Young zealots pose grave threats to minorities in Pakistan


The state, especially the army, had created and supported extremely rabid extremist outfits like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) which has been given a free rein in running vicious online campaign against minorities, especially the Ahmadis, writes Sakariya Kareem

Pakistan’s downfall can be measured not only in terms of its economic crisis and political subjugation to the military alone but more truthfully how its young are being radicalised online by extremist groups patronised by the state.

The radicalisation of the youth has not been new to Pakistan. Ever since Pakistan turned to `jihad` as its strategic instrument of war and manipulation, the young have been brainwashed to kill innocents in the name of religion. Radicalised young became easy fodder for jihadi groups mushrooming across Pakistan during the Zia-ul Haq days. Hundreds of terrorist groups were created, during the East Pakistan crisis, the Afghan Jihad and the proxy war against India in Kashmir. These groups needed unsuspecting young men who could be sent to die in the name of religion. Radicalisation became an agenda in hundreds of madrasas set up across the country.

Ahmadi graves desecrated, anti-Ahmadi slurs inscribed

When these same radicalised men turned towards Pakistan, there was panic and quick de-radicalisation programmes became the buzzword. Copious amounts of articles, research reports and seminars were produced and trashed. Programmes were introduced across the country. But it was merely a ruse, an excuse to tap into western funding sources for such programmes. In reality, the Pakistan Army continued to support and finance extremist and terrorist groups in different parts of the country. Jihadi literature became easily available online. Special coaching classes were held to promote such vicious literature among madrasa students and rich schools.

The sordid truth became known when the state, especially the army, created and supported extremely rabid extremist outfits like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) which has been given a free rein in running vicious online campaign against minorities, especially the Ahmadis. Of the several thousands of young men radicalised online by TLP was a young madrasa student who shot and killed two Ahamdis in Punjab’s Phalia town last week. He confessed of being influenced by what he read or saw online posted by extremist groups. He saw TLP leaders baying for the blood of Ahmadis. The Ahmadi community has complaining to the authorities about such online hate campaigns for long. Many have fallen victim to extremists in the recent past. The Ahmadi religious places have been destroyed and their graveyards dug up. Mobs, instigated by online campaigns, have even prevented burials of Ahmadis in the recent past.

But it is not only the Ahmadis who have been bearing the brunt of radical groups. Last year, Christian families and churches were set on fire in Jaranwala, Punjab, by blood-thirsty mobs influenced by online allegations of two Christian youths reportedly making blasphemous notes on Quran. Both were later found to be innocent of these charges but by then the town had been set on fire and Christians made to flee to safer areas.

The shocking aspect of the Jaranwala episode was the involvement of young men and boys as young as 14. More than half of the mob were teenage boys armed with sticks, stones, incendiary items and other weapons. The fanatical mobs attacked not only those areas where the alleged incident of blasphemy had taken place but other Christian areas. During the attack, the boys were seen smiling and laughing as they set houses on fire. The mob of young boys chanted hateful slogans which were once heard only in terrorist camps.

Many experts blame TLP for such mass scale radicalisation of young boys in Punjab. The group holds weekly gatherings, monthly religious events and anniversaries of different saints which draw a large number of youths and boys. These platforms are used to radicalise and brainwash the boys against minorities. The outfit posts highly contentious matter on Facebook and Twitter which incites young boys to attack the minorities. The shooting of two Ahmadis by the young madrasa student is merely a tip of the iceberg.

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