Even though stereotypes have been discarded as a reliable guide to militant behaviour due to the emergence of new unconventional types of militants, there is much to be learnt from a study of their profiles. After an exhaustive survey, the Counter-Terrorism Department has drawn up some interesting conclusions about the 500 or so militants languishing in jails across the southern Sindh province. A fair majority of them were suffering from psychological disorders, including hallucinations, Gaba syndrome, mania and bipolar disorder.
A little over 40 per cent of them were drawn to militant ideology because they were jobless or were faced with economic hardship — reinforcing a popular linkage between extremism and poverty.
Another trend uncovered by the survey shows how lack of education is nudging people towards militancy. Some 202 out of 500 militants were unlettered while only 63 of them had passed either their Matriculation or Intermediate examinations. Most of those who had received formal education had studied at seminaries, while 98 had been enrolled at public-sector institutions.
None of the militants were first-time offenders. Each one of them had committed some crime or the other before joining an outlawed outfit. Robbery seems to be their most common crime, followed by kidnapping for ransom, extortion and murder.
The purpose of the survey is to help the government devise policy intervention as it grapples with the ever-widening threat of militancy in society. Before it can begin that, however, it should aim to treat all those with psychological problems with proper therapy and drugs. The other militants should be rehabilitated and helped to rediscover the meaning of their lives before they can be integrated into the mainstream. Since a number of the militants were radicalised in seminaries or by clerics, it would be worthwhile to focus on carrying out urgent reforms in these institutions.
Editorial. Learning from militants’ survey. The Express Tribune, April 19, 2017.