Why else would a federal minister be left alone to deal with the rage of Madrassa elite amidst fatwas to of excommunication from Islam or being Ahmadi? Why else could no political government ever take action against militancy-linked madrassas or proscribed organisations? Why else did ‘Saad Aziz’ happen in a non-madrassa, ‘modern’ education system? Why else we would keep producing many more like Saad Aziz? Why else would NAP be an utter failure despite the reportedly well-intentioned civilian and military leadership? Here is why.

Pervez Rasheed was in the cold because there are zero takers of what he said. Even if they exist, they are not willing to publicly take this position. I have been reading and hearing about the absence of a ‘counter-narrative’ against the religious extremist discourse. Everyone has been parroting this for quite long now. So much so that it has become a part of everything that is said or written on the causes of and solutions for increasing radicalization and extremism in Pakistan. It is so overused that it has lost its meaning.

What else was Pervez Rasheed doing if not offering a counter narrative? Was it too direct to be digested? It was. But it wasn’t half as direct and uncouth as of the extremist narrative. If you are too afraid to call a spade a spade, you are not in search of counter narrative. You are just trying your bit to placate the existing discourse while giving it a semblance of ‘alternate’ discourse, which might or might not be focused on countering the existing one. I was appalled to hear it from a respected and far too committed an activist, when I told her about what the Minister had said and how everyone was pouncing on him and that we must come out to support him. Her reply was: Why did he say that? Doesn’t he know these things are not to be said publicly? There you go!

So, why are ‘these things’ not to be said publicly? Because an overwhelming section of the public – the one that matters and shapes ‘public reaction’ on behalf of entire population of the country – is too radicalized and too ignorant about the values of tolerance and reason. Where has this section of society come from? Who gave rise to it? Madrassas? Or the ‘modern’ education system? Both? Or the government? The oh-so-bad politicians? The oh-so-noble military establishment? Or all of us? The answers might not be easy ones. Certainly not very comfortable ones.

Let’s start with how we define extremism and radicalism. Oh wait. None of our officially released documents give us these necessary definitions. Neither the February 2013-issued, well-articulated National Internal Security Policy (NISP) nor the Dec 2014 issued National Action Plan (NAP). No documents on NACTA website. Oh wait. The NACTA website was taken down when one of its officials was found red-handed keeping the people informed of who are the proscribed terrorist organisations. Unpardonable, was it not?

So here we roam about on the Internet, searching for other countries who have made these definitions part of their counter terrorism strategies or of the overall framework of security thinking. The Dutch Security Service (AIVD) defines radicalization in its 2005 paper as: “Growing readiness to pursue and/or support—if necessary by undemocratic means—far-reaching changes in society that conflict with, or pose a threat to, the democratic order.”

The Danish Intelligence Service (PET) defines it, with focus on violent radicalization, as: “A process by which a person to an increasing extent accepts the use of undemocratic or violent means, including terrorism, in an attempt to reach a specific political/ideological objective”. And UK, in its counterterrorism strategy, refers to radicalization as: “The process by which people come to support terrorism and violent extremism and, in some cases, then to join terrorist groups”.

Going by all the three definitions, and looking at the kind of ‘public reactions’ we have been having on number of things including the cases of Pervez Rasheed (his Madrassa criticism), Salmaan Taseer (his criticism of misuse of blasphemy laws), Sherry Rehman (her Bill to amend blasphemy laws so they couldn’t be misused) and many others, isn’t it safe to say that we have become an extremely radical society?

Come to the definition of extremism, again not given by any of the documents that the state of Pakistan has so far issued to help people understand how it is going to save us from the menace of extremism and terrorism. P. Neumann defines extremism for International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, as: “Extremism refers to political ideologies that oppose a society’s core values and principles. In the context of liberal democracies this could be applied to any ideology that advocates racial or religious supremacy and/or opposes the core principles of democracy and universal human rights. The term can also be used to describe the methods through which political actors attempt to realize their aims, that is, by using means that ‘show disregard for the life, liberty, and human rights of others”.

In that case, the biggest ‘political actor’ in Pakistan – the security establishment – has singlehandedly achieved unprecedentedly higher level of extremism in our society. At work since decades, it has made sure that disagreement and dissention is shunned. Be it political disagreement, be it cultural or gender based, be it as prosaic as foreign or domestic policies. This is why an error by the production team of a TV channel in, Google searching the map of Pakistan, is turned into an act of treason. If a woman makes a choice of not remaining silent after she was gang raped, she is definitely conspiring to malign Pakistan. If some people decide to demand an inquiry for determining the correct age of a death row convict before he’s hanged so no one could ever point a finger on the country for hanging supposed juvenile prisoners, these people are taking foreign money just to embarrass Pakistan. All of this has been happening in plain sight without the establishment realizing how they were contributing to extremism and radicalization in the country.

Coming back to the original question, who is responsible for radicalized youth? Was it Madrassa or ‘modern’ education system? It started with madrassas it soon spread itself to the regular educational institutions as intended or unintended consequence. Madrassas kept producing hundreds of students that passed out every year in the 1970s. The number soon rose up into the thousands. According to a senior official in Islamabad administration, only in Islamabad there would be around 20,000 students graduating from different madrassas. Multiply it with number of madrassas operating in different cities and the figure would swell to unimaginable bounds. What is our plan to utilize this human capital? How are we intending to harvest this crop? The receptiveness of this human capital to extremist ideologies has proven to be very high. So is the permissibility and assimilation of this human capital in different walks of life.

Why both of these systems are weapons of mass instruction for worse, we will examine next week on these pages.