‘Next generation of militants may emerge from academic institutes’Pakistan
KARACHI: Leading academicians have called for a coordinated and strong policy to check extremism that they believe is no more limited to conventional madressahs (seminaries) but can now be found in reputed public and private educational institutions, negating the ‘myth’ that radicalisation is linked with poverty and illiteracy.
They expressed these views at a seminar titled ‘Growing radicalisation in educational institutions’, which was organised by the Sindh police’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) at the Central Police Office on Wednesday.
They sought immediate guidelines from every concerned segment of society including law enforcement and intelligence agencies to build a counter-narrative against extremism, which was fast attracting the educated youth of the province.
Vice chancellors and other officials of around 40 varsities, both private and public, attended the seminar.
The law enforcers and academics agreed to set up vigilance committees, enhancing surveillance, organising seminars at varsity auditoriums to sensitise the faculty members and students. They also promised to take up ‘practical issues’ with higher authorities.
Officials of CTD, 40 varsities exchange views on radicalisation
“Radicalisation [is] growing at academic institutes with the CTD assessing that the next generation of militants [is] more likely to have university education rather than a madressah background,” said Additional IG Dr Sanaullah Abbasi who heads the CTD in Sindh.
“The recent cases of Noreen Leghari and Saad Aziz gave credence to this theory,” he added.
Dr Abbasi said the seminar was meant to start a discussion between varsity administrations and law enforcers to identify problem areas related to youth radicalisation and to see what possible solutions can be adopted.
The CTD chief said there’s a need to sensitise academic institutes about the gravity of the problem.
“Small pockets of radicalisation [are] emerging in academic institutes,” said another CTD officer Munir Ahmed Shaikh.
Citing the case of Noreen Leghari who was radicalised through ‘social media’, the CTD SSP Operations said the varsity administration later told them that they had “detected certain behavioural changes” among several girls of the medical university, as a group of 10 to 15 girls used to attend ‘dars’ in ‘isolation’.
“There [is] a thin line between preaching and radicalisation,” observed Mr Shaikh.
CTD’s SSP (Intelligence) Omar Shahid Hamid said the department had assessed that youths that had been radicalised at academic institutes were “sophisticated and trained”.
“Radicalisation is growing and we fear that the militants are more likely to emerge from secular academic institutes,” said the CTD officer.
Mr Hamid cited the case of a 31-year-old man who studied at the prestigious Karachi Grammar School (KGS), graduated from LUMS and later on started teaching at the KGS. He was radicalised to the extent that he went to Waziristan, where he got injured in a drone strike. “Now he’s working on de-radicalisation after realising the horrible consequences,” he added.
CTD officer Raja Umar Khattab said radicalised youths of certain seminaries tended to indulge in sectarian violence or go to ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan but certain youths of academic institutes had a global agenda and they wanted to fight wars.
Citing the case of Saad Aziz and 19 other cases of radicalised youths, Mr Khattab disclosed that their parents knew of their drift towards extremism but they did not inform law enforcers. He said some educated and rich youths of Defence, Gulshan, Gulistan-i-Jauhar and Nazimabad were joining the global militant outfit, Islamic State group.
Referring to the case of a private university teacher who trained his son and other close relatives to prepare improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he said that faculty member became a ‘most wanted’ person.
Mr Khattab also cited another case of a faculty member of an academic institute in Clifton who radicalised one youth there.
CTD officer Mazhar Mashwani gave the example of an NED graduate who was radicalised and highlighted the need for strict surveillance at academic institutes.
VC Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University Lyari, Akhtar Baloch underlined the importance of adopting ‘counter-narrative’ to address the militancy issue. He regretted that the society was ‘militarised’ by eliminating liberal and progressive forces during the past 30-40 years through a particular narrative.
KASBIT Director Prof Mohammad Raees said radicalisation on campus was a ‘social phenomenon.’
Acting VC of DUET Dr Roshan Rashidi questioned the role of 10-12 intelligence agencies’ personnel operating at each varsity if they could not detect militancy there.
Pro-VC of NED University Dr Mohammad Tufail said identifying behavioural changes among the students was not ‘possible’ for them, because they were not trained for this. However, he said they were ready to cooperate with law enforcers and train people.
An official of LUMHS said after the Noreen case, they were monitoring students but the issuance of show-cause notice or strict disciplinary action could be counter-productive. He said they had recently noticed a change in behaviour of six girl students and informed their parents about their possible radicalisation.
Director of the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University, Nawabshah, Roshan Ali Siyal said they had set up a vigilance team after the APS tragedy in Peshawar and tended to call parents if any student was found having strange behaviour.
MUET registrar Dr Abdul Waheed Umrani observed: “We cannot mitigate the problem but we can prevent militancy with the help of government and law enforcers.”Chairman of Sindh University’s Criminology Department Nabi Bux Narejo said the faculty did not consider fighting terror or extremism as their ‘domain’, because VCs were not ready for it and they had no access to law enforcers; besides there were issues of lack of funding or lack of any such post at academic institutes to keep watch on militancy.Director of the People’s Medical University, Nawabshah, Mohammad Salih said agencies’ personnel were ‘interfering’ in their administration and financial affairs but they were not playing their role to prevent militancy on campus.An official of Bahria University, Commander Naveed, said they were observing activities of students and sent them to counselling cell if any behavioural change was observed among them.
Besides, they had restricted entry of guests or outsiders into the varsity.Pro-vice chancellor of the Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, Dr Noor Ahmed Shaikh proposed seeking help of psychiatrists to monitor activities of students and involving the HEC in this regard.
Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2017