Pakistani youth feared to become a brigade of radicals

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Washington, Nov.18 : Pakistan's potential for youth radicalisation is high, given a poor education system stratified along socio-economic lines and disparate economic opportunities across society, a study according to a study by a Pakistani scholar published by the Brookings Institution in the Daily Times.

Pakistani scholar and journalist Moeed Yusuf in his study titled 'The Prospects of Youth Radicalisation in Pakistan: Implications for US Policy' has warned about the possibility of increase in the number of youths getting "lured" towards extremist causes.

The prospects of this have increased because of the presence of an extremist infrastructure, the impeccable organisational discipline and widespread social networks of Pakistan's Islamic political and militant outfits, a failure of the moderate forces to deliver credible results, and myopic US policies further enhance Islamist influence, Yusuf has stated through his study.

The study says that a proactive and multi-faceted policy approach is required to generate desirable outcomes considering there is a noticeable desire among Pakistani youth to attain education and find respectable livelihoods that could act as an agent for positive change in ideal circumstances.

It further states the international community has a high stake in ensuring a positive turnaround, given Pakistan's strategic importance and its potential to disrupt South Asian peace.

Yusuf stresses on the need for US intervention in key policy matters in the immediate future that must specifically target the younger generation while maintaining a broader objective.

Youth specific interventions by the US should include: enhancing the quality of Pakistan's public education rather than retaining a disproportionate focus on the madrassah system; making socio-economic aid conditional upon Pakistan's ability to spread benefits to the masses instead of tying it solely to terrorism; revising US visa and immigration policies for young Pakistanis in order to provide them with a constructive outlet, perhaps through a formal protocol that allows disproportional access to young Pakistani citizens belonging to lower socio-economic classes; and consciously attempting to expose young Pakistanis to US culture by reopening information and cultural centres throughout Pakistan.

Yusuf suggests in his study that broader measures by the US that bear relevance to young Pakistanis should include playing a constructive role in nudging India and Pakistan towards normalisation, without which Pakistan will be tempted to maintain a link with extremists. It will, in turn, allow the militant enclave to continue operating and recruiting young men from Pakistani society.

In essence, the state's support to extremism will have to cease before the spectre of youth violence can be laid to rest.

US officials need to be sensitive to the conservative nature of Pakistani society and their diplomatic jargon needs to be tailored accordingly. The language of western liberalism must not be used to communicate with Pakistanis, Yusuf argues.

Stating an example Yusuf's study says by conflating the notions of conservatism and extremism - which carry entirely different connotations for Pakistanis - and dismissing both, the US inadvertently supports 'secular' ideals in a country where an overwhelming majority abhors them.

It leads to further resentment against the US, which is in turn exploited by extremists to win recruits. He also suggest that it is necessary for the US to exhibit patience with regard to Pakistan's Afghan policy and understanding that any efforts to produce short-term results risk a social implosion within Pakistan.

Yusuf points out that recent developments in Pakistan-US relations do not bode well for a permanent multifaceted partnership.

The stern US diplomatic signals in response to peace overtures by the newly elected democratic government in Pakistan and now unilateral cross-border strikes from Afghanistan are creating a bilateral rift.

Both sides (the U.S and Pakistan) need to be careful not to allow concerns on the War on Terror front to hijack their broader relationship. The real worry from Pakistan is not immediate; instead, it is the gradual move of the youth towards radicalisation over the long run that needs to be checked.

Should attention be limited to the 'here and now' and were the US to hold its larger interest hostage to Pakistan's role in the counter-insurgency effort, the ultimate outcome may well be counterproductive not only for the two principal stakeholders, but even for the world at large.

Pakistan's slide towards radicalisation is not a foregone conclusion, Yusuf states in his study whil adding that in fact, a positive change in the current environment could produce a scenario highly amenable to progress.

Yusuf writes that proactive and well-placed policy responses are required to undermine the present risks posed by poor educational quality, the stratified nature of the education system, and disparate economic opportunities, and further exacerbated by constricted migration options, a negative role of the state, and misplaced US policies.

The study observes that the U.S. is most suitably placed to support positive developments in Pakistan. Ensuring Pakistan's move in this direction is no longer an option; it is a necessity.

With 160 million people, a geographical location that will remain pivotal to US anti-terrorism interests for the foreseeable future, a significant, albeit thus far under utilised, role of Pakistan as an opening to both Iran and the Sunni bloc - the need for such a partner has increased multifold given Washington's plummeting popularity among Pakistanis.

ANI

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