SAVE Pakistan

Pakistan Country Profile

Violent extremism can be found at its most deadly in Pakistan. Thousands of attacks are committed in the country every year, resulting in over 7000 fatalities in 2010. The urgency of the situation is even more evident when the numerous terrorist attacks that are planned and funded from Pakistan, but executed abroad, are taken into account.

The country is a particularly fertile breeding ground for violent extremism due to the volatile mix of poverty, corruption, illiteracy, and susceptibility to natural disasters at play there. These factors, in the context of the ongoing border struggles with India and rising domestic religious tensions, put youths in Pakistan at high risk of turning to violent extremism.

In a trend that began after the devastating earthquake in 2005, organizations such as Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD), the charitable wing of the Kashmir-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), are providing free food, medical facilities and education to Pakistanis in exchange for religious and political loyalty.

At the same time, public opinion is generally not favorable to violent, radical groups. Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that attracts the most support, is only viewed positively by 27% of Pakistanis. Even more encouragingly, 85% of Pakistanis say suicide bombing and other violent acts against civilians in defense of Islam are never justified (this up from 38% in 2002).

Communities are working together to resist the radicals in a number of ways. As well as the staging of anti-Taliban rallies, marches and conventions, efforts are being made to work through relief and charitable organizations in order to make sure that disaster victims do not have to rely on extremists to survive.

From a longer-term perspective, NGOS and think tanks are being set up to look at systemic solutions to the terrorism problem, and a number of schools are introducing interfaith understanding and de-radicalization as a formal part of the curriculum.

Gender is one of the organizing principles of Pakistani society, resulting in gender discrimination in all spheres of life. The idea of purdah (literally ‘veiled’), negative social biases; the concept of honor linked with women’s sexuality; restrictions on women’s mobility; and the internalization of patriarchy by women themselves, mean that women are restricted to a reproductive role as wives and mothers in the private sphere.

There is extremely low investment in women’s human capital in Pakistan. Only half of all women can read, and in rural areas the figure drops to one third. The country has an exceptionally low number of employed women: 33.7% according to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, most of whom come under the category of ‘unpaid family workers’.

Logo SAVE - Sisters against violent extremism

The Women's Dialogue, Mumbai meeting, November 2010