ISLAMABAD: A top government agency working on countering terrorism has finalised a robust national narrative on extremism, sectarianism, terrorism and militancy.
“This narrative, once approved by the government, will be the cornerstone of the country’s response to non-traditional threats and to deal with extremist ideology,” said National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) Coordinator Ihsan Ghani on Tuesday.
He expressed these view while addressing a day-long conference on ‘Issues of Radicalisation and Extreme Behaviour in Pakistan’ which was organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).
Ghani said a draft of the narrative had been developed in consultation with academic, Ulemas and the media after an 18-month long effort. “The national narrative depicts consensus and resolve of our nation for its future progression and describes Pakistan’s true values,” he said.
The themes include encountering the misconstrued religious beliefs and creating interfaith harmony and tolerance; implementation of the law and establishing the writ of the state; trust development amongst state institutions; strengthening socio-cultural values and customs; working with media; reviewing economic policies and national development; reconciliation and rehabilitation of extremists.
He also shared that the National Counter Extremism Guidelines had also been finalised and were awaiting approval of the government.
“The guidelines cover areas such as service delivery, people’s engagement, education reforms, enabling environment, rehabilitation, reintegration and renunciation and also the promotion of culture,” Ghani said. He apprised that the guidelines were not formed in a vacuum rather a multi-disciplinary policy-making model was followed. Both documents have been prepared along with strategies, action plan, activities, budget and operational liabilities.
Discussing various initiatives, he said NACTA was working on the development of terrorist profiling under a well-thought-out strategy.
As a part of its on-going Tat’heer (cleansing) drive, he said, NACTA has introduced a mobile phone application which is available on both Android and iPhones to enable citizens to anonymously report extremist content, hate speech, banners, activities wherever they notice them in their areas and also on the internet.
Ghani said that a Surf-safe Online Portal has already been inaugurated to enable citizens to report extremist online- content freely, securely and anonymously and be part of this national cause curbing terrorism and extremism sprawling through the Internet.
Discussing ‘Radicalisation and Extreme Behaviours in Pakistan: Leading Causes’, National Defence University Assistant Professor Dr Khurram Iqbal stressed that single factor theories fall short of explaining cases of terrorism in Pakistan. “We need to recognise that radicalisation is caused by multiple factors like vengeance, poverty and religious fundamentalism playing varying roles at the individual, organisational and environmental levels,” he said.
He pointed out the Western definitions of radicalisation are narrow and do not fit Pakistan since they consciously ignore geo-strategic aspects and overemphasise on so-called ‘Islamic terrorism’.
He said since radicalisation in Pakistan was caused by both external and internal issues, adding it was important to enhance focus on soft approaches; reduce collateral damage in counter-terrorism operations; find a regional solution to Afghanistan.
Lt Gen (retd) Masood Aslam in his discussion on ‘Pakistan’s Counter Radicalisation Strategy: Lessons Learnt and Way Forward’ asked the government to focus on education, health, rule of law, provision of speedy justice and create more job opportunities to counter radicalisation in an effective way.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2018.