Pakistan is faced with several difficulties, both domestic and foreign. Some such issues demand quick resolution. One of them is the rise of radicalization among young people, notably among the Balochs in Balochistan. It is a problem that other forces could try to take advantage of. Most often, academics from all over the world attempt to link religious belief and radicalization, but this is not always the case. Discrimination, apathy, psychological weaknesses, and uncertainties can cause young people to violently radicalise, which then leads to extremism.
Many Baloch youngsters, especially those in the southern region, are targets of radicalization in various ways. They believe or think that large-scale initiatives like Saindak and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are intended more for Punjab and Islamabad than for Balochistan. Due to various government policies and the province’s resource allocation, they also feel discriminated against. They are more prone to extremism and radical beliefs because of these feelings.
First off, a study found that discrimination based on linguistic and political preferences is a contributing factor in radicalization. In this situation, the Baloch were labelled as “uncivilised” in a Punjabi curriculum taught during Ziaul Haq’s time until the issue was brought up in the Senate in 2016. As a result, an entire generation was taught that Baloch people were not civilised. Such discriminating statements, both in Balochistan and abroad, are among the causes of young radicalization.
According to another piece of research, radicalization may also be brought on by perceived discrimination in the form of physical attack, property damage, insults, and unjust treatment in the workplace. These causes originate in Balochistan. People are being physically abused in various ways and for various reasons, particularly by traffic police and staff at various checkpoints. Such unjust treatment might encourage young people who are already marginalised to become violent radicals.
Thirdly, because adolescence is a difficult time, young people are more susceptible to radical ideologies. It is accompanied by the desire for an identity, which can fuel violent extremism and lead these intrepid young people into extremist organisations. The recent episode in Karachi when peaceful Baloch demonstrators were dragged and humiliated could serve as a catalyst for the Baloch youth to rebel against the rulers. Given that they have previously been the targets of racial profiling in Punjab and Islamabad, it might leave them open to extremist ideologies. Additionally, it was against Article 16 of the Constitution, which protects peaceful demonstrators.
Additionally, students who are studying in Islamabad are hesitant to return to their hometowns out of concern that they will vanish there. It is important to consider what caused the Sindh Police to become violent with the Baloch during such a tense time when they are protesting while abiding by the Constitution. Instead of clamouring for rights within the bounds of the Constitution, such undesirable behaviour and attitudes may encourage young people to become violent radicals.
This legislation will be interpreted differently by various people, which is not good for national integration. Such humiliations might make people lose their patience and inspire radical views among young people in the province, especially the Baloch, who have lately experienced this disdain and humiliation.
John A. Abrahams makes a similar case in his thesis on ideological radicalization at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. It claims that a sizable number of disengaged young people (aged 16 to 24) who are neither in school nor employed, which is typical in key Balochistan regions, are joining the (so-called) Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. More than 50% of the students in 17 districts in Balochistan are not attending school. Balochistan has a 4.3 per cent unemployment rate, and 41% of the population is considered to be poor. It simply implies that they are radical, idea-prone and disengaged young people.
Furthermore, a large majority of academics concur that the problem posed by digital radicalization is greater than that posed by conventional radicalization. Youth commonly join groups on social media with similar interests and read, listen to, and watch biased content frequently. This gives individuals the impression that they must take action to protect their rights, identity, or something else comparable. Similar issues arise in Balochistan, where social media is not successfully regulated. Several organisations and pages on various social media websites constantly warn the youth that their rights and identities are in danger, that their ancestors fought for a cause, and that they ought to do the same. Whereas a lot of the time, such assertions are completely unfounded and either produced as emotional hype or to serve the entrenched interests of particular people, pressure groups, or political parties.
Extremism among young people who are violently radicalised requires immediate care. Various academics have offered various justifications for radicalisation. Unfortunately, a large number of them are present among Pakistan’s youth in general and Balochistan youth in particular. It is also true that geography and history play a part in the areas where the Baloch youth believe they have been disadvantaged as a result of governmental policy.
Other factors that have contributed to the underdevelopment of Balochistan and its residents include the ineffectiveness of the province’s sub-nationalist leaders; ineffective government; compromises on merit; and a high percentage of illiteracy. As a result, decision-makers and other interested parties should treat the problem of radicalization among the province’s young seriously.
First and foremost, by giving young people jobs, we can significantly reduce the likelihood that they will become violent radicals. Second, the youth of the province can be persuaded through counselling programmes, capacity-building initiatives, confidence-building strategies, and the use of print, electronic, and social media with actions rather than just words, that their rights are their rights and there is no threat to their identity. Thirdly, there should be a bridge built between the civilian population and the armed forces by taking advantage of the current trend of high-ranking government officials intermittently visiting the province’s colleges and institutions. This constructive behaviour needs to continue. Fourth, the province’s residents should be treated as owners in both letter and spirit, and the perception of indifference to Baloch emotions in other provinces should be combated through a single national curriculum for a better Balochistan and a successful Pakistan. Last but not least, regardless of their tribe allegiance, the people themselves should elect their leaders based on merit and performance and then hold them accountable.