Why are our university students turning towards extremism?
There has been a gradual rise in the number of educated young men hailing from renowned universities and family background been lured into extremism and terrorism in Pakistan.
It is been learnt the mastermind behind an assassination attempt on Muthahida Quami Movemement (MQM) leader Khawaja Izhar was a former student of Applied Physics at the University of Karachi. The suspect Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui was also affiliated with the proscribed Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan.
Law-enforcement and intelligence officers have said that the ASP is behind the recent killings of policemen in Karachi. The organisation affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.
The organisation is reportedly responsible for at least 10 acts of terrorism in Karachi including target killing of policemen, attack on military police in parking plaza in Saddar, and attack on Rangers personnel in Korangi and Orangi Town.
This is not the first instance that a terrorist has hailed from a renowned university. Saad Aziz who was considered the mastermind of the Safoora Goth carnage in 2015 which left 46 people dead, and the murder of social activist Sabeen Mahmud was also a MBA student at an elite business school in Karachi.
Another suspect in the murder of Sabeen Mahmud named Hafiz Nasir was also a graduate student of the Karachi University, while another named Ishrat had a degree from the Sir Syed University of Engineering.
Another instance was the case of Noreen Laghari who was a final year medical student at the Liaquat Medical College (LMC) in Jamshoro, Sindh and went missing to join the Islamic State and was arrested before plotting a terror attack in Lahore. Her father was also a professor of chemistry.
Terrorists can be found in all sections of society
However, it needs to be ascertained what leads young and educated men to develop extremist tendencies and being lured into terrorism, and the increasing presence of such networks in universities and educational institutions in Pakistan.
Psychologist Dr. Moiz Hussain said that this is matter of grave concern, as previously we searched for terrorists in a seminary but rather they can be found in all sections of society.
“The most important thing is to have self-awareness. This does not require a person to be educated. If a person has self-awareness then he will not resort to the wrong path,” he said.
He said that terrorists are increasingly advanced which includes engineers, scientists and doctors, and instead send their members to educational institutes to lure students towards the rising tide of extremism and terrorism.
He suggests that religious scholars need to unite keeping aside their sectarian and other divisions and come up with a consensus on the matter, while the role of media is also crucial to spread self-awareness.
More importantly, he said, there needs to a screening mechanism in universities and educational institutions, and teachers and students should report any student with inclination towards extremist tendencies.
Youth radicalised through internet, use of social media
DIG CIA Dr. Jameel said the youth are being radicalised through the increasing use of social media and the internet and are being lured into extremist organisations.
“There is material available on the internet which the youth do realise are used by the terrorists,” he said and instead they are being groomed on the wrong track.
“There are websites which make them justify terrorism as the just cause, and many young people including girls fall for them,” he said adding that those are neglected in the classroom are the most vulnerable.
Political parties use student unions for their struggle
Senior Analyst Rasool Baksh Rais said the history of the presence of terrorist network on campus goes back to the time when student organisations were politicised, and used as a tool by religious and political organisations.
He recalled that it was during the era of former military ruler Ayub Khan when political parties who launched a movement were unanimous to use student organisations for their democratic struggle.
“Rather than realising the autonomy and independence of students, political parties instead decide to use them,” he said adding the all political, religious, and even extremist organisation slowly joined and formed their own student unions.
He said that political interference has completed ruined and paralysed all public universities across the country, which has lead many people to instead get admission in private universities.
The government of Sindh has decided to conduct a security audit of education institutes, while the record of students at the University of Karachi will be provided to investigation officers.
The Vice-Chancellor has called for a meeting of the academic council to decide over the matter, and conduct a security audit of all students.