SOMETIMES there are stages in the life of nations that are seemingly very difficult and patient. Brave nations are characterized by turning challenges into opportunities. However, despite the tragedies of terrorism and tragic events of extremism, opportunities at the national level have not been fully realized. The Peshawar Army Public School tragedy had shaken the political and military leadership of the entire country and all sections. In this context, the government, in consultation with all concerned parties, formulated a 20-point National Action Plan. It was decided that all government and state institutions would work together to address the serious threats of terrorism and extremism facing the country. Much progress has been made in this regard and the structure of terrorism has been significantly weakened under the operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad. However, sporadic incidents are not only continuing, but the enemy continues to conspire to harm the country by adding sectarianism to extremism. In this regard, religious circles, Madaris, and educational institutions are targets of the enemy. The incidents of extremism in the past educational institutions are clear evidence that they have become tools of their own anti-national forces. Government and military leadership are working together to thwart the conspiracies of anti-national forces, but in the new changing situation, the need for a new plan is rightly felt.
It is no secret that the National Action Plan is the most important document of national security. This action plan was formulated by national consensus on twenty points, based on peace, tolerance and political and social harmony. It was based on educational institutions, Madaris, curriculum, teachers and students and included points on the basis of which awareness could be raised at the societal level along with the prevention of this scourge. This extremism could not be cured by the use of force or administrative measures alone, it was to create awareness on the scientific and intellectual front, especially among the new generation, that we should live together in spite of each other’s different views, ideas, thoughts and concerns and not to promote the politics of prejudice and hatred against anyone. In this regard, many points of the National Action Plan have not yet been implemented. There is no doubt that our main problem is the spread of extremist tendencies. This problem is not only religious but also political, social and intellectual. The main reason for this is the growing culture of intolerance in society and the weakening of the culture of dialogue or tolerance. In society, extremism is not a big issue but some individuals, institutions and anti-national forces are not only promoting it but also defaming it. On the contrary, they are fulfilling their nefarious aims. Such elements are present everywhere in the country. Those who teach hate and those who support them, whether in political parties, media, educational institutions or state institutions, must abandon conciliatory attitudes towards them. The incidents that took place in the educational institutions of Karachi, Peshawar and Bahawalpur in the past are enough to show how extremist thinking can take the life of innocent people.
Under the National Action Plan, highly effective measures have been taken to protect educational institutions and Madaris from extremism and terrorism. As a result, students in educational institutions are adorning themselves with the adornment of education while considering themselves safe. At the level of educational institutions, the administration needs to make its monitoring system more effective and transparent, so that people who have extremist tendencies or are involved in such activities can be identified immediately. After identifying such students, there should be a dialogue with their parents, so that they can be told what kind of activities their child is involved in. Similarly, regular counselling centres should be set up with the help of psychologists and social experts for the students who are creating anger, hatred, anxiety, frustration or revenge thinking among the students of the educational institutions. Only timely diagnosis and treatment of extremist tendencies will solve the problem. There is no denying that the steps taken under the National Action Plan have been encouraging and have had a positive impact on its educational institutions, students, but based on an important document like the National Action Plan, major surgery is needed for major reforms in our education system. Because it is very dangerous to think that our education system is failing in its mission to stop extremism. We need strong practical steps at all levels including state, government, institutional, media, intellectuals, to make it possible to build a society based on peace and tolerance in the face of extremism, if extremism and sectarianism aren’t prevented or if this chapter is neglected, this spark will set fire to all the grassroots and destroy them.
—The writer is freelance columnist, based in Lahore.