A MONTH ago, Mohammed Yousuf, a prison guard at Rawalpindi’s Adiyala Jail, shot and injured the elderly Mohammad Asghar, a blasphemy convict with a history of mental illness.
The internal inquiry into the shooting has brought to light findings that are deeply worrying. It seems that Mr Yousuf spent a little over a fortnight guarding Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed killer of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. Within this brief span, Qadri succeeded in indoctrinating the guard with his extremist views on Islam.
Indeed, his powers of persuasion appear to have been such that two other prison guards were similarly radicalised and told to track down other blasphemy convicts jailed there, presumably with the intention of harming them.
What is also disturbing is that his influence, according to other prisoners, led guards to give Qadri special treatment and receive religious instruction from him.
A month before the attack on Mr Asghar, a prison guard had reportedly told a murder convict to kill those who had been jailed for blasphemy, promising him a weapon and telling him he could atone for his sins by doing so.
That such murderous instincts should now be apparent in those tasked with keeping a watchful eye on prisoners is hardly surprising in our milieu.
In fact, it is entirely possible that such a process of radicalisation is gaining traction in other places of incarceration in the country as well, although only a thorough investigation can ascertain this. But there is ample anecdotal evidence that extremist views are spreading in society, and certain incidents have supported allegations of radicalisation in institutions ranging from the military forces to the police.
No doubt, the idea of radical extremism — much of it drawn from societal trends — within the ranks of those whose job it is to serve the law and keep the peace is nothing short of frightening.
From the top tier downwards, Pakistan’s institutions need to undertake a serious exercise in introspection and start taking control of a narrative that shuns extremism.
Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2014