Students' Perception of Terrorism and Liberal Narrative in Pakistan.


Byline: Ruqia Rehman, Ghulam Murtaza and Fida Muhammad


Every country has narratives in order to gather public support on major issues. There are basically three narratives in Pakistan, who have different conceptualization of nation state, definition of the national identity and treatment of religious and ethnic minorities [1]McClure Et, 2015, p3). They also have differences over the governance structure within the country that includes the role of Islam in foreign policy, relationship with neighbouring counties and role of armed forces in domestic politics [2]. The most important difference between the liberal, nationalists and religious narratives is over the definition of national interest that determines the allocation of state resources and3 priorities. The first narrative is associated with pre-partition Muslim League and post-independence federalist forces [4].

They acknowledge the relevance of Islam for nation and state building because they rejected secular nationalism of the Congress and provided an alternative path to the Muslims of South Asia based on the basic principles of Islam. However, they did not support the emergence of Pakistan as a theocratic state (Rizvi, 2013). They support a state-centric security first approach to national interest (Walt, 1979). They are in favour of allocating a large chunk of resources for defence at the expense of social developments.

The second narrative is associated with liberal political forces in Pakistan. They strongly recommend that Pakistan should change its preference from security to economy, social development, and pluralism5. They demand big share for provinces from federal pool, and to establish long term strategic relationship with the United States, because they believe that close coordination between Islamabad and Washington would promote liberal values in Pakistan that include supremacy of civilian institutions over army and strengthening of democracy (Haqqani, 2016). The third narrative is advocated by religious political parties. They stress upon the role of Islam as fundamental of all foreign and domestic policies. They argue that the promotion and protection of Islam should be at the core of Pakistan's national interest instead of other territorial definition of Pakistan's national interest.

They strongly support the conversion of Pakistan into a theocratic state and enforcement of Sharia not only in the affairs of state, but also in the personal lives of individuals (Rizvi, 2013; Haqqani, 2013; and Fair and Shepherd; 2006).

Pakistan has been ruled by military governments directly and indirectly since its inception. The dominance of the army over the other political institutions did not allow them, especially the political parties, to influence national narratives on major domestic and international issues (Fair, Ramsay, and Kull, 2008). Military governments were comfortable with religious political parties from the beginning, because they had same positions on key fundamental issues, but the alliance between them cemented after the Afghan war in 1979 (Cohen, 2004). The military government of General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988) adopted Islamic principles in letter and spirit in running the affairs of state (Haqqani, 2016). There were alliances between them before Zia, but it reached a new height during his tenure, who was himself a committed Muslim and totally subscribed to Islamic Ideology (Haqqani, 2005).

Religious political parties and organizations did not only become junior partner in implementing sharia inside the country to counter the influence of liberal forces, but also played a significant role during the Afghanistan war (Fair, 2012). Non-state religious forces were in close coordination with the Zia regime to defeat Soviet forces in Afghanistan and install an Islamabad friendly regime in Kabul. The international forces attempted to change Pakistan policy towards extremism and the Taliban, but didn't succeed completely. Pakistan's security establishment was partially forced to give up this policy after the event of 9/11 and work with the United States to restore democratic dispensation in Afghanistan.

There are three mainstream narratives in Pakistani politics, which have different opinion about the United States' position in world politics; its relationship with Muslim countries, support for Israel, strategies in the war against terrorism and relationships with India and Pakistan. This study basically covets to analyse how opinions of different political parties from liberal spectrum influence students' perception of terrorism. This study is primarily aims to determine, whether liberal narrative in Pakistan about the United States, has any relationship with terrorism or not. The key dependent variable is students' perception of terrorism from different ethnic groups in Pakistan. The independent variable is liberal narrative in Pakistani society about the United State. The data has been collected in four primary public sectors universities of Pakistan; Punjab, Karachi, Peshawar and Balochistan on Likert scale and analysed with the help of SPSS.

2 Literature Review

There are different opinions among scholars over the relationship between madrasas, universities and terrorism in Pakistan. Educational institutions in Pakistan, especially madrasas, have been at the target of the United States since 9/11. According to Dr. Rehman,the madrassas, which were associated with conservatism, ossification and stagnation of Islam earlier are now seen as hotbeds of militancy in the name of Islam. After 9/11, a number of authors, both western (Singer 2001) and Pakistani (Haqqani 2002), have connected the madrassas with militancy. At least three reports of the International Crises Group (ICG) - published 29 July 2002, 20 March 2003 and 16 January 2004 - have taken the nexus between militancy and the madrassas as a given (Rahman, 2013).

Madrassas have been considered as the mother of Islamic fundamentalism and extremism in the region. The scholars are divided over the role of madrasas in promoting Islamic fundamentalism. One group of scholars consisting of (Fair C, 2006), (Hefner, R.W 2007), (Asia Report No.36), (Asia Report No.130), (Kronstadt, 2004), and (Lancaster, 2002), are of the opinion that Madrasas in Pakistan are the root causes of terrorism in the region.

There is a bulk of literature on the Madaris students support for terrorism. Many published reports and scholarly articles Gelfand, LaFree, Fahey, and Feinberg (2013) have claimed that the large number of students in Pakistani Madris are important causes of terrorism and suggested various strategies to streamline their curriculum. They claim in their reports and findings that the extremist curriculum taught in Pakistani Madrassah develop the same mind set as that of various terrorist organizations. Some of them (Gelfand et al., 2013) even assert that the Madris in Pakistan are providing foot-soldiers to terrorist organizations. However, there are very few authentic studies that study the relationship between universities students and terrorism. The large number of terrorist incidents by universities students inside and outside Pakistan necessitates a comprehensive research to find out the attitude of University...

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