by Jamil Bhatti
ISLAMABAD, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- The recent emergence of a number of highly educated Pakistanis who were involved in extremist and terrorist activities has rung alarm bells in the power corridors of Pakistan.
Last week, law enforcement agencies busted an independent terrorist group Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan (the supporters of Islamic law in Pakistan), which comprises 10 to 12 highly educated people in the country's southern port city of Karachi.
According to police, all the members of the group are qualified from well-known universities, including Karachi University and NED University of Engineering and Technology, while the chief of the group namely Abdullah was working as an information technology expert in a university.
Rao Anwar, Senior Superintendent Police, said that all the group members were the students of science subjects and belong to noble and educated families and that the group was involved in the killing of police and security personnel.
The members got training from Afghanistan and were showing their presence in Karachi by terrorist attacks with a final aim to tie with Al-Qaeda, said Anwar, adding "emergence of such a group is a serious concern for the country which is struggling for peace."
Following the development, intelligence agencies have increased surveillance in all major universities of the country, while security audit of some of the educational institutes has already started.
Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan is not the first terrorist group with the participation of educated people, the country has already witnessed the emergence of several other highly qualified persons who shattered the peace with their lethal actions in the past.
In May 2015, the intelligence agencies arrested an Islamic State (IS) affiliated group of four terrorists which had conducted several terrorist acts, including an ambush at a bus of Shia Muslims in which 43 people were shot dead in Karachi.
All the four terrorists had a background of well-off families and graduated from top universities, while the leader of the group Saad Aziz was alumna of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi, Pakistan No. 1 business education university, and was working at the highest post in a multinational company.
Muhammad Ashraf, president of Punjab Peace & Security Committee, said that the phenomena of educated and high-tech terrorists firstly emerged in reaction to Pakistan's support to the United States for its attack in Afghanistan in 2001.
"The presence of extremist tendencies in Pakistan's upper middle-class and elite-class is not new, but in recent years, the number of militants hailing from these classes has grown worryingly. Tracing such groups sometimes becomes very tough because of their high-tech strategies, well planning, carefulness, and alienation from traditional terrorist groups," said Ashraf.
A security official, seeking anonymity, told Xinhua on Sunday that they have arrested around 10 educated young girls belonging to well-off families for their involvement with different terrorist groups during the past one year.
In April this year, security forces arrested a female medical college student after a fierce exchange of fire in the eastern city of Lahore in which her husband was killed.
The female student had run away from her home after being radicalized through social media, got training from ISIS in Syria, married to a Pakistani militant, and returned home to attack security forces.
"A number of educated people from Pakistan are currently working with different militant groups in Syria and Afghanistan," said the security official, adding that the 2009 terrorist attack at a mosque near army headquarter in which 40 people of army families were killed, was coordinated by a group of local educated angry youngsters.
Doctor Usman, a terrorist who led the attack on Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore, and a suicide mission at the army headquarter, was a medic by profession. Omar Saeed Sheikh, who kidnapped and killed an American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 in Karachi, was the alumnus of London School of Economics.
The security official said some groups or individuals have emerged, but it is a fact that a very dangerous phenomenon of "militants in the making" is still there.
Self-radicalized individuals, who are influenced by terrorist ideologies, start planning terrorist attacks by themselves when they fail to find and join any proper group.
Omar Farooq Zain, professor of politics in Bahaudin Zakria University Multan, believes that the inclination of educated middle-classes to militancy represents a new stream which is emerging because of the country's loose policies about internet usage and social media, poor check at university campuses and lack of extra-curricular activities for students.
"Students of science and technology are more prone to such motivational trends because of multiple factors, including their isolation since childhood as a student, stress from teachers and parents, injustice in society, corruption by rulers, and an easy access to terrorist propaganda material through the internet," said Zain.
The professor said that no doubt Pakistani security forces and law enforcement agencies have achieved a great success against the armed militants fighting in open fields, but there is still a lot to be done against individuals or groups which are potential terrorists hiding in the society.
Pakistan has recently approved the National Counter Extremism Policy which has strongly suggested bringing coherence in the national education system, by carrying out reforms in curriculums of public and private educational institutions as well as religious seminaries.