It has been conventional to take poverty, unemployment, and other similar drawbacks to be the root causes of terrorism, though this view has been repeatedly contradicted. Ahmad Omar Said Sheikh, for instance, who orchestrated the abduction and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, hailed from an affluent family, and studied at the renowned London School of Economics. Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda, who once topped the FBI list of Most Wanted Terrorists, also came from a prosperous family, and was a successful entrepreneur himself. Mohamed Atta, one of the ringleaders of the September 11 attacks, was a successful architect. But here one might ask why would an educated and well-settled person, with no evident motive to commit terrorist activities, choose to do so?

The West, and the USA in particular, has often been portrayed as a threat to the sovereignty and security of the Islamic world, stated a Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) official in an interview. Terrorist organisations have exploited this by declaring the USA an enemy of the Muslim community, that the USA plans to debilitate all Islamic countries it sees as a hazard to its own interests. They insist that the 2003 Iraq conflict and the war in Afghanistan (both of which were conducted by US-led coalitions) resulted in the unjustified devastation of the economy and people of both states, calling upon all Muslims to rise against the USA. Many people, even highly educated persons like Ahmad Omar Sheikh, accept this propaganda, and join terrorist organisations who, like them, believe that violence is the only course of action.

One should not underestimate the extent to which this view is prevalent in Pakistan. An alarming number of people, including many highly educated individuals, are led to believe that a fabled campaign is being conducted against Islam, which aims to weaken the Muslim world. Many would deem it appropriate to join terrorist organisations in order to counter the oppression of the antagonists of Islam. Additionally, the youth, inclusive of the well educated of our country, lives in an atmosphere that does not promise a bright future, because given the current deteriorating economic situation, it may prove difficult for even a highly educated person to be employed to a satisfactory position, leading to frustration and a sense of low self-worth, contrary to the affirmation a terrorist organisation would make. A terrorist organisation may penetrate an educational institution, where those sympathetic to its beliefs may corrupt the minds of students and even staff members, as was seen when an IBA student was discovered to be the mastermind of the 2015 Safoora Goth bus shooting.

It is consequently key to conscription by terrorist groups that an anti-West propaganda is promoted, and they do so by making effective use of social media, especially contacting young, impressionable people, instructing them to take up arms against the West, convincing them that they are fighting for the cause of Islam, therefore raising their confidence and sense of power, thereby gaining new recruits.

However, because most of the terrorist attacks carried out are located in Muslim-majority nations, it follows that a resentment of the West cannot be the sole reason why an educated person would join a terrorist organisation. Indeed, many do so after being persuaded to believe that it is the only approach that will improve the current state of the Muslim world.

Many Muslims look back to the Muslim community of the earlier centuries, which they believe was more prosperous and reputable compared to that of today. They would then, of course, want to improve on their current situation, further explained the CTD official. A terrorist group would take advantage of this by encouraging Muslims, especially young, even well educated, people, to fight for the formation of a Khilafat, that is, a state governed by an Islamic steward, a leader of the entire Muslim community, therefore, as terrorist groups claim, uniting it, which would lead to prosperity and opulence of the Muslim community. Many Muslims are convinced that a Khilafat would lead to a return to the golden age of the Muslim world. Many affiliate with terrorist organisations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda who they see as fighters for the advancement of the Muslim world.

A terrorist organisation would be able to exploit the sense of frustration that many Muslims experience when they feel that the Muslim world is in decline. They would believe the government to have failed to perform its duties in providing even the basic necessities, for instance education and health services, or that it has allowed immorality and lawlessness to penetrate the society. They may agree with a terrorist organisation that violence is required, that it is a reasonable solution, even believe that a terrorist group would be more disciplined, would form a better government, as would be suggested by its propaganda, thus would be prepared to promote the validity of its aims. It is for this reason that many Muslims would reject and condemn the aims and actions of terrorist organisations such as the Taliban, which would be viewed as tribal groups, instead supporting other terrorist organisations, such as ISIS, which have a specific objective, believing them to be fighting for a cause that would benefit the Muslim community, in accordance with religious guidelines.

All terrorist attacks, current and recent, and all advancements made in technology by terrorist organisations are a result of recruitment of well educated people, who are vital to the prolongation of terrorism. While the military operation in progress in KP, FATA, and Karachi has been, undoubtedly, effective, this alone will remain inadequate in preventing the propagation of the ideology of terrorism, or discouraging young, well educated persons from terrorist acts. On the contrary, it may even further strengthen their will to do so. It would also be necessary that the government draw up a counter-terrorism narrative, making effectual use of the media, i.e. television, radio broadcasts, newspapers, leaflets, and the Internet, especially social media, which is being employed as a method by radical Islamists for self-promotion and recruitment, in order to depict the undisguised barbarism of the ideology of terrorism. In addition to this, the government must also provide security for unprotected educational institutions, which are often important centres of recruitment, launching investigation into the suspicious activities of students and staff members, as deemed appropriate, and taking action as necessary, in order to curb terrorism by educated individuals.