of speech and potential of the institutions to encroach upon it in attempts to clamp down on the extreme or hate speech is another factor which needs to be resolved at the national level. The idea is to come up with a balance between regulating the social media sites while allowing people to voice out difference of opinion in a safe environment. Moreover, there is a need to introduce educational courses to clear ambiguities related to the radical tendency in addition to finding new ways of curbing extremist behaviour. The role of education can be coupled with other means, for example, responsibility of an individual to scrutinise viewpoints based on critical reasoning is another crucial factor.

Deradicalisation programs are an amalgamation of both long-term and short-term solutions. The short-term strategies can be helpful in reducing the number of radicalised individuals; however, they are not adequate. For example, if short-term strategies are not pursued with the long-term measures, it will impede the progress on radicalisation. The long-term strategy can be bolstered with establishing centres for deradicalisation. The focus of these centres should be on the long-term strategy for coming years rather than getting overwhelmed with the short-term accomplishments on reducing the levels of suicide attacks. Hence, both short-term and long-term strategies along with innovative means are needed to address the quagmire of radicalisation and extremism in Pakistan.

Precisely the conception of victimology needs to be discerned and how it impacts the identity of the people who bear the brunt of terrorist activities. For example, the unfortunate death of Naqeebullah Mehsud and protests for accountability is one of the cases which can deepen the sense of victimisation lest the person or system responsible for the incident is brought to justice. The main idea is to ensure that people are not disenfranchised and these incidents are seen as the drawbacks of weak law and order system. Highlighting the stories of former radicals or those who have turned their life around is another effective way of countering radicalization and extremism. Lastly, the importance of deadicalisation cannot be questioned when it comes to inculcating tolerance and countering violent extremism, however, training of the experts and transparency of these programs is of utmost importance.


The writer is a researcher at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute.