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GEN Bajwa says the country is transiting from major to more intricate, targeted operations against terrorism.
GEN Bajwa says the country is transiting from major to more intricate, targeted operations against terrorism.

RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said the ultimate objective of any religion is to teach how to live a good life, not how to die a destructive death.

“Glory comes in pursuit of the end towards a good society, not as an end in itself,” he said while addressing a seminar at the auditorium of the General Headquarters here on Thursday.

Gen Bajwa said, “Islam expects you to enjoin what is right and forbids what is wrong. That is all as far as your social responsibility is concerned. You cannot impose your views on anyone. There is no compulsion in the religion.

“Therefore, let’s reduce violence in our society so that we are able to rebuild Pakistan.”

Pakistan has survived the worst onslaught of terrorism in modern history and reversed the tide, youth seminar told

He said the country was gradually transiting from major operations against terrorism to more intricate, targeted operations against residual threat under the ambit of Operation Raddul Fasaad.

“We must also find ways to ensure that the causes behind terrorism are addressed and the National Action Plan is actualised, foremost amongst them is extremism... Army has been fighting against terrorists and terrorism while extremism is being fought by law enforcing agencies and society.”

He said challenges faced by Pakistan were real but there was a positive side to the picture as well. “Not only have we survived the worst onslaught of terrorism in modern history, we have reversed the tide... Security has now achieved conditions to help development take off.”

Despite incessant propaganda, the COAS said, Pakistan as a nation had rejected terrorism. “That speaks of the robustness of our social and religious values.”

He said Pakistan was a young nation, both in historic and demographic terms. Demogra­phically, over 50 per cent of the country’s population was projected to be less than 25 years of age and future of the country lay with the direction that the youth would take over the next few years, he added. “We are standing at a crossroads; ten years down the line, we will either be enjoying the fruits of a youth dividend or suffering at the hands of a youth bulge, particularly with the youth which remains vulnerable to extremism.”

The seminar on the “Role of Youth in Rejecting Extremism” was organised by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission (HEC). It was attended by vice chancellors of different universities, academia, intellectuals, writers, scholars, media persons representing local and international news organisations, students, youth representatives and anchor persons.

The COAS called upon the nation to join hands to counter extremism by providing an ideal environment in (educational) institutions and through diligence and discipline.

Extremism was a relative term, relative to our perception of what was ‘normal’, he said. “Therefore, we will only have a clear concept of extremism if we have a clear concept of our own identity and values. A youth driven towards extremism is a youth without a clear idea of his values and identity.”

He said the term ‘extremism’ was often unjustly applied to devout sections of Muslim societies, alienating them in the process, although it was not always out of malice, but misunderstanding. “Yet it is imperative that we understand extremism in our own context.”

The army chief said the western definitions of countering violent extremism were mostly confined to what they called ‘Islamic extremism’ and it was unfair and dangerous. “Unfair because of its inherent and totally wrong association of extremism with Islam. Dangerous, because it focuses too much attention on Muslim societies and masks the rise of extremism in multiple societies across the world,” he said.

Just next door, the COAS said, India seemed to have given in to extremism to such an extent that it had become the new normal. “Hate has been mainstreamed in India and it is distorting their national outlook.”

He said the Hindutva extremism of the RSS and their Gao Rakshaks, deprivation of Palestinians, burning and desecration of mosques or gurdwaras in western capitals and rise of hyper nationalists and the monster of racism were all manifestations of extremism. “We can easily say it is emerging as a transnational phenomenon hence warranting a transnational, unified response.”

Gen Bajwa said extremism was not due to any religion or ideology, it was a mindset where compassion gave way to hate and intolerance of others.

He said extremism was also related to the environment and the time we lived in. “From that perspective, we must admit that Pakistani youth was getting exploited due to poor governance and lack of justice in the society.”

He said the Pakistan Super League cricket final in Lahore and celebration of 23rd March with three foreign contingents has shown that “our spirit is unbreakable and no one could isolate Pakistan”.

Earlier speaking at the seminar, ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said shielding the younger generation against extremism was collective duty of the nation and the process involved identification of threat and response measures.

Former inspector general Dr Shoaib Suddle said Pakistan’s extremism-related fault lines included terrorism, sectarianism, regionalism, sub-nationalism and ethnic militancy, adding that triggers for extremism were provided internally as well as externally.

Dr Farrukh Saleem, Ghazi Salahuddin, HEC chairman Professor Mukhtar Ahmed and Professor Ahmed Rafique Akhter also spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2017