It is believed that dissection of humanity on religious or sectarian basis has resulted in the religious prejudices and misinterpretation or misconception of the idea of holy war in the world in general and Pakistan in particular. This dissection led to intolerance and extremism in the society. This violent extremism has brought Pakistan at crossroads where its socio-political peace is seriously threatened. Only peace can bring harmony in society, whereas violence, fear and destruction lead to insecurity, stress and weakening of different institutions.
The phenomenon of radicalism leading to terrorism is not new, it dates back to the known history of mankind and recent past has witnessed it more persistently and commonly; like Alexander the great, Romans, Europeans and Hitler massacred people in millions on one pretext or the other. Though many states and regions such as Iraq, Syria and Middle East and Europe are experiencing this menace, Pakistan being at the forefront of war against terrorism is facing the worst of its kinds.
Conceptions based on radical Islam and extremism leading to terrorism has become transnational as well as trans-regional phenomenon, embodying many complex dimensions and including complicated networks. Certain areas in Pakistan have acted as safe havens for the extremist ideology holders, who have created franchises like Tehrik Taliban Pakistan. The unsettled issues like Kashmir have paved way for the spread of these ideologies and instigating common people in the name of religious beliefs and holy war. The inculcation of such ideologies has been one root cause of the spreading Islamic radicalism leading to violent terrorism.
Rise of the radical Islam began during Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. The presence and involvement of Arabs especially the Egyptian runaways like Al-Zawahiri played their part in radicalizing local Islam with Salafi Ideals. This type of radicalism use viciousness, which perceive as heavenly commanded resolutions, generally aiming and targeting broad class and category of adversaries to make extensive deviations. This radicalism is becoming the major threat to Pakistan’s integrity. Extremist acts executed by different extremist religious groups have tarnished Pakistan’s image and resulted in the loss of numerous innocent lives.
It is widely believed that US unjust policies especially against Muslims are the primary reason for increase in this type of extremism and if US forces leave Afghanistan, it would result into substantial reduction in the militancy in Pakistan. Sectarian divide has also been a main cause of extremism in Pakistan. Politically influenced religious sectarian biased parties like Sipah-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Shahba have been responsible for repeated killing of leaders of their rival groups on one pretext or the other. These incidents have sparked chain killings and breakdown of law, peace and order within country’s major cities. Inimical forces hostile to the existence of Pakistan are funding and arming the rival factions to destroy the very fabric of national unity.
Ethnic violence also remained a main influencing feature in Pakistani politics. Karachi, the business hub, became the main focal point and target of racial clatters. In early 90s, with the vicious activities of Muhajir Quami Movement (MQM), using violent methods, the law enforcement and other state of affairs. Religious radicalism has its pedigrees and roots in a fanatical type and variety of Islam. Ideology is the main encouraging and motivating factor behind the present rise of fanaticism in the society. Wahhabi and Salafi ideologies/ schools of thought are more uncompromising and therefore responsible toward encouraging radicalism and militancy. Al-Qaeda, Taliban and their affiliated clusters, operating in Pakistan, get their inspiration ideologically from Wahhabi and related versions of the religion. As opposed to Sufism, Jihad is central to their ideology, so they are the source of extremism.
Religious radicalism has progressively extended its origins and amplified hallmark on the general public. The fact is of serious apprehension that it is being patronized, schemed and supported by politically affiliated religiously oriented parties. Pakistani Muslim masses are simple, and spiritually and religiously inclined. Pakistani Muslims can be manipulated effortlessly on the religion related issues by different religion-oriented parties very well. Over the period of time these religious groups have progressed and manipulated the Pakistani culture and social order.
Right after independence, the religious parties began during early days from a position of low profile, but their influence slowly and gradually expanded taking benefit of the historic and disastrous events like 9/11, Afghan religious fight (Jihad), US offensive against Afghanistan and Iraq. Increased religious extremism, sectarian disharmony, sub-nationalism/ separatist tendencies, unchecked corruption, weak governance, diminished writ of the government, power struggle between political parties at the cost of national interest, societal divides on various accounts, plummeting poverty line, constitutional inadequacies, judiciary-government confrontation and concerns for regime security will lead to the weakening of the state, economic collapse and social breakdown on internal front. Widening gulf between rural deprivations and urban opulence by giving whip to internal dissensions and fissures triggering clash between under-privileged and affluent, hence engulfing the country into wide spread anarchy and large scale civil disturbances. Successive governments have not been able to evolve any clear national purpose which have left Pakistani nation directionless.
After decades of imposed war fighting on radicalism and militancy Pakistan is turned into a frightening economic reality for public. Above bleak situation is intensified further because of worsened law and order state. Government has failed to establish its writ through most of the places of Pakistan. Downfall of prevailing socio-economic conditions and public unrest is exceedingly signified day to day living of the poor populace of the country.
For Pakistan, this state of affairs has bestowed serious challenges as well as enormous openings. Pakistan emerged out of isolation but still fighting to mend its security as well as economy. However, local militancy, radicalism and terrorism, having links with foreign groups has dawned upon us a grim security scenario. To enable us to efficiently counter extremism and militancy in Pakistan, it is necessary to tackle with it only in a properly planned and a thought-out manner, also taking the complete nation along. The response towards extremism and militancy should be comprehensive catering for all dimensions including social, military, political and economic.