Do You Think There is Difference Between Terrorism and Violent Extremism?

The majority of Pakistanis understand that ‘Terrorism’ and ‘Violent Extremism’ are two separate concepts. This assertion is made on the basis of the result of an online survey conducted by the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies where the audience was posed with the question, ‘Do you think that there is a difference between terrorism and violent extremism?’

72 percent of respondents opined that yes there is indeed a difference, whereas 28 percent disagreed. As a part of gauging public opinion on matters of national importance, CPGS regularly conducts surveys on topics of national interest.

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There is often confusion at a conceptual level where the terms of ‘terrorism’ and ‘violent extremism’ are utilized, and more often than not, the two terms are used interchangeably. However, there is a significant difference, and one that has an impact on the counter-strategies being developed at the national level. Despite 14 years of the War against Terrorism, a consensus on a universal definition of what this ‘terrorism’ is comprised of exactly has not been achieved. Historically, terrorism has always, in one form or another, been used as a political tool to further specific socio-political and economic ends and objectives.

To highlight the contrast between terrorism and violent extremism, it is useful to note that terrorism is broadly denoted as the practice of intimidation through violence, including killing and destruction of property etc., to achieve a political objective. Violent extremism, on the other hand, is identified as a broader political ideology that stands against the moderate, centric values and norms of a society in order to change the said values, culture or belief systems of a certain area by any means, including violence. It includes terrorism as well as other forms of politically motivated and communal violence.

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