Security analyst says Pakistan requires internal discourse to develop alternatives to extremism

Pakistan needs an internal discourse, without which it can not counter extremism or terrorism at the state and societal level, according to Dr Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, an independent security analyst and strategic affairs expert.

Sanm Malik

2009-10-24

LAHORE — Pakistan needs an internal discourse, without which it cannot counter extremism or terrorism at the state and societal level, according to leading independent security analyst and strategic affairs expert Dr Ayesha Siddiqa Agha.

The South Asian region currently faces grave security threats due to increasing extremism and terrorist activities within its states. The politics of violence can be linked to the contradictions arising out of flawed national policies, she said.

Religious extremism is a global issue, but in South Asia, Pakistan is the nation worst affected by it. Extremism and terrorism are interlinked and the contributing factors of bad governance and ideology make extremism more threatening in Pakistan.

“A counter-terrorism strategy cannot be developed without considering counter-extremism at the same time,” Agha said.

She called for internal discourse within the Muslim world to provide alternatives to extremism and suggested that one would require an overhaul of government policies to generate political stability.

Agha said the rise of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan can be attributed to a variety of factors such as oppressive cultural norms, social injustice, ideological contradictions, rigid religious beliefs and foreign interference, while poverty, unemployment, hunger and illiteracy only made things worse.

The factors that have generated social, economic and political instability in Pakistan suggest that there are no quick fixes available and that turning things around will only be achieved by measures implemented over the long term, she said.

Turning to education, she said, “There should be more attention paid to madrasas, as their role is very important … Through law it should be made incumbent upon all madrasas to register and revise their curriculum along modern lines, and declare their assets and their source of funding so the system becomes transparent,” she asserted. That would go a long way to reducing their potential for recruiting young people into violent extremist organisations.

She also pointed out a dire need to create an even more specialised anti-terrorism force and suggested that the army's Special Services Group (SSG) be converted into a force solely dedicated to counter-terrorism.

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