Pakistan has faced many challenges since its inception in 1947 among which economic challenge was the major one. Another phenomenon which has been major setback for Pakistan is “Extremism” which is a bane of our society emerged particularly after global war on terror. Extremism leads to germination of terrorism in society which is the worst aspect of violence. Pakistan is a multilingual and multicultural society with the estimated population of 190 million approximately taking the position of world’s sixth most populated country. According to CIA world fact book, in Pakistan Muslims are 97% of total population and remaining 3% are Christian, Hindu and others.
In Pakistan, Extremism is defined in a number of ways, and is used mainly in the political, religious, and social contexts. Political scientists consider it a political phenomenon, provoked by inequality, socio-economic injustices and state policies.
Extremism has taken many forms in Pakistan such as
- Religious extremism (Intolerance of other religions: Muslim-Hindu conflict, Muslim- Christian conflict)
- Sectarian extremism (Intolerance of other sects: Shia Sunni, Brelvi, Deobandi conflicts)
- Ethnic extremism (Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, and Pashtun’s conflicts).
In the Medina since the upper hand was with the Muslims, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) strictly warned against any maltreatment of people of other faiths: “Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non- Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burden them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will: I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the day of judgment”. (Hadith: Abu Dawud)
At the time of partition, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah called upon the majority and minority communities in Pakistan and said “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, cast or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state”.
The major causes of extremism are clash of religious minorities, undressed grievances by the government, unemployment, poverty, lawlessness, social and political injustice, and economic disparity that curb the socio-economic development of any society.
Impacts of extremism in Pakistan have been horrendous. Infrastructure is essential for the development of any country but instability and insecurity created limitations for its growth. Hundreds of suicide bombings that occurred in past inflicted colossal damages to the physical infrastructure and expenditure incurred on law and order squeezed the economy more than ever resulting in the diversion of public expenditure to security.
It is believed that democracy, respect to human rights, justice and rule of law can reduce extremist element of society if they are properly implemented. The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan enshrines the protection of lives, property and honour of the people as a basic duty of the state. Article 25 of the constitution of Pakistan ensured equal rights for every Pakistani.
It is the responsibility of State to identify and address the factors leading to extremism and draw fruitful policies to tackle this intrinsic problem for maintaining peaceful environment in the country. State should generate opportunities for unemployed people, reduce poverty and give justice to the people so that the desperate people are not become the part of extremist elements.
The state’s four pillars i.e. Legislation, executive, judiciary and media should work in coherence to maintain the peace in country. Executive enforce laws and judiciary safeguard the rights of people in the light of these laws which are enacted by the legislation. Media being the fourth pillar of state act as a watchdog of society and performs the role of opinion leader by disseminating information about national and international affairs so that the news treatment of issues of extremism and violence should be done with social responsibility. Being a Pakistani, we should remember the Quaid’s vision of progressive Pakistan based on unity, faith and discipline; we should become extremists in terms of social, economic, political and educational development but not in suicide bombing, killing, blasting and creating violence if we want to survive our self in this era of globalization.
Martin Luther King said “The question is not whether we will be extremists but what kind of extremists we will be……The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists”.