Strategy for prevention of violent extremism | By Umar Riaz Abbasi


Strategy for prevention of violent extremism

OVER the last decades, Pakistan has experienced a variety of attacks against civil society and law enforcement agencies, emerging from the violent radicalization of specific extremist groups.

Though countries, like Pakistan, have been more affected by violent extremism and terrorism, the concern about this threat in the country is growing again.

There are several examples of both external and internal funded terrorist attacks, such as the most recent Lahore Johar Town Blast, or more recently, the attacks carried out in Kohistan targeting Chinese citizens and Pakistani law enforcement agencies, the offenders seem to be foreign-funded terrorists.

Another challenging front for the country is violence and aggression in various domains like religious extremism, political intolerance and hybrid warfare, has become more dangerous.

Considering the severe consequences of violent radicalization, both in the direction of rightwing extremism and religious inspired extremism, it is urgent to find potential mechanism and strategy for prevention.

Efforts to prevent terrorism in the form of policies and specific actions have been developed over the last decades.

Thus, specific counter-terrorism policies have been implemented across Pakistan on a large scale and on a national level.

The rise of violent radicalization poses the question of how effective these policies and the resulting prevention measures are and requires insight into those efforts that are being effective in tackling violent radicalization.

I have deeply gone through this phenomenon of violent behaviour and my study is embedded in the prevailing project, ‘Modelling the Processes leading to Organized Crime and Terrorist Networks’ can be effective for policy makers and Government authorities to combat violence on national level to secure the future of the country. Specific prevention efforts of violent radicalization have been developed in Pakistan.

While these efforts are tackling multiple spheres, one of the crucial aspects is to focus on youth, knowledge, exchange experiences, develop new initiatives and especially highlight best practices to prevent radicalization.

I suggest the following working fields: training support for practitioners who are dealing with people at risk for radicalization, exit strategy for those who have already radicalized and even committed violent acts, community work, education for youth, family support, alternative narrative to counter recruitment strategy, multi-agency approaches involving a great variety of social actors and prison and probation measures. Several of these fields include practices targeted at youth as a vulnerable group to radicalization.

For instance, young people should be educated ‘on citizenship, political, religious and ethnic tolerance, non-prejudiced thinking, extremism, democratic values, cultural diversity and the historical consequences of ethnically and politically motivated violence ‘Conceived as an evolving tool for the prevention of violent radicalization, the ISPE gathers a great variety of practices developed across Pakistan in the diverse fields to provide stakeholders with useful information on prevention efforts.

ISPE is an academic platform to provide solutions to eliminate extremism and terrorism through academic counselling, research symposium and seminars.

Being Chairman of this forum, I have been working with various academicians and researchers from across the globe to counter violent and aggressive behaviour in an educational and futuristic approach which includes diagnostic analysis.

In a similar vein, the Terrorism and Radicalization project, can be initiated specifically focuses on victims of violent acts by radicalized people and on former radicalized people as they can provide valuable insight into targeting specific groups.

All these efforts emphasize the need for working in multiple fields to prevent violent radicalization, especially when it comes to prevention efforts targeted at youth, as these people are already in direct contact with the youth.

Everyone agrees on the need for effective policies to counter violent extremism at national level. But this cannot be done at individual level.

In my opinion we can establish Violence Prevention Network, which can provide training for schools, higher education institutions and teachers, as well as in other fields and for any other collective, about violence prevention and especially prevention of radicalization and deradicalization.

Youth and young adults need to feel that they are taken seriously and that they are listened to. In these training workshops young people can learn how to deal with conflicts in a peaceful way.

In this article examples of successful prevention actions concerning the violent radicalization of youth have been analyzed, evidencing their social and ethical impacts. This can help inform dialogic evidence-based counter-terrorist policies.

The very diverse programs studied here achieve the protection and promotion of the fundamental human rights of the people engaging in them and society at large.

In order to further enhance the social impact of extremism prevention policies and counter violent radicalization of youth, we need to take another step forward and include all people’s voices on equal terms, providing evidence to policy-makers about how policies can actually achieve their goals and limit the negative outcomes.

—The writer is PhD in Islamic Studies, author and academic writer & lecturer at National University of Modern Languages Islamabad.

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