Extremism in Pakistan


American support to Israeli’s occupation, Indian terrorism in Kashmir, Russian aggression in Afghanistan and Chechnya, and western anti Islamic campaign under “Clash of Civilization” generated savage culture of bloodshed. Extremism in Pakistan is fallout of Russian invasion of Afghanistan (1989), fueled by Shia-Sunni proxy war, aggravated by Pakistan’s assistance to Mujahedeen, finally, accelerated after 9/11. The chain of madressas allegedly funded through ‘dollars’, misinterpreted Islam. Social injustice, illiteracy and chronic poverty added fuel to the fire. US pressure to “Do More” syndrome angered the disgruntled warriors. Above all, General Zia and Musharraf’s solo policy-making made Pakistan “A Front line State”. Resultantly people of Pakistan, painfully suffered by suicide bombings and attack on peace keeping agencies.

Extremism is a critical problem faced by Pakistani society today leading to social, economic, cultural, political turmoil and humanitarian crises. It has nurtured due to internal and external factors. Internal factors are the prevalence of social injustice, inequality, illiteracy and exploitation in the society. External factors are the involvement of Pakistan in the regional and international power game and proxy wars. Modus operandi of extremism is the expression of a fanatic behavior by individuals and groups, who are not able to convey their will in the society, through prevalent social mechanism. The people who cannot exert their influence, in the decision making process, go for violent means to express their opinion[1]. As a result we see anarchy in the society. This situation fuels the flames of poverty, terrorism and social distress. Extremism can be of different types, it can be ethnic, linguistic, narrow nationalism but the most severe kind of extremism faced by our society is religious extremism.

The present bloody scenario presents a gruesome picture of Pakistan Army fighting in South Waziristan. The IDPs have terribly suffered financial, mental and physical losses. The foreign terrorist, indifferent to our national interest, have taken refuge in tribal areas to the utter wrath of US. The uncontrolled drone attacks are killing terrorists along with innocent masses. The liberal personality of Benazir murdered ruthlessly. Minorities are targeted by these extremists. The recent incidents like attack on Christians in Gojra and attack on Qadiyanis in Lahore are the examples of extremism.

Historical Background:

The dilemma of using religion in Pakistan’s politics for political gains intensified during the Zia period from 1977 to 1988, once he was enforcing his Islalmization policies. The Zia’s era coupled with start of Afghan War not only encouraged the rise of ethnic and religious parties on sectarian lines under varying interpretations of Islam, but also ultimately gave rise to Sunni-Shea confrontations that further polarized the society[2]. A network of Madaris emerged and flourished throughout the country. They provided a breeding ground for the Jihadi elements under the backing of Saudi Arabia, other Arab countries and west led by US. The trend thus set, got the boost from the success of the Jihad and the Islamists around the world considered religion as the decisive factor in their struggle against oppression and political injustice[3].

Factors Contributing To This ‘Madness’:

There are many factors which contribute to this madness.

Aftermaths of Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan:

On 27 December 1979 the Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan and the intervention created great alarm for Pakistan. Historical czarist ambition for access to warm water of Arabian Sea was clear. Zia regime acted as front line of Afghan guerrilla war and sought political, economic and military support from US[4]. Religious feelings and Jihadi spirit were mobilized for Afghan resistance. Extremist elements were encouraged and supported economically for training Afghan and other Mu-slim nationals from a host of countries to wag war against Soviets. The freehand were given to the extremists and Jihadists. After the defeat of Soviet these Jihadists and extremists became trouble for Pakistan. The corruption, abundance of weapons and narcotics has enflamed extremism to new heights.

Misinterpretation of Jihad:

Presently different concepts about Islam and Jihad are floating in the minds of the people. Some hold that Islam is a religion of wars and battles i.e. terrorism; others label it with extremism. In reality Islam neither promotes terrorism nor encourages extremism. It preaches tolerance and moderation. Islam forbids killing without justification. Similarly different concepts of Jihad are also agitating human minds and a distorted concept is being projected everywhere[5].

The most common misunderstanding has been created by Muslims themselves. Many Muslim Scholars have declared Jihad synonymous with Qital (war). On the other hand after the incident of 9/11 Islam has been consciously or unconsciously amalgamated with war, terrorism and violence. Obviously, Islam cannot be blamed for the conduct of the Muslims, especially, when their conduct is not reflective of Islamic values. Islam is the most liberal and pluralist religion. In Islam there is no room for violence and terrorism except defensive war[6]. Islam is special. It is more than a religion; it is a complete socio-political system. That is, it has both cultural-ethical and political aspects[7].

Role of US Policies:

US policies are one of the major causes of extremism in Muslim world especially Pakistan. US interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs has provoked extremism. US policy of do more and drone attacks aggravated extremism in Pakistan. Since September 2001 till today, that is, just within nine years the US has lost much of its good will. It has lost its moral foundations essentially because of its foreign policy. Anti-Americanism has increased due to its imperialistic attitude of not listening to its allies its outright disdain of international law, erosion of its moral ground imposition of its own culture and values upon others. Botched diplomacy, imperialistic policies and brutal expression of its power have left legacy of resentment, fear and anxiety especially in Muslim World[8].

Many Muslims stressed that Israel’s political and territorial strength has not been domestically resourced but it is American assistance. Further Muslims hold that the US has persistently overlooked that its side with the state that has been progressively taken over by Jewish extremists. From 1945 to 2003, the US attempted to overthrow than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements fighting against intolerable regimes. In the process, the US bombed some 25 countries, caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many million more to a life of agony and despair [9]. America treats itself above all laws and conventions. Its shameless invasion of Iraq, the merciless massacre of its innocent civilians and horrific torture of suspects swelled the ranks of American-haters and created many a suicide bombers.[10]

Ineffective Security Council of UN:

Ineffective Security Council has established American hegemony at the cost of freedom of Muslim countries. The UN charter allows an attack against any aggressor, if it is in the common interest of the members states. Further the peace-keeping forces of Security Council could invade the country. After 9/11, the American resolution was unanimously passed against the Taliban’s regime. But, while invading Iraq, President Bush said, “We will bypass Security Council”. Unfortunately, this world body kept criminal silence over this injustice[11]. The Charter promises that no country can interfere in the internal matters of the member state. In contrast, the SC resolutions on Kashmir have been declared outdated. Likewise, North Korea is only facing sanctions, even after launching successful nuclear tests. Whereas, Iran is continuously being threatened by use of force, as in Obama’s words “Iran’s nuclear programme is against American Security”. American blue eyed, Israel is adamant to implement agreed peace Accord. So, Security Council has been a shameful failure in protecting the legitimate rights of the Muslim world[12].

Similarly, the UN charter does not allow any state to interfere in the internal matters of other member state. While Bush’s claim of bringing democracy in Iraq and liberation of Iraqis from the tyrant regime of Saddam are violation of the charter. In the same way American criticism of Ahmadi Nijad’s second term of presidency and Richard Holbrooke’s dictation to Pakistan are mockery of the world system. Finally Security Council could not check extremism in America. The extremist groups justify their lethal actions against this backdrop of helplessness and injustice.

Unemployment and Suicidal Poverty:

The slow economic and human development process, with the rise in population and unequal distribution of resources has created a large deprived and unemployed class. The rising unemployment, particularly among the students of religion, is creating a dangerous situation. The rising poverty is creating suicide bomber.

Chronic Illiteracy:

Illiterate people do not fairly understand the essence of the teachings of Islam due to lack of adequate knowledge of religion. They listen from religious teacher or from poorly educated Mullahs about Islam in local languages without a chance of even verifying at later stage owing to lack of sufficient knowledge of local language. Hence, they start following it and don’t worry about its athencity.

Decline in Tradition of Ijtihad:

The decline of the established tradition of jihad interpretation of Quran by Muslim clerics to apply Quranic law to changing circumstances-has lead to rigid and narrow interpretations of religious precepts. The crisis emerged for almost half a century now.

Poor Governance and Unequal Development:

The poor governance and the lack of the ability of the government to address the problems arising owing to rapid growth of population, for example lack of basic civic facilities, social injustices and other other developmental issues. Many of the extremist groups in Pakistan are centered in the middle sized towns, whose population has grown exponentially because of rapid rural to urban migration in recent decades. Throughout the Muslim worlds, extremist religious groups tend to be more influential in locations where local governments are least effective in addressing developmental challenges.

Logical Consequences of Growing Menace:

Some consequences are given below.

Religious Discord and Sectarianism:

The religious harmony was the first causality of the extremism. The curse of extremism and intolerance, besides creating a rift between various religious factions, has widened the gulf between the followers of different beliefs. The conflict of interest and hidden motives had affected religious harmony in the country. Religious extremists have created sectarianism throughout the country. They are hitting the opposite sects and they interpreted Islam according to them and impose it upon others.

Effects on Economic Growth and Nation-wide Fear:

Infrastructure has destructed due to extremists and terrorists activities. No foreigner is ready to invest in Pakistan due to law and order situation. Growth rate is declined to 2.4 and foreign debts are increased to 55 billion dollars. Due to instability and insecurity brain drain has increased at maximum level. Whole nation is under depression and feel insecure even to go to markets and Mosques. There is no security of common person’s life and wealth.

Extremist Image of Pakistan:

Though Pakistan is victim of extremism and terrorism yet it is labeled as sponsoring terrorism in the world. After the incident of Lahore in which Qaiyanis were attacked Pakistan was pressurized to control religious extremism. Though Pakistan has suffered a lot in the wage of terrorism yet World Community see Pakistan as safe heaven of extremism. After the incident of Time Squire, Pakistan is threatened by Hilary Clinton.

Pragmatic Solutions to Convert This Hell into Heaven:

  • There must be a strong parliament to tackle this issue.
  • There should be modern syllabus in Midrassas along with religious curriculum.
  • Madrassas should be under the command of government.
  • Pakistan should revise its policy towards war on terror.
  • UNO should play effective role in solving international disputes.
  • There must be effective role of OIC and SCO.
  • There must be sincere interfaith harmony among different religions.
  • Global media should play constructive role.
  • There should be positive mind set up against terrorism and extremism.
  • Social justice would provide base for up rooting of terrorism.
  • There must be equality so that there would be no inferiority complex.
  • US should revise its policies towards Muslim World.
  • Pakistan must be emphasized on education at maximum level.


Though Pakistan is victim of extremism and terrorism yet it is labeled as sponsoring terrorism in the world. Though Pakistan has suffered a lot in the wage of terrorism yet World Community see Pakistan as safe heaven of terrorism. Suicide bombings in shopping malls, hotels, common business centers and on roads not only affected local economy but also drained foreign investments from Pakistan. Pakistan has suffered the colossal financial losses of more than $68 billion or Rs 5036.8 billion in the so called war on terror since 2001 while human loss is around 40,000. The war spread like a contagion into rural and urban areas of Pakistan that has so far, cost the country more than 35,000 citizens, 3500 security personnel, destruction of infrastructure, internal migration of millions of people from parts of northwestern Pakistan, erosions of investment climate, nose diving of production and growing unemployment and above all brought economic activity to a virtual standstill in many part of the country, says Economic Survey 2010-11.


[1] Imtiaz Shahid, World Affairs (Lahore: Advanced Publishers, 2010), p. 261.

[2] Hassan Abbas, Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism, ‘Allah, The Army, and America’s War on Terror’ (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2005), p. 101.

[3] Zahid Hussain, Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam (Lahore: Vanguard Books, 2007), p. 79.

[4] Abdul Sattar, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy 1947-2005 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 155.

[5] Zamir Akhtar, “Concept of Jihad in Islam”, The Dialogue, Vol. III, No. 2 (2008), p. 168.

[6] M. Nazeer Kaka, “The Concept of Jihad in Islam”, The Dialogue, Vol. II, No.3 (2007), p. 67.

[7] Dilip Hiro, War Without End (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 18.

[8] Qadar Bakhsh Baloch, “American Intervention in the Muslim World: Before and Beyond 9/11”, The Dialogue, Vol. I, No. 3 (2006), p. 1.

[9] William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, (London: Zed Books, 2003), p.3952.

[10] S.G. Jilanee, “Why They Love To Hate America?”, South Asia, Vol.14, No. 2 (2010), p.17.

[11] Shamshad Ahmad, “Post 9/11 Turnaround”, World Times, Vol. 2, No. 3 (2008), p. 7.

[12] Michael Scherer, “The Five Pillars of Obama’s Foreign Policy”, World Times, Vol.3, No. 11 (2009), p. 14.


Posted on September 16, 2011, in Pakistan and the World, Terrorism. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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