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Editorial

May 20, 2017

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Saving the youth

Saving the youth

The problem of militancy has been magnified by the ability of extremist groups to replenish their ranks by appealing to the next generation. There is a madressah-to-militancy pipeline that provides eager, brainwashed youth as fodder for militant groups. Contrary to popular belief, though, the militants do not appeal only to the poor and marginalised. The recent case of Noreen Leghari, the medical student who joined IS, is an example of how radicalisation is taking people at all strata of society. Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa addressed this very problem in a keynote speech at an ISPR seminar at the GHQ, titled ‘Role of youth in rejecting extremism’. He spoke of how people turn to extremism when they feel justice is not available to them in society and when governance is so poor. He linked the rise of extremism in Islamic countries with a similar rise elsewhere, particularly in India where the Hindutva ideology has become a quasi-official state dogma thanks to the Modi government. Bajwa mentioned the rise of the nationalist right in Europe and the US and the horrifying spread of racism, making the point that extremism is not purely a Pakistani or Muslim problem.

At the same time, it would be foolish to pretend that we do not face a greater extremism challenge than most countries. Bajwa acknowledged that when he devoted a large chunk of his speech to Operation Raddul Fasaad, claiming that we have had unprecedented success in destroying the militant threat. Still, even though the successes of the operation are undeniable and the TTP is no longer the force it used to be, the militant threat still seems rather potent. This year has seen a resurgence in attacks, making it premature to declare victory. In fact, a link exists between the radicalisation of the youth and ultimate victory over the militant threat. The only way to defeat militancy is not on the battlefield but by rejecting the ideology that underpins extremism. Groups like the Islamic State have made unprecedented use of the internet and social media to spread its message of hate. We have done very little to stop this message from being spread. At a time when censorship of the internet and jailing of internet users is being discussed for even criticism of state institutions, we should be focusing our energies on eradicating the plague of extremist propaganda online.

 

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