In an age of misinformation, it is important to pay attention to the youth bulge of Pakistan, which is not only struggling to get employed, but their exposure to credible and non-credible information needs to be dissected further. The inclination of young people towards the extremist ideology can have disastrous consequences for the security of the country. A number of recent incidents indicated the involvement of the youth in terrorist activities. For instance, the heinous lynching of Mashal Khan is an outcome of radicalised views at an educational institute. Therefore, awareness of thin line differences especially when it comes transcending the boundary of moderate views needs to be determined.

Taking into account the negative trends, the de-radicalisation of youth especially university students is necessary to bring about long-term stability. The efforts on decreasing the alarming levels of the radicalisation will be incomplete if one excludes a large segment of youth. In other words, the active participation of youth in curbing terrorism can play an instrumental role in minimising the influx of extremist viewpoints.

Focus on training of teachers is needed for bringing the levels of radicalisation down in Pakistan. Prejudices viewpoints of the influential figures on particular subjects can inculcate radical views in students, teachers, for example, play an instrumental role in shaping the young minds. Specifically, when it comes to joining radical organisations or subscription to an extremist ideology, students get influenced by their teachers. Therefore, training the teachers on de-radicalisation of youth is imperative. However, if the preaching goes beyond a certain point, it can block the avenues available to youth for articulating opinions. Hence, it would not be wrong to say that blindly following narratives as well as overbearing control both contribute to making youth radicalised. Similarly, specialised courses based on counter-narrative in Pakistan’s context are required which are in accordance with the ground realities. The main focus of academic courses should be on engaging the students in a meaningful manner.

As far as the role of the government is concerned, it can provide employment opportunities as well as channels for articulating well thought out arguments to acknowledge and recognise the contribution of youth in Pakistan. Local universities need to formulate an effective policy for keeping a check on the involvement of youth in radical organisations. Holding seminars and conferences in universities for youth to express their opinions without any pressure is one of many avenues. A media campaign can also be helpful in de-radicalising the young minds. Educating the youth to prevent institutionalisation of radical opinions is necessary, as de-radicalisation programs alone are not enough to mitigate the propagation of radical ideology. Institutionalisation of the de-radicalisation in Pakistan can be done by taking a clear stance on the polarising narrative or refusing to mainstream them. This is not to say that criticism should not be allowed. However, promoting incomplete stories based on weak grounds in case of terrorist attacks or associating the causes of internal problems with the external elements can mislead youth.

A sense of lack of ownership in youth is associated with structural problems as well as lack of opportunities to improve it. More so, focus on compounding a sense of ownership in youth in terms of the problems of the country can help to devise new strategies to cope with them. Therefore, integrating young people into the system by making them a stakeholder is important. A new method to detect signs of radicalisation also needs to be explored further. For instance, isolation or disenfranchisement are usually considered the main causes of many societal and structural problems, however, in Pakistan’s context, it needs to be taken up urgently. This implies that identifying patterns of behaviours in the cases which are anomalous or hard to discern should be dissected in detail to bring out the hidden aspects of problems related to Pakistan’s youth.

Some of the existing options are limited to extremists only and mostly used for people who have been radicalised. Therefore, there is a need for programs specifically for those who have illustrated signs of having radical views or who are inclined toward radicalisation. However, the process of determining this may be difficult to achieve due to subjectivity attached to the definition of radicalisation. Hence, formulating preventive measures particularly de-radicalising youth are an hour of the need in the country. To sum up, it is easy to implement de-radicalisation programs on university campuses due to existing mechanisms in place for coordination.

 

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