My friend from IBA, an extremist?

Published: May 27, 2015

A student from IBA can be an extremist. The latter is no reason to ban IBA.

I went to school with Saad Aziz. For two years in Lyceum, from 2005 to 2007, I considered him a friend of mine. A shy, lanky young boy always seen with a bag strapped on one of his shoulders – he always looked like he was headed somewhere but had nowhere to be.

We lost touch after school. I had forgotten all about him till I was presented with a jolting reminder on May 22nd.

When the news broke of him being the alleged mastermind behind one of the terrorist attacks, my initial reaction was one of denial. The story did seem implausible but in my mind it was impossible. Too often in Pakistan, journalists hide their biases under a veneer of objectivity, logic and facts. I am going to lay out my bias for you to be clear in what shade my worldview is tinted in. I could not believe he was an extremist, not because he was educated, or reasonably affluent, or a family man, not because I once called him a ‘friend’ but merely because logic dictates otherwise.

I have mulled over my thoughts a lot since then. The impossible seems potentially probable now. For the record, I am still convinced – not based on any evidence or fact but mere intuition – that the murder of Sabeen Mahmud is conveniently being piled on in the list of the extremist activities of these group.

Sabeen was not targeted for her religious beliefs; she was targeted for her political beliefs; the only anomaly on the list of terror. A more thorough investigation is required, keeping in mind the inept history of our law agencies, therefore, at this point Saad Aziz has only ‘allegedly’ committed these terrorist activities.

Unfortunately, we as a society demonise people easily. It is very convenient for us to distance ourselves from these monsters amidst us. The hard truth is that even the brutal savages who committed the Peshawar massacre were a part of our society. It is about time that we, as a collective entity, accept responsibility and take action to improve as a community. Under different circumstances, maybe one of us could have become a ‘Saad Aziz’.

Currently, no evidence has been presented against the group; all we have are statements from the government. Even though nothing has been legally decided, we are all out with pitchforks. I can never quite understand how and why so many Pakistanis feel placated after someone is hanged, droned or bombed. This never ending cycle of violence does not seem to end.

As Faiz Ahmed Faiz would ask,

“Khoon kay dhabay dholein gay. Kitnee barsaato kay baadh.”

(The blood stains have been washed away, but how many rain showers later?)

If he did do it, he must be punished, but eventually someone will take his place. We are not combatting the culture of violence by hanging a few culprits.

So who is this ‘mastermind’?

He is not some foreign trained militant or a rival intelligence goon. He is one of us; he could have been you or I. That is not to say we should all start distrusting our neighbour; in fact, we should start building more of a community culture to ensure we do not give birth to more vagabond extremists.

Almost all testimonials from people who knew him throughout his schooling suggest that he never seemed the sort. The words timid and shy have been thrown into the mix. My memories concur with the sentiments. However, the more I think about it, the more I see how Saad was simply looking for a guiding hand throughout his A’levels, a bag hanging on his back.

Lyceum was an incredibly “grouped” high school during my time; people hung out within their small circle of friends. Sure everyone knew each other and met at parties and get-togethers, but everyone knew what clique everyone was a part of.

Saad never had a group. He could be seen floating from one group of friends to another, never really seeming like he belonged to any one in particular. He tried his luck on the ‘dabo’ board, spent a few weeks on the foosball table and even attempted to join the drama gang, but he remained on the periphery.

This is where the real criticism of our education system comes into play. Saad was never inclined towards extremism but his as personality development, or lack thereof, it could have made him prone to buying into a false ideology. The extremists may able to offer him something that our schooling system was unable to: a group of people where we felt valued, where we have purpose.

The inability of schools to stress on the personality development of students as part of the curriculum has created a generation of extremists with extremely myopic world views. Groups that hold onto their imagined ideologies are completely intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them. The extent to which these groups go to protect their own shows their inherent insecurity in their own beliefs.

Let’s be clear, this is not religion, this is extremism. The terrorists are to be punished for their despicable behaviour but without serious introspection into our fundamental institutions, we will continue to hang the man, and feed the system. There will be more like Saad Aziz.

Lyceum is, in my books, the best school in Pakistan but even they lack the adequate staff to recognise early signs of trouble in their students. The deplorable student to teacher ratios in schools combined with the grade race results in students getting no individual attention. It is unreasonable to expect a teacher to personally get to know 35 students that he/she meets for two hours a week over the course of a semester.

Furthermore, what interests the schools is the grade, rather than the individual. The fact that Saad got good grades is seen as a reason why it is unlikely that he would be an extremist. Grades are not a reflection of one’s personality but simply a reflection of one’s ability to regurgitate information.

The education system in Pakistan focuses highly on repetition and memorisation rather than critical thinking and original thought. And this is my fundamental problem with IBA; it is not so much a school as it is a business training institute.

Does it produce great employees? Possibly.

Does it produce great citizens? There is not much I see in their curriculum to suggest it does.

The Axact corruption case and the Saad Aziz saga may not be enough to level a case against IBA’s methods but all schools in Pakistan do need to fundamentally reconsider their raison d’etre. They should not be training a series of roll numbers but focus on developing citizens.

However, the reaction of the internet to use these exceptions as a case against liberals and universities in Pakistan is equally problematic. It is true that the fact that a person is affluent or attended a university does not preclude him from becoming a terrorist, in fact there are several liberal extremists who are equally guilty as religious fundamentalists, but these institutions are not institutionally producing ‘terrorists’. In that nuance lies the difference between the criticism of these universities and certain madrassas in Pakistan.

Certain religious clerics are tainting the name of madrassas by using them to institutionally preach hate and train terrorists. Even a bright mind like Saad’s fell prey to the words of these puppet masters. The puppets can belong to any section of society but the terrorist puppet masters are the ones who are the root of the problem – the people responsible for brainwashing individuals towards committing heinous acts.

The liberal criticism is aimed towards these people. A few exceptions do not become the norm. IBA does not structurally cultivate a culture of extremism in school. However, a student from IBA can be an extremist. The latter is no reason to ban IBA.

All madrassas are not extremist organisations. Some terrorists are using some madrassas to create extremists who are coaxed in to committing terrorist acts. The latter is the reason to ask the government to ban those particular extremist hubs to cut the problem at its root.

The unnecessary hyperbolic reaction to the news on both sides has, as usual, left comment boards divided all over the internet. It is gut wrenching to see the amount of hate and demonisation. There is no sense of collective guilt or a sense that we are failing as a society. Instead, once again we are looking to blame individuals beyond our borders.

These Facebook extremists are little different to the religious extremists, they have simply allied themselves with a different ideology. If Pakistan is to produce people less prone to falling into cults of personalities, the institution of education needs to be fundamentally revamped, which includes all schools, madrassas and universities.

Let’s measure our worth not on grading curves and pay scales but as citizens of Pakistan.


Shehzad Ghias

A graduate from the LUMS Law School and is running his own theatre production company, Cogito Productions.He works as a theatre teacher at various schools. He tweets @Shehzad89 (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Nouman Ahmed

    A blog much needed.Recommend

  • Fahad Yousuf

    Brilliant point on Sabeen Mehmood’s murder. Easy to pin the blame and deflect from actual facts and motives. Unfortunately, all of us believe whatever the mass media feeds us a bit too easily.Recommend

  • Khayyam Durrani

    liberalism is a mindset which must be inculcated in our society through schools,,and political leaders.Recommend

  • Hassan

    Left readin from fourth paragraph onwards. Your English is terrible. Clearly you went to an expensive school, not a good school.Recommend

  • Mohammad Faizan Farooq

    How does the writer expect a school to conduct a psycho analysis of a student. There maybe a thousand people that have aloof personalities but that doesn’t give a school an indication that he or she will become a terrorist. This article reminds me of the #FromIBA that was started after Saad Aziz was arrested. Highly irrelevant writing.Recommend

  • Dr.Hafeez

    Right and very right the last line u said. Absolutely the universities and collages are producing market oriented degree holders for job race, we should consider a basic surgery through out the course of educational system especially focused on curriculum to produce ethically , culturally, morally valuable human beings for this country. If we want to learn from our past mistakes and to save future generations.Recommend

  • marik

    “These Facebook extremists are little different to the religious extremists, they have simply allied themselves with a different ideology. ”

    When exactly has a facebook liberal “extremist” ever massacred women, shooting them point blank as was done to the Ismailis of Karachi last week.Recommend

  • ovais

    Being shy , being anti social , being alienated from the quirks of lyceum doesnt make you a terrorist you are just anti social. Its so easy when we try to find logic and reason , no there is no failure there is no failure in madarsahs as well. its an individuals choice , and he was wrong to do what he did . Just like MR Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh another IBA Grad
    A proud lyceum graduateRecommend

  • ovais

    Why induct a lyceum graduate , a rich man and not an Afghani for sabeens case , when inducting Saad will create more questions, I dont think our law enforcement people are so dumb. if they wanted to convict someone they could have used anyone living in the streets , there are 18 million in karachi onlly why go for a lyceum Iba grad running a business ??Recommend

  • intellectual.pseudo

    He was your friend in Lyceum and not IBA right? Why did you focus more on IBA and less on Lyceum. It is the responsibility of a school to nurture a child. The responsibility of a business school is to create entrepreneurs to let the economic wheel keep spinning.Recommend

  • Lost

    We generally look towards American education system as a benchmark, but school shootings, frat rapes and many such events regularly occur over there. So yes, a boy with a bag and no where to go does not necessarily have a bomb in his back pack… Yes the system fails at so many levels but this just doesn’t feel right Recommend

  • saud anis

    All our schools and universities are doing is training a series of roll numbers and the only emphasis is on ‘Grades’ no character building no purpose of life nothing and yet the expectations are that our youth will build a healthy liberal society all I see is 5 A stars, i hope i get a US visa, Australian immigration or canadian PR. hahahahah its funny where we are heading and even funnier is the reaction we are giving pointing fingers on each otherRecommend

  • malik

    This article is horribly illogical and i wasted my time reading it.Recommend

  • Marvi

    I don’t understand why people are stressing over IBA. Be it IBA or Lyceum HE is the real culprit if he is the one who has committed the crime.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Seems you are contradicting yourself all over in this blog. First you say,”it is not religious issue.” Then you say, “certain madarassas institutionally create terrorists (jihadis)… and IBA does not.” Then you say, “pulpit puppet masters create terrorists..” Now tell me please wha is common between pulpit puppet masters who motivated Saad and the Moulvi in a madarassa who trains a terrorist and motivates him to do killing using alien ideology. Hope you will not bury your head in the sand and start hearing the rumbling in the ground, the storm is in front in the air. Unfotunately overwhelming number of terrorists are Muslims. Islam is being used as a weapon Colonizing world powers use it against other natives, especially non Abrahamic ones and in the past against communists. But once it boomrangs and starts hurting their own hands then they will try to destroy Islam. Right now it is not hurting them yet and so they protect and give aid to Muslim states who are indulging in running Jihadi factories.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    It was “wordy” liberal Jinah who presided over a Million death and uprooting of tens of million. It was liberal whisky drinker Yahya and Niazi who presided 400,000+ Bangali women rapes, 3 Million deaths and uprooting of 1 Millon in 1971.Recommend

  • Javaid Chitrali

    I could not decipher the logic of the writer. Probably, he wants to dilute the allegations levelled against his one time friend, the alleged terrorist Saad Aziz. The law enforcement agencies have charged him informally, means he is involved in criminal activities as there is famous a proverb in Chitrali language: Only when the wind blows the plant leaves get oscillated! Waste time, this article is!Recommend

  • AB

    Good article. Nicely written.

    The problem here in business school, they don’t focus on students and their character building. Their intention is to mass produce career oriented individuals who could excel in their fields.

    There lies an opportunity for the extremist who lure an individual that you are focusing on temporarily things, think about eternal things which will last forever. And then they exploit the individual and brainwash them to use them for their purposes.

    These extremist used these innocent individuals for their own purposes and goals. So its better to have a curriculum that focus on human being not on mass production of smart workers.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    I am in IBA and I am a BBA student. I have studied philosophy, ethics, logic, socio-economic philosophy, history of ideas, culture and media. All these courses do not produce career oriented individuals in any way. I rest my case. Thanks.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    A school charging exorbitant fees can easily conduct a psycho analysis of its students.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    He is from LUMS. Decide for yourself whether it is an expensive school or a good school or both.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    Inducting Saad will divert the whole attention from accusations on ISI. Going for and IBA grad will silence the liberals who were demanding the investigation of role of ISI in Sabeen Mehmood’s murder. This is a possible theory.Recommend

  • abbas

    Wake up! And start accepting the bitter reality of your ex friend who is just cold blooded murderer all in name of some cause or reason.

    Stop creating confusion and accept this fact. What pathetic blog defending a mass murderer. Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    These are the same law enforcement agencies which are suspected to be involved in Sabeen’s murder case. How do you expect us to believe this then?Recommend

  • seismann

    He admitted doing it for her celebrating valentine day,and holding conference.You criticize the police for their failures,and when they do catch somebody,you come to the rescue by still criticizing.It is not mass media ,but the police that has accused them.You are also pinning the blame on mass media easily, and deflecting from the facts of the case.People who can kill over 25 innocent people in cold blood,surely can kill a woman.Recommend

  • seismann

    Nobody has to induct these brain -washed ideologues.They decide on their own ,and think they are doing service to Islam.And if you don’t consider your law enforcement people to be dumb,then believe what they say.Recommend

  • Baaghi

    I think this article is more of a tribute to the inconsistencies of our education system, which are ironically evident in the incoherent writing of the person pointing them out. What cracked me up was the writer’s recollection of the accused from almost a decade ago and how the genius tried to equate it with things like Saad Aziz not belonging to a ‘group’, and it gets better: “The extremists may able to offer him something that our schooling system was unable to: a group of people where we felt valued, where we have purpose.” Gee I wonder if they took him for a movie as an initiation, followed by days of hanging out in order to make him feel a part of a group because that’s what he ‘missed’ in his school days. He also conveniently glosses over the years when he was a tennis star and one of the top students in IBA –

    I think the only important thing here is that Aziz gets a fair trial and gets whatever he truly deserves, because the Sindh authorities with the help of the media have already convicted him and are determined that he’s the ‘mastermind’, something we all know sounds too simple to be true. Probably Aziz was being radicalized but the fact that the Sindh police could only identify him and 3 others (no organization was named either) as being the ‘masterminds’ of some of the most brutal terrorist attacks sounds fishy. If that was true, then it’s also shameful that a handful of educated people could cause mayhem in the city right under the noses of our inefficient law enforcement agencies.

    Coming back to the author, I think his attempt to somehow figure out what’s wrong with our society is adorable but way off point because he lumped everything that might be wrong with our system and somehow tried to relate it to little or no information he had about the suspect. I have to agree with other people here: a waste of time. I hope you figure out something yourself, because I’m more worried about you than Saad Aziz.Recommend

  • Concerned

    What a pitiful piece of writing – and I am not even going to mention the grammatical errors. Like others, I probably should have refrained from commenting on this. It’s a shame to read that the writer went to a ‘good school’ like Lyceum and then managed to get himself admitted into LUMS The entire article is filled with broad-stroked and extremely subjective assumptions. The writer describes a cause and immediately links it to terrorism as if that were the only natural consequence. The writer also does a superb job at being the jury, judge and all that is necessary to righteously decide that the accusation for saddens murder was the ‘only anomaly on the list of terror’. Recommend

  • Hameedullah

    They may be “liberal” in name but their actions were no less religious and communal both ideologically and politically. You should learn what liberal means and then see the actions of people. To consider someone liberal just because they say so is naive(You surely wouldn’t consider Baghdadi liberal just because he says so). Zulfiqar bhutto was also a liberal and his party started out as against feudalism and well i don’t have to tell how he strengthened the role of religion into constitution and feudals in his party.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Bhutto used religion liberally to fool common Abdul and Allahrakhis. The religion of these native converts who converted to keep their land and acquire those of their non converted cousins by siding with the alien ruling power, have only one motto and god ie money and power. But to begin with westernized liberals are also bigoted extremists. A true liberal would celebrate the diversity among the natives (Hindu-Sikh, Boudh, Jain and animists etc). By design later day Abrahamics are exclusivists and their progeny communists and western liberals are also exclusivists of “my way or high way” type.Recommend

  • Toruk

    It’s cute that the author thinks Lyceum is the best school in Pakistan. Come to Lahore honey. We’ll show you what a real school looks like. Recommend

  • S Khan

    Please take this to another forum. This isn’t some Karachi vs. Lahore fighting pit. Recommend

  • Rukhsana Shama

    Came across this piece of writing, rather late. But I must say that writer has made really strong points. To begin with, yes, we have failed as a society but we have tendency not to accept this collective failure but to point towards individuals for the failure.

    And secondly the education system which is creating parasites, may or may not providing good employees but it has terribly failed in producing good citizens.

    “These Facebook extremists are little different to the religious extremists, they have simply allied themselves with a different ideology. If Pakistan is to produce people less prone to falling into cults of personalities, the institution of education needs to be fundamentally revamped, which includes all schools, madrassas and universities.” couldn’t agree more.Recommend

  • Faraz

    I donot know Saad Aziz but i do know our Govt & Media.

    Our Govt. & their thugs are corrupt, murderers, looters, liars wtihout any doubts and on other hand our Media has always been giving biased, fabricated news (e.g the video shown of a girl beaten in swat was later confirmed to be fake but the massive false campaigning had already done for what it was released).

    The more the Media has bombarded this news the more i believe it is false & must have some objective behind it……As for the confession, please if you were put in custody for even 02 days you would confessed every killing done till todate in Pakistan. He has not been sentenced by the judiciary of the alleged crime but media has already declared him a terrorist. Interestingly why his family has not been given access to him??

    I wish i could know about him more & about his family version…which this media will never show unless the family would have given the version which media wanted.Recommend