The arrest of a Karachi University student for being a member of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was another stark reminder of the radicalisation of our society. If the TTP has infiltrated one of the largest campuses in the country, there is likely no nook or cranny of society in which the Taliban are not present. The Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), the students wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, has always had a major presence at the Karachi University campus. According to a senior police officer, some members after disillusionment with their group, went to Waziristan for training.
This arrest raises a number of troubling questions. Even though the IJT is an ostensibly mainstream student group, it has been involved in countless campus scuffles which often involve the use of arms. It is then fair to ask if the IJT is serving as a gateway to Taliban membership. The ideology of the two is perilously close, even if their methods are different. After his election, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced that he would lift the ban on student groups. He has not fulfilled this promise yet but were he to do so it is vital that groups like the IJT, which have not eschewed violence, either give up arms or remain outlawed.
The campus authorities also have a lot to answer for. Periodic bouts of violence have taken their toll on the university but the influence of student political groups prevents meaningful action being taken. Rangers are posted on campus but they do not have the authority to take any action other than aerial firing and checking cars. Members of influential student groups like the IJT are the true masters of the campus. Having already imbibed the toxic ideology of Islamic groups, it is no surprise that some of them have decided that the IJT and the JI are too timid.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2011.