By Arshad Abbasi
The recent spate of terrorist attacks across the length and breadth of Pakistan has once again raised questions about confronting terrorism and militancy. The same question evinces the same response. At the expense of repetition, one has to say that the root causes of terrorism have to be addressed.
The current strategies and policies of the civilian government and the military setup are indeed worth commendation. But the purpose of looking at them with a critical view is that to point the gaps to be plugged to make them more effective.
Poverty is one of the main causes of militancy in Pakistan and by extension all around the world. Within Pakistan the marginalized pockets within South Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan happen to be the fertile grounds for breeding militancy. It is not to say that the well-off and educated individuals are absolutely safe from the trap of terrorism laid like fishing net by the militant outfits. But it is the overwhelming number of the people from the lower middle class and the poorest of the poor who have been found involved in the terrorist activities in Pakistan.
This state of affairs has been revealed by the profiling of militants in the country. So the assertion that religious extremism and militancy are interminably linked with economic indicators is not off the mark.
Unregulated growth and unmonitored activities of Madrasas in South Punjab make the poverty-stricken youth vulnerable to the brain-washing by the wrong-headed religious zealots. They happen to be the so-called Mudarris-religious teachers who lead their pupil astray. In fact, they are the bridge between the organized militant outfits on the top and the young impressionable poor children below. So here the nexus between poverty and militancy is quite obvious.
The unpleasant situation is that this dangerous connection is increasing in its fatality and sophistication. The reasons to explain this are numerous but existing and in some cases growing poverty in the neglected towns and villages of South Punjab breed and sustain the conditions of militancy and religious fanaticism.
Sindh is still mourning over the recent bloody attack in Sehwan at the shrine of Sakhi Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. The general law-in-order situation in the province remains volatile as ever. The urban stretch of Sindh is infected with day-to-day street crimes while the rural parts are facing the ever looming threat of dacoits and cast vendettas.
In this grim environment, the trend of religious extremism comes as a potent weapon of violence. Sectarian outfits turn their guns at one another and when find opportunity and impulse target minorities.
The Counter Terrorism Department-CTD of Sindh has released a report on the ongoing investigation into the Sehwan tragedy laying bare the penetration of ISIS into the peripheral areas of Pakistan aiming to make inroads at the centre. The ISIS has been attempting to establish its foothold in Pakistan mainly not by its own desire but owing to the appetite of local militant outfits to invite its attention and support.
These militant outfits are in search of recruits who can be the foot soldiers to inflict violence in the name of ISIS. Being pushed to the wall in Iraq and Syria now ISIS itself is willing to go global as generally terrorist entities do that once deprive of home turf, they disburse like what is termed as “free electrons of Jihad” by a well-known commentator on Islam Jiles Kepel.
The symbiosis between militancy and poverty in Baluchistan is quite evident as shown by the prevalent socio-economic conditions and lawlessness in the province both in its thickly-populated towns and far-flung rural and semi-urban population centres. On one hand, there is Baluch insurgency and on the other side religiously-driven violence giving its most violent expression in sectarian attacks.
The presence of the remnants of Afghan Taliban dubbed as Quetta Shoora became a global point of discussion putting a negative focus on the metropolis.
In all above cases the conclusion is that Pakistan can get rid of terrorism, religious extremism and militancy if there are meaningful, practicable, and practical steps are taken to eradicate poverty. It is poverty which breeds all the social ills which then manifest in violent crimes be they homicidal murders, street crimes or militant attacks targeting the state and society.
The marginalized parts of Pakistan viz. South Punjab, Rural Sindh and far-off places of Baluchistan and KPK ought to be at par with better-off cities and villages so as to uproot the menace of militancy.