“Extremism: greatest challenge to Pakistan’s progress”


Insurgency in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a war waged against the state of Pakistan, said Law, Justice and Human Rights Minister Ahmer Bilal Soofi at the annual report launching ceremony of the Jinnah Institute on Wednesday.

Addressing the participants, Soofi said the issue of extremism was not regime specific but was rather state specific and must be addressed as such. Muslim scholars must incorporate contemporary debates in their teaching curricula, he said while speaking as a chief guest at the launching of the report titled “Extremism Watch: Mapping Conflict Trends in Pakistan 2011-2012”. The report maps incidents of religious extremism over the last 15 months and identifies violent and non-violent attacks on Sufi shrines and against Hazara other religious minorities.

Jinnah Institute Director Raza Rumi said that extremism was a long term trend due to massive indoctrination done through textbooks, sermons and state policy. He said the issue of terrorism should not be confused with extremism, though the two often overlap. He explained that the report recorded 379 incidents of extremism from October 2011 to December 2012, which showed 67 percent increase over the previous year’s recorded incidents.

He said the number of casualties in the recording period was 559 while 718 were injured across the country. He said the highest number of casualties took place in Balochistan where a wave of violent sectarian attacks against the Shia community caused the death of at least 190 people. “Sectarian violence is responsible for the highest death toll across the country with 525 people killed this year,” he added.

Marvi Sirmed said the Hindu low caste women were mistreated in the country. She said there was no family law available that could protect these womenfolk and that it was impossible to prove whether a marriage or divorce had taken place. She said the state had neglected their low status in society.

Security analyst Imtiaz Gul said that most political parties skirt around the issue of militancy but as a matter of fact extremism is a manifestation of systemic failures of the state institutions, which include lack of rule of law. He also said that extremism was not specific to a particular geographic location, adding that “If we do not stand up to the challenge, then Pakistan will remain politically and socially isolated.”

TV anchor Dr Moeed Peerzada gave a historical overview of extremism in Pakistan. He emphasized that secular polity should be established in Pakistan through curricula reforms. He said polarization between the Pakistani elite and religious right should end.