By Dr Ejaz Hussain
30 January 2016
Undoubtedly, Pakistan is passing through
another critical juncture where extremism and terrorism have engulfed our
society and state. The state initially nourished forces that believe in
transnational jihadism to establish a universal Islamic state; the one claimed
in parts of Syria and Iraq is just the tip of the iceberg.
When Pakistani military authorities decided
to ally Pakistan with the US-led War on Terror (WoT) post-9/11, certain
militant organisations, owing to their peculiar ideological and corporate
interests, turned against the Pakistani state by launching suicide attacks on
state institutions. Similarly, while there were some militant organisations
whose top leadership did not prefer to take on the feeding hand, the lower
cadre of such organisations decided against their leadership and got involved
in terror attacks against the state.
Such an ideological and operational divide
among militant organisations helped conceive categories such as the ‘good’ and
‘bad’ Taliban, and later good and bad jihadists. Factually, however, the good
and bad categories are so superfluous that in the aftermath of a terror attack,
the state, as well as citizens, keep wondering who the culprit was and on whose
behalf they attacked.
The fact of the matter is that our state
does not have a clear stance regarding nourished militant organisations. In
some circles of the security establishment, certain organisations are still
viewed as force multipliers vis-à-vis India and its subversive rule in Kashmir.
This probably is the reason behind the non-existence of a clear-cut state-level
policy that treats all militant organisations as a threat to Pakistan and
regional peace and stability. Moreover, the non-clarity of policy hinders the
growth of ideas in terms of generation and propagation of a well-argued and
consensually concluded counter-narrative.
Since the state is uninterested in
initiating and facilitating a counter-narrative, which will expectedly upset
the prevailing militant discourse and its linkages with the state and society,
there is a blind focus on the operational front by launching the army and
Rangers’ operations in, for example, FATA and Karachi. “Such military
operations can only help us win the battle but not the war,” argued the
military analyst, Ayesha Siddiqa.
In addition, ad hoc policy has led
policymakers to fight terrorism only through armed measures on two different
levels. One, the police, along with other law enforcement agencies, are- in the
wake of the terror attack on Bacha Khan University — seen conducting armed
exercises in the heart of civil centres such as hospitals, universities and
Two, the state seems to have abdicated its
primary duty of protecting its citizens and, paradoxically, has shifted its
responsibility back to society. Official notifications are being issued to
schools, colleges and universities, both public and private, to enhance
security and, importantly, train staff and teachers with heavy weapons. In my
view, this policy of arming teachers will have the following implications. One,
as mentioned earlier, shifting the responsibility of providing security to
civilians onto the civilians will expose a weakened social contract between the
state and society, and such a measure will be exaggerated by anti-state
elements nationally and regionally. Two, teachers are, ontologically, trained
and taught in the use of arguments, not guns. How can one expect a teacher to
carry a gun in one hand and pen in the other? The mere sight of weapons will
have a detrimental effect on young minds, especially at the school level. I
never saw a weapon publicly displayed or privately carried during my seven-year
stay in Europe.
Three, armed teachers will not be able to
concentrate on their primary job and instead may use the provided weapons for
wrong reasons. For example, corporal punishment is still practiced in many
schools in rural and urban Pakistan. A video of a female teacher beating a
female child in Karachi went viral on social media recently. What if a teacher
shoots a student for not preparing a lesson or not obliging the teacher in
carrying out his/her orders as is the case in our patriarchal society? Indeed,
there have been reported cases of harassment of students and female colleagues
in different parts of the country. Hence, provision of arms to such rough
elements will have negative repercussions.
Four, students being trained in such an armed
environment will, in the long run, never be able to compete with their foreign
counterparts on account of having fear and hatred of the ‘other’, and less
exposure to a liberal setting. Fifth, due to armed teachers and militarised
educational institutions, students will struggle later on in life because their
cognitive approach will be biased towards the application of military means.
This then will compound our security problem, not solve it.
Instead of arming teachers and militarising
educational institutions, our policymakers should pay heed to the following.
First, we should keep a simple fact in mind: militarisation of an already
militarised society will add to the problem. It is productive to arm and train
the security guards of educational institutions; their number can be increased
to guard main and other entry/exit points. Second, extra care should be taken
not to let children observe weapons and their usage. Teachers in any case must
not be allowed to carry arms within the premises and classrooms. Third, the
police and other law enforcement agencies need to enhance their training,
equipment and operational capabilities.
Finally, the state will have to come clear
on the need for a counter-narrative. Without one, the radicalised majority from
within society will be providing manpower and resources to terrorist networks
and the tiny minority with an alternative worldview will be sidelined and
finally eliminated. Until this mindset is reset through counter-arguments,
Pakistan is most likely to witness more terror attacks with more innocent lives
being sacrificed. To possibly reverse this, we need to arm our teachers with
the pen, not guns.
Dr Ejaz Hussain is a DAAD fellow. He holds a PhD in Political Science and
works as assistant professor at IQRA University, Islamabad. He tweets @
Dr Ejaz says, "we need to arm our teachers with the pen, not guns."
May I ask a question to the author?
How can a teacher deliver his lecture in the schools or colleges before the students if he is scared at every knock at the door as he may be a terrorist?
One of his solutions, " It is productive to arm and train the security guards of educational institutions; their number can be increased to guard main and other entry/exit points"
Does it sound logical? How so far is it applicable and can be implemented in millions of madarsas, schools and colleges altogether in a country like Pakistan?
I am not advocating of this cause, but in the present scenario when madarsas, schools and colleges are breathing in fear, it seems as sword has overtaken the pen and looks mightier than it.
If security guards with sophisticated weapons can be posted at every class, laboratory, auditorium, points at the campus etc. only then the teaching fraternity can feel a bit safe.