The need for curriculum reform to curb radicalism
Citizens should also play their part in the fight against extremism by confronting the apologists of terrorists present in their ranks. All those clerics trying to justify the action of terrorists in any way should be boycotted
With the launch of Operation Radd-ul-Fassad, questions are being asked as to whether the targets of Zarb-e-Azb were not fully achieved. Does a new operation mean the strategy to deal with militancy is being redesigned? If so, what exactly went wrong in the previous operation that is being undone and/or redone now?
These questions remain unanswered because we have always been told that matters of national security are better not questioned. When media persons and civil society activists demanded details of gains made in operation Zarb-e-Azb and called on the authorities to give access to the areas in FATA cleared as per the official claims, they were called anti-state and western agents.
We were told repeatedly that the backbone of terrorists had been broken and that they were ‘on the run’. All claims of the security establishment and government were proven wrong when militants first attacked the capital of Pakistan’s largest province Punjab and then a sufi shrine in the Sindh province. Over 100 lives were lost in both attacks.
Operation Radd-ul-Fassad that was launched following the deadly terror wave aims at “indiscriminately eliminating residual/latent threat of terrorism”. Elimination of the threat is only possible if a clearer and broader strategy to deal with the source of terrorism i.e. extremism is chalked out.
The fact that despite Zarb-e-Azb and several combing operations, the terrorists could carry out large-scale attacks, means something was clearly missing from the approach towards terrorism. No matter how many militants are killed, if the factories that produce them are not shut down, the threats will keep coming. The process of eradicating extremism should be initiated at the earliest.
The new operation will also end in failure if a counter-narrative to the narrative of extremists is not presented. Pakistan needs a deradicalisation plan in which all extremist elements present in government and private departments are confronted. The process to undo decades of radicalisation will not be easy because religious extremists not only have a following among the masses but political leaders also form alliances with them during elections.
A number of terrorists involved in terror attacks across the country were educated, which shows the current education system is not serving the purpose at all. The self-confessed killer of activist Sabeen Mehmood, who was also involved in Safoora Goth shooting incident, studied at IBA Karachi, which is considered one of the best universities of the country. This says a lot about the status of education in the country.
The religious bias in the school curriculum can be judged from the fact that Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s speech to the constituent assembly in which he called for separation of religion and state affairs is deliberately excluded from Pakistan Studies textbooks. Perhaps because it did not suit the ideology of those who initiated the process of radicalisation back in the 1970s.
Curriculum reforms are a must if we are to counter the narrative of the extremists because the textbooks being taught in schools not only have factual errors, but are also alarmingly biased against minority groups within Pakistan and some neighbouring countries.
Reforms should be introduced to the educational system by addition of lessons of inter-faith harmony and tolerance. Syllabi of all textbooks should be renewed to remove the hateful content that is being fed to our children. The current educational system presents history in a distorted form in which war is glorified and controversial figures are dubbed heroes. This is one of the reasons why intolerance is so rampant in the society. The government should form a committee comprising leading educationists from across the country to introduce reforms to the school curriculum for countering radicalism.
Furthermore, the government should monitor what is being taught in religious seminaries and launch an across the board crackdown on those found involved in hate speech.
Citizens should also play their part in the fight against extremism by confronting the apologists of terrorists present in their ranks. All those clerics trying to justify the action of terrorists in any way should be boycotted.
It is about time the government realised that terrorism cannot be eliminated without completely eradicating extremism, and for that counter-extremism interventions are needed immediately.