Published On: Wed, Sep 6th, 2017

‘More lethal than seminaries’

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Editorial

It is quite painful to see highly-educated people are increasing been found to be involved in acts of extreme terrorism and militancy. One wonders at the way the extremist and militant mindset has made inroads in our educational centers which are supposed to be the citadel of enlightenment. The recent case of a comprehensive life attempt on Sindh Opposition leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan is a case in point. It was not only an extreme act of terrorism which resulted in killings of two persons, a security guard and a child and also injuring four others but a manifestation of militant mindset.

As reported, Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui, a central commander of Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan (ASP) and a dangerous militant described as the mastermind of the attack on Izharul Hassan on the first day of Eidul Azha is a former student of Karachi University.

The attack has indeed again raised the spectre of universities turning into breeding grounds for radicalising students. Profiles of those  involved in the attack suggested that the authorities overlooked the emergence of religious fanaticism at universities even after the busting of a gang convicted of the deadly Safoora bus carnage.

One of the suspected assailants, who was killed in an alleged shootout with police shortly after the attack, was identified as Ahsan Israr, a PhD scholar who taught at an engineering university in Karachi. The other suspect, later identified as Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui is a second-year BS student enrolled in Applied Physics department at Karachi University.

This latest incident reminds one of the recent seminar titled ‘Growing radicalisation in educational institutions’, where academicians and security experts cited that the next generation of militants may emerge from academic institutions, public or private rather than a madressah background. Few years ago, the arrest of Saad Aziz, a student of Pakistan’s well-known university, the Institute of Business Administration, shook the collective consciousness of Pakistanis.

Saad was awarded death sentence for his involvement in the Safoora Goth bus carnage and murder of prominent human rights activist Sabeen Mahmud. His arrest was an eye-opener for people, helping them realise the plethora of problems present in our academic institutions. But, just as all other things in Pakistan, no real measures were neither devised nor taken to counter this. More recently Noreen Laghari, a medical student’s video confession disclosing that she was going to be used as a suicide bomber by the militant group, Islamic State, gave rise to the debate once again, only to be forgotten gradually. And this right here is where the problem lies.

The irony is that our policymakers don’t realise how gravely problematic it is when an educated privileged individual, with an easy access to life’s basic needs along with luxuries, is easily radicalised. The individual chooses to become a part of the growing militancy despite him or her having the means to know better.

The cases of Saad or Noreen weren’t poverty-stricken or underprivileged. Nor were Mashal Khan’s killers illiterate. They were all products of our educational institutions that breed hatred and radicalism instead of enlightenment.

It has become quite evident that our academic institutions churn out millions of graduates every year only to be thrown in the job market to earn money. They do not breed thinkers, progressive leaders or intellectuals.

There  is  an immediate need for a coordinated and strong policy to check extremism that experts believe is no more limited to conventional madressahs (seminaries) but can now be found in reputed public and private educational institutions, negating the ‘myth’ that radicalisation is linked with poverty and illiteracy.

Radicalisation is growing at academic institutes with the experts assessing that the next generation of militants is more likely to have university education.

Experts also cite the case of a 31-year-old man who studied at the prestigious Karachi Grammar School (KGS), graduated from LUMS and later on started teaching at the KGS. He was radicalised to the extent that he went to Waziristan, where he got injured in a drone strike. Now he’s reportedly working on de-radicalization after realising the horrible consequences.

On the other hand, some educated and rich youths of Defence, Gulshan, Gulistan-i-Jauhar and Nazimabad are also reported be joining the global militant outfit, Islamic State group. This situaiotan pont to a very complex and serious scenario which needs to be taken notice of on emergency basis.

Media has also reported about the case of a private university teacher who trained his son and other close relatives to prepare improvised explosive devices (IEDs), that faculty member became a ‘most wanted’ person.

Then there is another case of a faculty member of an academic institute in Clifton who radicalised one youth there.

In this scenario, one may also question the role of 10-12 intelligence agencies’ personnel operating at each varsity if they could not detect militancy there.On the other hand, our teachers lack identifying behavioural changes among the students whcioh is not ‘possible’ for them, because they are not trained for this.

The reputed institutions need to monitor students but they should do it in a way to help student to be back from the brink of destruction and not through issuance of show-cause notices or strict disciplinary actions which could be counter-productive. For this each institution needs to have a team of experts to be able to handle the situation with care.

Though it is not the job of educational institutions to be considering to fighting terror or extremism as their ‘domain’, but they can do it changing the mindset of the students through not allowing hate speeches and hate materials or people who through their acts readicalise the students.

On the other hand, one may question the role of security agencies in fighting out the terrorists outfits. Instead of elimination, the terrorists are coming up with new names and strategies. For example, the Ansarul Shariah is a relatively new, mostly Karachi-based outfit; formed by former members of Daesh and other banned groups.

As reported, most of its cadres left for Syria to fight in the civil war but returned when the fighting intensified, adding that most of them are thus ‘battle hardened’.

The group first made headlines in Karachi in April this year in the targeted killing of a retired army colonel.

Police officials also believe the group is behind several attacks on police officials in Karachi in the past few months.

It is paining to note that most of the group’s members come from ‘educated backgrounds’. Academically we will have to review our education system to make it more efficient.

To conclude, one may also point to a very crucial point ant that is the parents’ role is also important. For instant they can inform the authorities in case they find any behavioral changes among their children. As reported the parents of Saad Aziz and Noreen Leghari’s parents knew of their drift towards extremism but they kept a mum over this serious issue. This is not the right approach.

 

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