Rising Extremism as a Non-Traditional Threat to Pakistan

Rising Extremism: 

“Gone are the days” when states are only subjected to military or traditional threats. Where the physical security is dependent upon its military for its defense from internal and foreign threats. Due to globalization, the phenomenon of security is not limited to a state’s territorial borders or its integrity, but it’s transnational and its effects are beyond the national boundaries. In this multilateral world due to interconnection or interdependence, the concept of security is very diverse and faces several challenges. At present, the domain of security includes traditional and non-traditional security threats.

Non-traditional security deals with the threat, challenges, to human existence and their security, opposite to the concept of military threats if these emerging threats are not catered according to required solution it may create problem for nation political stability and its national security.

Challenges to South Asia: 

For the last two decades, the traditional and nontraditional security of states with regard to “South Asia” is facing challenges and threats due to the rise in the phenomenon of terrorism and religious radicalization or religious extremism. The situation of bad governance, uneven policies, and influence of religion in politics have put the states in the condition where terrorism and extremism could grow and propagate.

Extremism is defined as holding extreme political and religious views or tendency to go beyond certain limits and adopting violent acts of terrorism in order to achieve personal, political, and religious objectives.

Extremism is the term based on an ideology of encouraging individuals to fight against opposition in order to protect their interests, values, tradition, culture, religion, and notions.  Extremism has brought violent activities that encompass personal, political, and religious agendas.

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Pakistan is facing terrorism, violence, and extremism in its state at part of extremist groups that wanted to forward their own interest and agendas. They motivated most of the state to be part of their ideology because they have the same religion. i.e., Islam, and they use terrorism, religious extremism as methods of violence for the achievement of their objectives.

The terrorist activities by violent extremist groups in Pakistan are a real threat to its security. In the last ten years, according to the “Institute for Economics and Peace’’. More than 26,000 people were killed due to violent religious extremism and Pakistan is at fourth number in the whole world with regards to religious terrorist attacks.

Extremism in Pakistan: 

Extremism in Pakistan is rising, and it is easy to qualify because of the universality of violent narratives in each sect against others and the transformation of the militant organizations and their influence in politics, and some other contributing factors. The divergence of interest between these militant organizations and state government urges the formation of extremist groups in the name of religion for the achievement of personal and political objectives. The violent actions on part of these extremist groups have also created problems for Pakistan internationally. One of the recent examples, of religious extremism, is the “Sialkot incident”. 

Adding to this, Pakistan is the prey to three violent extremist organizations that are responsible for propagating religious violence along with the influence of ISIS over the group of people. First, Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan, which operates from all over Pakistan targets the government, military, religious minorities, and doctors and students through suicide bombing, and wanted to impose shariah law in Pakistan.

Second, Lashkar-e- Jhangvi operates from Quetta and Karachi and targets the Shia community through target killings.

Third, Lashkar e Taiba operates from India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan target the government and military of India Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Furthermore, there are many causes and determinants of religious extremism in Pakistan. Firstly, there are two factors of extremism, i.e., push factors and pull factors. Push factors include socio-economic, socio-political, and human insecurity conditions like poverty, unemployment, underdevelopment, political instability, social marginalization, crimes, lack of good governance, and law and order, which push the people to use terrorism and extremism as a tool for fulfillment of their objectives.  However, the pull factors include the financial help to the adjoining people of the organization, narrative to establish Islamic political and economic system or sharia law, narratives to take revenge against religious minorities, and promise of power.

These factors pull or attract the unprivileged and marginalized groups towards the influence of violent extremist organizations.

Secondly, the radicalization in Pakistan was caused by Islamization policies by General Zia ul Haqq from the late 70s to 1988. Second, this afghan war played a vital role in promoting the narrative of jihadi ideology in the people. And Pakistan faced its consequences later, in the form of sectarian violence and conflict, proxy wars, and religious militancy due to the factor of divergence of interest between KSA and Iran and both states’ ideologies have a great influence in Pakistani societies.

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Thirdly, the global war on terror is also an additional key factor that fueled the fire and urges for a religious extremist organization in northern and tribal areas of Pakistan because of the destruction they faced during operations in their areas which was against their will. Along with that Pakistan also faced the consequences of post-Arab spring in the form of strong nexus between militant groups in Pakistan with ISIS and attack on Karachi airport incident in 2014 is the example of rising religious extremism by ISIS in Pakistan.

Moreover, the rising extremism in Pakistan by narratives of extremist organizations is a new dimension of security threat that has a direct bearing on national security. A state under the threat of extremism effects without a proper mechanism for its resolution will likely become prey to internal and external enemies which may affect its traditional security too.

Mechanisms and strategies are needed to counter this threat:

Firstly, government and military combine efforts are needed to counter this threat, and operation like Zarb-e-Azb is more needed against them and national action plan should be imposed properly, more reforms are needed in the constitution against violent activities does in the name of religion.

Secondly, Reforms should be done in the madrassa system and there should be a single curriculum in the whole country or madrassa system should not only include the Islamic teachings but also include subjects related to other fields as well. Thirdly, rehabilitation centers should be created in marginalized places in order to cater to the social and ideological issues of the people of that place. Economic opportunities should be created for internally displaced people for their stability.

Fourthly, reforms should be made in the existential framework of NECTA with regards to the protection of minorities and violent acts of extremism against them. lastly, civil society in cooperation with the government can assist in countering religious extremism if they coordinate with government legislation and prevent themselves from hate speeches against each other and do not follow blindly the religious militants and they should have built tolerance with regards to other communities.


Indeed, Pakistan’s part in the Afghan war, accelerated the extremism roots in Pakistan later it was further aggravated by Islamization that created the jihadi ideological extremist groups that initiated the sectarian violence along with other contributing factors like bad political and economic conditions, madrassa system, and securitization threats by religious scholars. Rising extremism is a serious non-traditional security threat to Pakistan that can be countered through proper mechanisms and strategies.

This article is written by Syeda Fatima Batool, who is the writer of an analysis of Rohingya conflict with regards to conflict resolution models and rising extremism as a non-traditional security threat to Pakistan. The author is a graduate in International Relations from the National University of Modern Languages Islamabad Pakistan. She is a researcher, her area of interest revolves around international affairs, foreign policy, diplomacy, and Pakistan affairs. The idea reflect authors’ own views and do not represent or reflect the views of the youth diplomacy forum. 

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