The attack on the Army Public School (APS School) on December 16, 2014, was touted as a turning point in the history of Pakistan. It led to the country’s first 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) for fighting terrorism and extremism. Having been credited with making progress in trying to prevent acts of terrorism and involved, an effective strategy to tackle extremism has not yet materialized.

Extremism can be defined as a conflict, which Ron Fisher states as:

“An incompatibility of goals or values between two or more parties in a relationship, combined with attempts to control each other and antagonistic feelings toward each other.”

It, therefore, can be concluded that extremism is an ongoing conflict fought between groups wanting to impart extremist values in the society and those wanting to take on more moderate, liberal values, compatible with the changing world.  Learnt, taught, embedded and developed in the minds, it is first nurtured and latter expressed in the form of action, terrorism. If one learns this simple equation of extremism “mind” and terrorism “action”, a better formula can be developed for its eradication.

Extremism has many types, but that which is prevalent in the society of Pakistan is religious extremism. One of the examples is the row with NGOs. Tahseen Ullah Khan in his article Religious Extremism in Pakistan – It is Never too Late  elaborates how religious groups, by using the traditional mechanism of madrassas and print media  have begun a campaign to intimidate NGOs and issue fatwas, lacking solid justifications for their arguments.

Sporadic efforts to do away with extremism have been made by various individuals and organizations, but all have produced varying results. After having had made loud claims to eradicate extremism, their response has been muted following sturdy rejoinders from religious groups.

As for the NGOs, their multiple engagements, inadequate funds and modest perceptive of religious institutions, has hindered achievement of their targeted goals. The National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF), formulated an Ulema and Development Strategy, under which the following groups showed stories of success: Ulema associated with the institutions of the government, tableeghi group, moderate ulema, madrassa students, active religious-political assemblages and mohtamimeen of madrassas. Progress, thus, has been made.

If these groups and their positives are strengthened, solidified and guided, they can help overcome the extremist mindset drive in the society. Furthermore, there is a need to verify and fulfill the needs of the “vulnerable communities of the society and massive growing population of the youth” – for, it is these people who become targets of radicalization and extremist mindsets.

The youth of the country, in a forum, Interfaith Youth in Action already have expressed their grievances of being economically weak, remaining redundant and there being a sense of unawareness, intolerance, uselessness, hatred and injustice.  These defined areas become the strengths of those recruiting people for terrorist activities and a weakness for the state.

A five-stage model outlined by Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) elaborated by Yvon Dandurand in the article Social Inclusion Programmes for Youth and Prevention of Violent Extremism can attend to this obstruction. It includes a five-point strategy, which provide for all-inclusive ways, relevant for preventing grounds for recruitment and development of an extremist outlook. It calls for Mobilization (involving and linking state, society, citizens to organization that fight against youth radicalization, harmonizing their programs and services; Social Intervention (street outreach programs; Opportunity Provision (provision of opportunities and services to vulnerable groups); Suppression (formal and informal monitoring agencies); Organizational Change and Development.

Among these new vulnerable targets also are the street children. Annabel Symington’s article Pakistan’s Criminal and Terrorist Gangs Have New recruits: Street Children, details a story from Karachi, telling how since 2010, children have become easy targets to these gangs. According to statistics presented by Society for Protection of the Rights of Children there are an approximate 1.2 to 1.5 million children on streets in Pakistan. Furthermore, a report prepared by the Homeland Security Institutes informs that other areas of recruitment can be found in various venues, including schools and after-school activities, religious institutions or occasions, camps for refugees and the Internet.

Acts of terrorism are directly linked to extremism. Without targeting terrorism’s roots cause and curtailing those who are involved in this lucrative, ideological battle, the menace cannot be eradicated from the society.