Deprogramming of a bomb or a missile is possible but how can an extremist be deprogrammed? Pakistan is currently trying to determine various techniques to de-radicalize individuals. De-radicalization implies a cognitive transformation, a fundamental transition in understanding and a re-orientation in outlook, often due to some personal traumatic experience of the violent ideologies, engendering post-traumatic growth in the form of rehabilitation.
It leads to the opening up of cognitive avenues, making the individual receptive to logical ideas. Disengagement envisages a transformed role for an affected individual by undergoing behavioral and social changes such as leaving a band or changing one’s role within the band by discarding the commonly shared norms, values, and attitudes of the terrorist network. It also implies some persistent recognition of these values and attitudes, and concurrently engaging in some other socially germane support behavior, but no longer indulged in real terrorist maneuvers.
De-radicalisation, Disengagement, and Rehabilitation (DDR) Engineering comprise initiatives pursuing the common goal to explore systematic ways to desert terrorism, managing the risk of individuals’ reentry into the terrorist movement and reducing new recruitments, besides exploring methods aimed at re-socializing the affected individuals into the mainstream society. It refers to a package of socio-political, legal, educational and economic programmes specifically designed to deter disaffected and possibly already radicalized individuals from joining the terrorists’ ranks.
These distinctions also cast some relevance for the way DDR Programmes are designed. In constructing the programmes, emphasis should be laid on shifting the behaviour and social ties with the militant group as well as on changing the ideological tenets of the extremist. Some of the most successful programmes are commissioned in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, addressing these different dimensions of behaviour and social ties in very creative ways. Islamist de-radicalization took place in several other Muslim-majority states in the late 1990s and 2000s, resulting in remarkable behavioral and ideological transformations toward non-violence by removing tens of thousands of former militants from the ranks of Al-Qaeda’s supporters.
Pakistan is a country regarded by many as the epicenter in the fight against global terrorism. In the backdrop of transnational terrorist ideologies who are trying to influence the vulnerable mind of youth especially from tribal belt, Pakistan has started limited DDR Programmes such as Mishal, Sparley, Rastoon, Pythom, Heila, and Sabaoon. However, due to insufficient resources and lack of political will, DDR programmes in Punjab and Sind could not be expanded. A long-term strategy must not, however, be sacrificed for short-term gains. Cyclically, extremism goes in a way that ultimately ends up in total barbarism, unless checked by state-level strategic measures in harmony with and backed by people from all walks of life, associated with high-level of vigilance at all official, semi-official and private ends.
Although most people who have passed through DDR Engineering have alienated themselves from employing violence as a political weapon, they may yet remain sensitive to the cause. This may mean that they are willing to seek alternative legal methods to reach their goals which the state should ensure are available, but further monitoring of their activities and attitudes is sensible. The society needs to reiterate its national resolve to fight out extremism by publicizing the rationality of Islam that teaches universal harmony and brotherhood and has no link with terrorism, extremism, fanaticism, fundamentalism etc, all of which have exogenous religious origins concerning religious practices that are exclusively alien to Islam.
Pakistan is still struggling in devising modern preventive techniques that can stop nourishment from terrorism and extremism in future. According to various experts, there are numerous factors contributing towards extremism, violent extremism and terrorism. Apart from poverty, socio-politico-economic marginalization, the ‘Social Constructivism’ is perhaps the strongest factor contributing in spreading extremism. The Social Constructivism refers to developing minds according to the social environment. To deconstruct the existing ‘Social Construct’, Pakistan has neglected the significance of Peace education, which is also a preventive technique from extremism and terrorism.
Primarily, neglecting preventive techniques can undermine all above-mentioned efforts. In this regard, the government needs to an emphasis on peace education. Peace education is the process of acquiring the values, the knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills, and behaviors to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the natural environment. Though not a new phenomenon, peace education has greatly acquired importance internationally. Former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had dedicated the International Day of Peace 2013 to ‘Peace Education’ in an effort to refocus minds and financing on the preeminence of peace education as the means to bring about a culture of peace.
Developing the desire for peace in youth and next generation is the basic aim of peace education. Constructing minds for live in peace and harmony requires persistent engagement. Peace education programs around the world largely focus on tolerance of diversity, coexistence, conflict resolution techniques, gender equality and international understanding. The most significant of these new approaches focus on peace education as a process of worldview transformation.
Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) in its National Counter Extremism Policy guidelines has highlighted the need for a national education policy. However, after the 18th amendment, education has become the subject of provinces. Despite the urgency and significance, provinces have not yet taken considerable measures to neither devise a curriculum based on principles of ‘peace education’ nor they have trained their teachers to effectively teach critical thinking to students, which is prerequisite to curb the inflow of extremist ideology.
Pakistani society is much polarized due to different types of education systems. Public schools, private schools, and Madaris are teaching the different curriculum. Ministry of Education in collaboration with NACTA has formulated a National Curriculum Policy (NCP), which emphasizes on peace. However, implementation and verification mechanisms on NCP are not yet clear.
However, the private sector has taken the lead in disseminating peace education among various segments of society. In this regard, Jamia Naeemia in Lahore has organized a series of lectures related to peace education, sectarian harmony, and tolerance. This lecture effectively changed the narrative of prayer leaders who attended these lectures, resultantly sectarianism considerably reduced in recent years. Likewise, Paiman Alumni Trust and Pakistan Education & Research run programmes of peace education in Peshawar and Karachi respectively. These are significant and encouraging contributions by the private sector. However, the government must patronize such programmes in different provinces under relevant education commissions/ministries.
Pakistan requires transformation from belief-based to knowledge-based society to meet the challenges of radicalization of youth in the county. Emphasis is to be laid on the exigency for preventing the minds of our youth from descending into mental slums, where toxic germination of radicalism, bigotry, dejection, loss of faith in human values and resort to militancy and violence, even suicide attacks are growing. Seeking a pragmatic strategy that makes a bridge between hard and soft power strategies, softer means need to be employed at the state level for long-term rehabilitation and reintegration of the spoilers in the affected belts, as extremism is related with minds and it cannot be resolved by merely employing ammunition.
By bringing the militants into the fold of DDR Programming and emphasis on Peace education, the government may win the trust of the people who would no longer be motivated to support the left-over terrorists. Undoubtedly, it appears to be a Herculean task but not beyond resources to keep intact Pakistan’s sovereignty and fundamental rights of its citizenry as an independent nation.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.