Sindh Police, universities work together to counter extremism on campuses

By Ama Nasir Jamal

Rangers in Karachi check two young men on a motorbike in September. [Amna Nasir Jamal]

Rangers in Karachi check two young men on a motorbike in September. [Amna Nasir Jamal]

KARACHI -- The Sindh Police Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and various university administrations are working together to curb extremism on campuses.

Ongoing discussions and meetings began after the relatively unknown Ansarul Shariah Pakistan (ASP) militant group attempted to assassinate a Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader in Karachi in September.

ASP is believed to be made up of about a dozen highly educated members operating under the umbrella of al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-linked group based in Syria.

The first on-the-record meeting between the CTD and vice chancellors of 11 universities took place in September.

Since then, authorities in both educational institutions and law enforcement agencies are continuing to share information.

A growing threat

"Extremists have attracted youth from rural and urban areas, madrassas and even universities, [as well as from] poor and well-off backgrounds," CTD Senior Superintendent of Police Raja Umar Khatab told Pakistan Forward in December.

Many of the youth who fall prey to the propaganda of radical organisations do not think of the long-term consequences of their actions, he said.

"From al-Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP], Jundullah and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to [ASP] -- high-profile members are highly educated," Khatab said. "Apart from being highly educated, the perpetrators are technology experts."

"Faculty members should be sensitised to interact with students more frequently to address any disconnect they have with them ... and we should streamline a mechanism for mentoring and counselling students," he said.

Radicalisation at academic institutions is growing, Sindh CTD Additional Inspector General of Police Sanaullah Abbasi told Pakistan Forward December 19.

"There's a need to sensitise academic institutions about the gravity of the problem," he said. "The next generation of militants is more likely to have university education than have a madrassa background."

To that end, he said, "Officials will share their investigation-based information on terrorist organisations active in educational institutions and take input from university officials on thwarting the looming threat."

"Each university will also have a secret focal person on board to report suspicious activities at the campus," he said. Officers will "inform the students about the consequences of getting involved with radicalised people or organisations".

Universities co-operating with law enforcement

Pakistani universities are co-operating with law enforcement agencies and taking their own initiatives for students' safety.

Students must be cleared by the police before obtaining admission and police could file a case against any student found guilty of submitting forged documents, according to Ghazanfar Hussain, registrar at NED University of Engineering and Technology.

"We [also] ask students to report if they see any suspicious activity on the campus," he told Pakistan Forward. "Everybody needs to be involved in this process."

"We are vigilant and fully support law enforcers," Prof. Sulaiman Mohammad of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology told Pakistan Forward.

Youth must be protected against radicalism and extremism through sound education, good parenting and responsible media, according to Dr Muhammad Hafeez, a sociologist from Punjab.

"All battles are fought in the minds of men," he told Pakistan Forward. "If minds are not cultivated well, they turn disastrous."

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