Engaging Youth to Fight Extremism

GHQ, in collaboration with HEC, organized a seminar ‘The Role of Youth in Rejecting Extremism’ aimed at incorporating insights from intellectuals to prevent youth from violent extremism. Strategies were chalked out with an understanding of how we all can engage in preventing and countering violent extremism in all its various forms and how we could reach out to the young people and rally them to our cause. Factors that lead to radicalisation among youth were highlighted such as the discrepancy between expectations and reality, experiencing trauma and grievances which create a fertile ground for recruitment by the terrorist organisations. “Pakistan is a young nation, both in historic and demographic terms. Demographically, over 50% of our population is projected to be less than 25 years of age. The future of our country literally lies with the direction that our youth takes over the next few years,” said COAS, General Qamar Javed Bajwa in his keynote address to the VCs, faculty members, officers, senior journalists, media persons and other dignitaries present at the occasion.

He continued, “We are standing at a crossroads; ten year down the line, we will either be enjoying the fruits of a youth dividend or suffering at the hands of a youth bulge, especially with the youth which remains vulnerable to extremism.”

The role of education in this regard is crucial. It can instill young people with the necessary life skills and human rights values, contribute to a positive identity development, make them resilient against extremist ideologies and ensure their personal well-being, especially those at risk of marginalization and social exclusion, by empowering them to deal with the challenges of growing up in a complex, pluralistic society. There needs to be an understanding that those who misuse the concept of jihad to fulfil their own hidden agendas take Quranic verses out of context or misapply them, are in fact the worst enemies of Islam. Whereas Islam stands for peace, harmony and brotherhood. The message of Quran clearly rejects false assertions of such hooligans, dissidents, transgressors and miscreants and calls them Fasaadis in Surah-e-Baqra, “and when it is said unto them, do not cause fasaad on the earth, they say, we are but reformers.”

“Despite incessant propaganda, the fact is that as a nation, Pakistan has rejected terrorism. That speaks of the robustness of our social and religious values and I have no doubt that we equally reject extremism in all its manifestations”, emphasized General Qamar Javed Bajwa. However, a sense of vigilance is required to deal with the challenge of violent radicalisation as a disruptive force of the social fabric poses to our society. Measures are to be taken towards preventing socio-economic exclusion, establishing inclusive partnerships, amplifying alternative narratives through engagement with media, ensuring access to quality education and supporting initiatives and youth-oriented organisations.

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