Deradicalisation: A socio-economic phenomenon

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A framework of rehabilitating both militants and those affected by them

 

 

There has been much debate on the dynamics related to radicalisation of the Pakistani society and especially of the youth of troubled areas. Contrary to popular perception, the root cause of militancy and associated criminal activities does not have any link with the counter insurgency operations launched by the military forces. The military presence in the post war areas, in fact, has been taken as a blessing for militancy affected people. For them, the military is a source of strength against the prospective re-emergence of militants who have been threatening revenge on all those supporting the operations.

The triggering factor that leads to most of the youth in the troubled areas to join or side with the militants is prolonged socio-economic deprivation. Unemployed, illiterate youth especially those without appropriate parental guidance are more vulnerable to fall victim to militant ideology.

De-radicalisation programs have also been launched in the post-operated areas by the armed forces simultaneously with other rehabilitation and reconstruction work. The government is taking a keen interest in the situation where terrorism is concerned. The psycho-social rehabilitation plan has been focussing on re-integration of radicalised youth after providing them complete training in all four realms, namely social, psychological, physical and spiritual. The rationale for adopting such a program was the degree of its success in countries such as Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.

The programme included children who had either been working for militants in limited roles or those who had been thoroughly indoctrinated into becoming future suicide bombers. Most of these students fell into the age group of fifteen to twenty, thus, revealing that early adolescence is the best time to ideologically influence the youth

The program included children who had either been working for militants in limited roles or those who had been thoroughly indoctrinated into becoming future suicide bombers. Most of these students fell into the age group of fifteen to twenty, thus, revealing that early adolescence is the best time to ideologically influence the youth. Under the supervision of both eminent psychologists and spiritual mentors, the initiative was a success as scores of children were able to resume their ‘pre-militancy period’ activities once again with relative ease.

Religious mentors not only provided an alternate religious ideology that was completely acceptable, but also won the hearts of every student by exhibiting gentle mannerism. An earnest de-radicalisation regime became, despite many hurdles, instrumental in helping many a troubled youth.

A study conducted by one of the psychologists working in the rehabilitation facility provides a comprehensive picture of the rationale behind the radicalisation process. Based on in depth interviews of the students as ‘prospective suicide bombers’, the study unearths many obscure facts and provides significant information for politicians, policy makers, strategists, economists and defence planners to utilise while formulating future policies.

Socio-economic deprivation, according to the findings of the study, is the main cause of radicalisation in troubled areas. A total of 70 percent of radicalised youth belonged to the low-salaried class. They were compelled to join the militants due to lack of job opportunities and continued social pressure.

Another noteworthy observation that the research has brought to the fore is the fact that almost the entire population of the radicalised youth ranging largely between ages fifteen to twenty belongs to non-militant backgrounds. The rationale behind it is simple, when socio-economically deprived young boys are readily available to increasingly meet the needs and requirements of these organisations, why put your own flesh and blood into trouble?

The religious factor at 59 percent may be serving as a major contributor towards the radicalisation process, but the socio-economic factor precedes the religious aspect. Compelled to join the militant groups for economic issues, these young boys are then indoctrinated at length to accept the significance and benefits of blowing themselves up as a vital feature of jihad. Thus, the economic factor becomes a primary issue that forms the framework upon which the edifice of militancy is built.

At this stage of rehabilitation, the presence of the civil administration becomes essential to aid and augment the development work in order to rebuild the post operated areas. Reforms at the political, social and economic level need to be introduced, not only for the re-integration of the youth into mainstream society, but also as a preventative measure for any future radicalisation of more children.

Socio-economic deprivation, according to the findings of the study, is the main cause of radicalisation in troubled areas. A total of 70 percent of radicalised youth belonged to the low-salaried class

Development programs, employment opportunities, education and awareness programs become essential in this backdrop. The need for such programs to be implemented on war footing is greatly felt for reversing the influence of militants in the troubled areas. Since terrorism propagates on ideological basis, the fundamental postulates upon which they operate must be made clear to people.

Educating the society is the only sure means of succeeding in de-radicalisation. Psycho-social reformists-cum-educationists, intelligentsia and policymakers, jurists and politicians, journalists and anchorpersons should dedicate themselves to help educate the society through media, using political, social and education forums, involving locals, elders, and jirgas.

Thus, socio-economic factors that become instrumental in radicalising our youth need to be addressed at multiple levels. Developmental projects can provide job opportunities and enhance local economic conditions. Similarly, awareness and reform through education is another prerequisite that can reverse the current influence of militancy.

Keeping all this in view a national literacy movement has been launched by the government in which volunteers from all segments of society will be motivated to participate and work towards national integration. It is heartening to know that the current government’s social agenda includes education as a vital factor that requires to be completely energised along with important dimensions such as health and youth empowerment. Such initiatives of social development aim towards enhancing relations between different segments of society and would made people more tolerant towards each other.

Considering the fact that we are facing a youth bulge, the authorities have finally taken a historic step forward to make the ‘Right to Education’ a fundamental right by adding Article 25-A to the Constitution under the 18th Constitutional Amendment passed in April 2010.

For this purpose, increased resources are being allocated for education sector ensuring proper and timely utilisation of funds to allow the institutes to function smoothly and continuously. Further, keeping in mind the role of religious institutions and madrassas, financial assistance and other incentives are being provided to bring their syllabi and standards in conformity with mainstream education to improve employment prospects of madrassa students. Also, vocational training will be offered to them to encourage them to become entrepreneurs to broaden and modernise their vision and reach.

The small business loan scheme, under the youth program, would serve as a game changer as a militancy eradication tool. It will not only lend empowerment to the people, especially the youth, but will also create new jobs for the unemployed young and vulnerable people of the tribal areas. Looked at in a long term perspective, it provides not only a boost to the national economy, but also serve as a dire ingredient towards development and a preventative measure for prospective militants to be created. This, however, should not be the only initiative, but a continuous system of monitoring should be developed that aims to be satisfied only once the problem is resolved one hundred percent.