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Religious Militant Extremism in Pakistan: Security Threat to South Asian Region and Challenges

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

By Dr. S. Krishnan, Assistant Professor, Seedling School of Law and Governance, Jaipur National University.

Badshani Mosque, Lahore


The gravest challenge Pakistan today faces is militant extremism which has left the society terrorized, fear prevails amongst the masses due to the ongoing suicide attacks leading to the killings of innocent people. Earlier Taliban, Al-Qaeda and local militant groups since 2001 were mostly based in the tribal belt but now have spread to the settled areas of Pakistan. Various sectarian groups and religious organizations have now also become a part of their network; together they have led to acts of violence and terrorism. Jihadi madrassas are also playing a crucial role in fueling extremism in the society. No doubt, the prevalent situation is very complicated with so many groups, organizations joining hands in militant terrorist activities. Before it is too late, effective counter terrorism strategies need to be developed and adopted by both the provincial and the federal governments as to curtail the ongoing carnage of violence by the militant extremists. Various political parties, religious groups, sectarian groups, media and civil society need to develop consensus on the complete rejection to militarism in society. There is need to shun off petty differences on religious and sectarian basis. A unified society rather than a fragmented one will be the best resistance to the ever growing trend of militant extremism in Pakistan. Religious tolerance and moderation are the key words towards de-radicalization in Pakistani society.

Keywords: Extremism, Security, Religious Violence, Terrorism, Sectarianism, Rational Choice


There is no doubt that Pakistan’s economy has been suffering from low growth rates, declined foreign investment and ever increasing poverty and unemployment. Despite certain flaws in the structural framework of the economy, the country is facing most violent years in its entire history. This paper is an insight to the phenomena of violent and religious extremism that is rapidly increasing in Pakistan and all over the world but its implications are severe in the case of Pakistan so it also attempts to explain this issue in a historical perspective to see the impact of violent extremism on the economy of Pakistan. So, the study attempts to explain the concepts of extremism, violent extremism and religious extremism and then it explain this phenomenon in context of Pakistan.

Extremism is a complex phenomenon as many researchers and analysts have defined it as “views that are inconsistent with existing norms while others have defined it as beliefs, feelings, actions and strategies that are far away from ordinary”. When individuals’ beliefs move from being relatively mainstream to being radical and they want a dire change in society, this is known as radicalization. On the other hand, violent extremism is defined as the beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve certain ideological, religious or political goals.

This includes terrorism, other forms of politically motivated violence including some forms of communal and sectarian violence. Almost all forms of violent extremism, irrespective of their motivation, seek change through fear and intimidation rather than constructive democratic processes. Extremist acts employ violent means to impose their beliefs by targeting women, children, and other civilians in a society posing a threat to lives of masses by taking its severe forms. They make use of violence when they think that fear and terror are justified to achieve ideological, political or social change so they become followers of violent extremism.

Factors Motivating Violent Extremism

There is not a single factor that motivates the extremists to use violence as a means to achieve their goals but following are some of the most common factors that trigger the extremists to use violence as a tool to achieve their objectives;

➢ Push Factors are the negative social, cultural, and political features of one’s societal environment that aid in “pushing” vulnerable individuals onto the path of violent extremism that are commonly known as ‘root causes’ such as poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, discrimination, and political/economical marginalization.

➢ Pull Factors, on the other hand, are the positive characteristics and benefits of an extremist organization that “pull” vulnerable individuals to join. These include the group’s ideology (e.g., emphasis on changing one’s condition through violence rather than “apathetic” and “passive” democratic means), strong bonds of brotherhood and sense of belonging, reputation building, prospect of fame or glory, and other socialization benefits.(2)

In case of Pakistan, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and economical marginalization has forced many people to join violent extremist groups. Many organizations pay youth for joining such organizations and their vulnerable minds are then exploited. A study revealed that youth prefers joining such organizations because they gain power and self-esteem which otherwise would have not been given to them in the society.

Suggested Citation:

Mani, Dr. Krishnan, Religious Militant Extremism in Pakistan: Security Threat to South Asian Region and Challenges (February 11, 2019). Available at SSRN:


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