On 22 October 2017, eight terrorists including its chief belonging to the Ansarul Sharia Pakistan (ASP) were killed in an operation in Karachi.
During the last few months, there was an intense discussion in Pakistani media about this group involved in violent activities in Karachi. The members of the groups were educated youths, from the middle class with degrees/studies in mainstream educational institutions, some even from the prestigious Karachi University. Reports also link this group to both the al Qaeda and the ISIS.
The story of Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui and Sheharyar alias Abdullah Hashmi, the two militants of the ASP became the primary focus of the debate highlighting educated youths from mainstream educational institutions getting radicalized. Intern has been blamed, shifting the focus to a new phenomenon – outside the madrassa education and influenced by a conservative and radical clergy. Given the youth bulge in Pakistan, this has to be taken seriously.
Why do the educated youths get influenced by radical ideologies? Is it limited to Karachi University? Do the other cities also face a similar issue in Pakistan? A larger question, from a regional perspective, is whether this trend could be observed in rest of South Asia as well?
The State in its efforts to curb the MQM supremacy within the Karachi University campus undertook a series of measures – mainly banning student politics. Ethnic student groups were undermined deliberately, providing a free space to right-wing student groups. The encroachment on secular politics within the campus inevitably will force students to look for alternative debates.
A case study of student politics in Karachi University and Punjab University and the reasons for clashes between different student groups should throw interesting statistics. Besides the MQM-rightwing clashes in Karachi University, there have been cases of groups trying to undermine cultural events of Pashtun students in Punjab University. Students belonging to the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) have been “moral policing” the campus, objecting to cultural events and girls students playing cricket. The State would ignore the complaints against the right-wing students. And in cases, would prefer them to undermine ethnic groups and politics within the campus.
The students should have their own politics, associations, slogans, grievances and a roadmap to address them. Isn’t this a part of an educational system and growing up?
Curbing secular expressions within the campus and allowing right-wing groups agenda is bound to have an extremist outburst. Online radicalization is not the cause; it is a course for conservative students getting influenced by radical ideologies and becoming extremists.