ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a discussion on Tuesday called for a Pakistan-specific model to reintegrate militants that consists of a rigorous process, engages multiple players and sets preconditions such as renouncing violence and violent ideologies.

A forum was held on the Reintegration of Militants: Process and Practices. It was organised by the Pak Institute of Peace Studies (Pips) and chaired by former defence secretary retired Lt Gen Talat Masood.

It was attended by international experts from the International Centre for Counter Terrorism in the Netherlands.

Liesbeth van der Heide, a research fellow at the ICCT, gave a presentation on ‘What Works in Reintegrating Militants’, during which she said psychological counselling, coaching and societal support were key for the reintegration process.

She said: “One of the incentives for the state is to lessen the players of violence. The process of reintegration is often compounded by prevalence of different responses towards different violent groups. Those attacking inside may not be viewed by all as similar to those attacking outside. Every state should work its own model out. There is no single model to be applied on all.”

Forum discusses Pakistan-specific approaches to de-radicalisation

She also highlighted some challenges within reintegration processes, such as militants being battle hardened and traumatised, and facing ideological issues.

“Disengagement and de-radicalisation are linked processes, as disengagement from participation in violent extremism is more important to achieve than de-radicalisation; the latter is a bonus,” she said.

Pips project manager Mohammad Ismail Khan said a Pips-led group had recommended that parliament take a lead in setting any contours of a reintegration process.

The group, which included an array of experts, academics and policymakers also recommended that no reintegration plan without the remit of the Constitution should be accepted.

Pips researcher Safdar Sial said at the forum that a single approach to the issue is no enough, and also called for relaying alternative narratives. He said there should be a Pakistan-specific model espousing a democratic ethos.

Speaking on ‘Bridging the Gap Between Rehabilitation in Prison and Reintegration After Release’, Elena Dal Santo from the ICCT said prison centres could be the best environment for the de-radicalisation of individuals, as many radicals encounter extremist messages through prison.

“There is a need for good general prison management including sufficient space, educational opportunities, engagement of all relevant actors of disengagement process and continue monitoring and assessment on individual level,” she said.

Mr Masood, who chaired the discussion, said the state and military should be clear in their vision about de-radicalisation and real democracy, and the rule of law is a very important component of de-radicalisation.

“The process of reintegration in Pakistan is not taken collectively, which is a big challenge for us,” he said.

Some members of the session also argued that radicalisation has at times been a top-down approach emanating from past state policies, and therefore de-radicalisation should be viewed in the same context as well. Others argued that much of society has internalised radical messages and viewing some radicals as ‘misguided elements’ that need to be rehabilitated may be misleading.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017