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Opinion

Capital suggestion

January 18, 2015

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Wrong prescription

Capital suggestion
In medicine, diagnosis is the ‘identification of the nature of an illness’. Outside of medicine, diagnosis is the ‘identification of the nature and cause of a certain phenomenon’. What follows diagnosis is prescription – an ‘action or procedure that should be carried out’. If the diagnosis is erroneous it will be followed up by a wrong prescription and the illness will linger on.
Here are three facts: 56,067 fatalities in terrorist violence; 5,095 bomb blasts and 410 suicide attacks. Diagnosis: The judicial organ has failed to hand-out death sentences. Prescription: military courts.
The reality is that extremism produces extremists – and the failure or success of the judicial organ of the state has almost nothing to do with extremism. We need to make a distinction between an extremist and a criminal. An extremist is a ‘person who holds extreme political or religious views, especially one who advocates violent and extreme actions’. A criminal, on the other hand, is a ‘person who has committed a crime’.
Next, we need to understand that the concept of deterrence has two legs: the ‘first is that specific punishments imposed on offenders will deter or prevent them from committing further crimes; the second is that fear of punishment will prevent others from committing similar crimes’.
Let us say that the military courts hand-out a thousand death sentences. Yes, a thousand extremists will be eliminated but would that have any impact on extremism, the ideology that produces extremists?
Here we need to make a distinction between ‘symptom’ and ‘disease’. A symptom is ‘an indication of the existence of something, especially of an undesirable situation’. A disease, on the other hand, is a ‘disorder of structure or function, especially one that produces specific symptoms’.
Let’s be careful, the Army Public School tragedy, 56,067 fatalities in terrorist violence, 5,095 bomb blasts and 410

suicide attacks are all symptoms. The disease, to be certain, is extremism – and the disease is not the failure of the judicial organ of the state. Let’s be clear, extremism produces extremists who use a ‘tool’ called terrorism. Are we fighting the ‘tool’ or the ‘ideology’?
What are the sources of extremism in our state and society? One, the use of extremism as an instrument of foreign policy by state actors. Two, a fraction of the some 30,000 madressahs. Three, a fraction of the some 200,000 mosques. Four, the public school curricula.
Let’s try and understand this: extremists can be helped and assisted by our external adversaries for the purpose of destabilising Pakistan but extremism is primarily home-grown.
Let’s try and understand this: over the past 12 years, 30,126 terrorists have died in various military operations – and yet we see terrorism all around us.
Let’s try to grapple ‘distraction’ – a ‘thing that prevents someone from concentrating on something else’. Then there’s ‘diversion’ – an ‘activity that diverts the mind’. My real fear is that our infatuation with military courts is preventing us from concentrating on the disease. My fear also is that our obsession with military courts is diverting us from targeting the disease.
The right prescription for extremism is a counter-extremism strategy. Remember, a misdiagnosis means a wrong prescription and a wrong prescription means that the disease would linger on.
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @saleemfarrukh

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