Radicalisation creeping into country’s higher education institutes has become a burning issue following the failed assassination attempt on MQM MPA Khawaja Izharul Hassan. Demands for countering this horrendous trend have been making rounds across the media and the government appears to be deeply concerned.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday chaired a high-level meeting of university vice chancellors, rectors and Higher Education Commission (HEC) officials to discuss ways to curb rising extremism on university campuses. HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, HEC Executive Director Dr Arshad Ali and more than 77 vice chancellors and rectors from various universities were in attendance.
Stressing upon the importance of educational institutes, Iqbal urged the participants to play an active role in containing the evil. He asked the university heads to devise strategies for using the youth’s potential in constructive activities.
He said the arrest of Karachi University students in connection with terror activities was highly alarming and called for a joint effort to curb the menace of extremism. He added that the use of digital facilities at university campuses needed effective monitoring, as hate content could be easily disseminated to young, impressionable minds.
The minister said the government had dealt with extremist with an iron fist in accordance with the National Action Plan, but “non-kinetic areas wherein information played a major role” also needed to be monitored.
Iqbal said there was a need to develop counter narratives to radicalism for influencing the students’ mind, adding that the youth needed space to voice their opinions on religious, social and national issues. He said the government was working on a curriculum for weekly Friday prayers’ sermons that would be based on educating citizens about practical life in the light of Quran and Hadith.
“There is a need for developing a task force in each institution to engage students in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in addition to formation of directorates of students to address students’ issues,” the minister said.
Iqbal highlighted the role of career counselling and suggested each institution should engage psychiatrists to help students deal with issues like extremist tendencies and drug abuse. “Empowering university administration has to be ensured to effectively monitor anti-social activities,” he said
HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar said the association of higher learning institutions with terrorism was unfortunate, but the involvement of a few individuals did not mean that the entire system was affected.
He added that universities must promote tutorials, sports and extra-curricular activities to engage the student body in positive activities. Dr Mukhtar also urged the media to not give unnecessary hype to the issue.