Different means Different, Different does not mean WRONG

Our education system and social brought up have taught us one thing “We are the best, we are the only people who are RIGHT, everyone else is wrong and we should try our best to put others on the Right Path”.

Teaching this phenomenon to the children and youth is becoming one of the root causes of many issues we are entangled in today. Most of us think in each matter that we are the only one who is right and in fact the best while all other people who are not alike are fools and on the wrong path. With this, we close the windows of our minds and face difficulty in engaging in dialogue in a civilized manner. We are not ready to listen to others because we have already decided that they are wrong and they only purpose of listening to them becomes not understanding their point of view, their perspective but to make a counter-argument which can prove them wrong. No matter, how much evidence is piled up, we have already made up our mind – we are RIGHT and they are wrong!

Often after posting anything on social media with which most people disagree, I feel like either I have put my hand either in a beehive feel surrounded by furious people with guns who are ready to attack me. I don’t see any tolerance or space in this society for people who are not following the norm of society but are different! Here different means being WRONG!

With this ideology integrated, mostly people in our country consider it their basic duty and right to judge others, and then to police them. This judgment and policing ranges from personal matters to public matters, from persons to institutions e.g. it is becoming increasingly common for the TV channels to do search operations either for couples dating, people not fasting, or people involved in prostitution. Such kind of TV programs is a reflection of our social attitude of “Judging and Policing the Morals of others”. Everyone feels themselves as the guard of the morals of the society, to punish others and teach them.
Because we have internalized idea of teaching others the right path so at the moment we think someone is “wrong” or in “trouble” we immediately start giving them suggestions; just have a look on any discussion and most of the comments will be about “you should do this, you should do that, you should not think like this, you should not critique, you should be patient,… etc etc”. Giving suggestions has become our habit though we know that mostly those suggestions are not entertained and when our suggestions are not entertained by others we become furious “See! You were supposed to be in this trouble because you didn’t follow my suggestion”

I think this principle of “self-righteous” has hindered our ability to engage in constructive dialogue with people with whom we disagree, and as I said most people construct their arguments not to convey their point of view but to put others down. Facing harsh realities make people uncomfortable, they feel like losing the argument, and then try to cover up their loss in an argument with abusive language. I agree with the saying that when someone starts shouting and using abusive language during an argumentation it means they already feel they have lost the argument and to satisfy their ego they try to put down others by using abusive language.

Another reason for this attitude can be traced to the fact that we teach “debate” to children instead of “dialogue”- and the principal of debate is “In any argument, one is a winner and the other is a loser”. We need to promote dialogue as a way of communication because the dialogue is based on the principle of “both of us have parts of the answer to the question; no one is completely wrong, and no one is completely right”. We also need to learn as a society that, different means different, different does not mean WRONG

why we are celebrating independence day?

This year will mark the Pakistani nation’s 70th year of independence. Even though we are only a mere seven decades removed from Jinnah’s pluralistic promise, today’s Pakistan is less like Jinnah’s Pakistan and more akin to an imaginary novel in which the nation’s people make a collective wrong turn winding up in a terrifying, alternate dimension. And then chaos ensues. Nearly 70 years in and Pakistan no longer bleeds green. Now she bleeds red. And she bleeds a lot. Nearly 70 years in the currency that weighs heavy in the pockets of the corrupt, ruling elite is no longer green. Dishonesty and greed have turned the greenest of our bills into black money.
Green, the shade of our flag, symbolic of cleanliness and purity, is no longer our national color. Our reckless disregard for the environment has turned our streets dirt brown and tainted our drinking water a colorful, toxic medley of contaminated filth. The state’s religion Islam – the green deen ­– is no longer a recognizable shade of green. Our failure to protect our minorities and other vulnerable members of our society has turned our green of peace into a darker, bloodier, and muddier color too far removed on the color wheel from the essence of Islam. Can we truly then celebrate today as an independent nation?
On paper, yes. Or so our constitution says. But the lived lives of the people of Pakistan tell a different story. A story that reads like a grocery list of defunct isms. A story featuring characters named nepotism, feudalism, fanaticism, Islamism, extremism, classism, ethnocentrism, sexism with a going-nowhere plot about a fledgling nation’s fast-paced journey towards apocalypticism.

Independence as an adjective has several definitions. It is the condition of not being influenced or controlled by others in a matter of opinion and conduct. It is to be autonomous and not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction. It is not having to rely on others for aid or support. It is to possess competency. Nearly 70 years on Sunday and we continue to miss the mark on every sub-definition of independence: First off, we cannot truly believe we are independent and free from the influence and control of others. Our religious clerics whose every word and instruction weighs heavy on our hearts and minds distort and manipulate our emotions and opinions through a multitude of mediums. A rogue televangelist tells us to kill in the name of religion and we are quick to respond – not with a why but instead, how? Like a flock of sheep, we are led blindly by religious zealots and elected leaders who stuff us with hateful vitriol daily. This keeps us mute and sedated, with our moral and social growth suppressed, and our hearts and minds tainted with the patina of bitterness towards all things different be it religion, caste, gender or socioeconomic status.
Secondly, we cannot truly believe we possess autonomy when our physical jurisdiction is consistently compromised. The basic first principle of international law which calls for each state to be its own sovereign in-charge is a legal tenet that always eludes and excludes us. Today, Pakistan’s jurisdiction is routinely violated by other countries with self-serving agendas and armed extremists.
We retreat further and further from being an autonomous state as we continue to flail in global debt. When it comes to the global allies we like to keep, we seem to always be stuck between a rock and a hard place with certain global superpowers acting as the proverbial rock and certain neighboring Islamic countries the wall to our proverbial hard place.

Lastly, we must accept we repeatedly fail in the basics of human competency and sometimes even basic human decency. Honor killings, domestic violence, acid attacks, child molestation, and forced prostitution are just a few of the symptoms of the quiet, lethal disease-causing our spiritual and physical decay.

This is why, despite our having reached our 70th year of freedom, we continue to cling to the most arcane and profane practices in a state of almost-stupid dependence. Being a prepubescent school-going girl means you could have your brains blown out by grown men whose biggest fear is apparently the idea of a little girl with a blog and some thoughts. Being Christian means your neighbors can avenge their petty neighborhood disputes by invoking the almighty blasphemy laws against you for which, if found guilty, your penalty is to become part of world’s second-largest death row population.

I quoting American civil rights leader Bayard Rustin – if it is a society of peace we desire, we cannot achieve it through violence. And if it is an indiscriminate society we desire then we cannot discriminate against anyone in the progress of building this society. And if it is a democratic society we wish to maintain, then it is itself democracy which must become both our means as well as our end.

The curriculum of Self Destruction

By Dawood Shah

With tears in her eyes, she said “My brother was quite influenced by one of his friends who was working for a Jihadi organization. He expressed his desire to go for Jihad and when my mother tried to tell him that Qital is not necessarily Jihad, he said I have read about it in my book- in Soora Toba, “Jihad is compulsory for Muslims”. My brother was brainwashed completely and we didn’t have any power to change his mind. He regularly went to Jihadi training and to Tableegh. With time, his tendency for Jihad increased, he regularly went to different places for Jihad with the Jihadi organizations, in 2008 while he was in Muzzarafad with his team he died in the 8th October Earthquake. We lost our brother to the brainwashing of these organizations”

The girl who shared the story was a practicing Muslim and loved her religion but she was able to differentiate between religion as a personal matter and religion used for manipulating people to achieve other objectives. This girl had clarity in her vision, she knew it very well that you can be a practicing Muslim and against the Jihad Organizations and deployment of youth in these organizations.

It’s just one case, there are many youths out there who have become vulnerable to manipulation by the militant organizations after getting exposed to curriculum and propaganda, which promotes Qital as Jihad. The new changes in curriculum will revert the previous changes made to the curriculum by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in 2010. Khadim Hussain (Managing Director of Bacha Khan Education Foundation and Trust) explains that the changes made in curricula in the 1980s aimed to promote a generalized concept of Qital as Jihad, to marginalize minorities, and to motivate youth for idealizing war heroes, youth were disconnected from their original history as well as the current research. In 2010 previous government made changes in curricula aimed to educate young people about the difference of Jihad and Qital, to create a link of youth with their original history, to include heroes from other walks of life as well, and to educate youth about equality.

Now that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to revert the changes in the school curricula made in 2010, again young people of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province will be manipulated and made vulnerable for recruitment in the militant organizations; a step towards increasing militancy in the province. Youth getting educated with this curricula will either become vulnerable to the direct recruitments of the militant organizations or will become their passive supporters thus not standing against the increasing extremism and militancy in the province making it very easy for them to operate without meeting any civilian resistance. The curriculum of war and Qital will increase intolerance and hostility towards the religious minorities and women, and space for progressive voices will diminish systematically.

suicide blast in pearl continental hotel in Peshawar

We have to answer the question, where the youth motivated for Jihad/Qital will feed in, how they will make Qital/Jihad relevant to their life? They will either go for Jihad to countries which are considered rivals of Pakistan and the Muslims world or to other Muslim majority countries, or they will start Jihad in their own country against their own people. Every city and village of the province will become the Swat of Taliban. Those who will suffer the most will not be the one who is making these changes to the curricula but the most unprivileged. We are moving fast towards “self-destruction complex”.

It is a key time for the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to wisely analyze the changes to be made in the curriculum, it impacts on their children, to realize that religion is not limited to jihad and Jihad is not limited to Qital. Asking for a better and tolerant education system does not make you anti-Islam, it makes you a more peaceful person who cares for the world. Its time to advocate for an education system which enables their children to be better human beings with higher self-esteem, who have a connection with their real history and who are proud of their cultural legacy. Children of Pashtuns, should no more be used as fodder in wars fought in the name religion, let’s save our children before it’s too late.

Peace and Secularism in Pakistan

By Dawood Shah

Pakistani activists of Institute for Peace Secular Studies shout slogans during a protest in Lahore


Pakistan is an immensely plural country characterized by religious, sectarian and ethnolinguistic diversities. After a long regime of military dictatorship, we have become a democratic state from the last three years, though democracy still has to grow and nurture. The women movement of Pakistan has also achieved some milestones in the last few years by successfully replacing some of the discriminatory laws against women, with laws which protect the rights of women. Many young people of Pakistan have started feeling the responsibility towards the disturbing peace and political situation in Pakistan, which is very positive for youth-led organizations like us.
Now coming to the issues and challenges faced by the movement of Peace and Secularism in Pakistan. I would like to start by giving a recent example. In the start of this year, Salman Taseer, governor of one of the Province of Pakistan was killed by his guard when he stood up for the rights of minorities of Pakistan When he defended Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, accused of blasphemy. He termed the discriminatory blasphemy laws as black laws and demanded a change of these laws. The Blasphemy law is an oppressive law in Pakistan, which permit death penality to any person defaming the name of the Prophet Muhammad. This law is intensively used in Pakistan against the religious minorities to violate their rights as citizens and to oppress them. The assassination of Salman Taseer by his guard was celebrated throughout the country by thousands of people, and the murderer became a hero. A large number of lawyers offered to defend the murderer, many people all over Pakistan commented on the death that they would have done the same if they were in the position of the murderer. A month later Minister for the Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated for the same reason. The celebration of the assassination was a backlash on the peace and secularism movement in Pakistan, it showed that the people have lost their tolerance for opposing views, and secularism. The incident depicts how brutality and violence have become an accepted political tool.
This is just one example, violence against the religious minorities in very common such as continuous violence and suicide attacks against another religious minority group known as Ahmadiya. The constitution has declared them as Non-Muslims, while they identify themselves as Muslims. Every Pakistani must sign a document for making national identity cards and passport, which mentions that “Ahmadiya” are non-muslims. Thus the sate is directly violating the rights of this religious minority group. Brutality and violence such as suicide attacks against them, attacks on their religious places and ceremonies are also a fact. The attitude of the nation towards other religious minorities such as Christians and Hindus is also very violent. Hundreds of people from religious minorities lose their lives each year in violence against them, their religious places are destroyed, and they are always at the risk of being becoming a victim of the blasphemy laws. Not only violence against the religious minorities is common, but also the mainstream Muslims are becoming a threat for each other, many mainstream Muslims now fear other mainstream Muslims. I am talking about sectarian violence, violence which is happening among the different Islamic groups of Pakistan such as Shia and Sunni sects; the two major sects of Muslims. The sectarian violence is claiming hundreds of lives each year. There have been frequent clashes between Sunni and Shia groups across the country.
Today, Pakistan is facing multiple conflicts linked to religion, the largest of which is the issue of Talibanization, the Taliban movement is working for implementing Sharia system in Pakistan. The roots of Taliban movement trace back to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 when Pakistan played a central role in the fight against Russia. Back in 1979, millions of Jehadi’s were trained in Pakistan to achieve U.S. interests of containing the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Soon after the war ended these Jehadi’s were left ruined by their Masters, and after 9/11 they were termed as a terrorist, who fled to Pakistan after the American attack on Afghanistan. Today, Pakistan is bleeding at the hands of monsters which it created decades ago to fight Russia in Afghanistan. The Taliban are now aiming to take control of the sate of Pakistan for implementing a system of Sharia, and for doing so they are using violence as a tool. These religious militant organizations have disrupted the social fabric of Pakistan, each year thousands of people are losing their lives and livelihoods in hundreds of suicide attacks. The Taliban have blown up hundreds of girls and boys schools, have targeted universities, health facilities, recreation centers, and public places. The Taliban movement though has accepted the responsibility of the violent attacks, but many Pakistanis will still choose to believe that an outside hand is involved in the violent activities inside Pakistan, thus denying that they are part of the problem. It is also an irony that even after all these destructions caused by religious extremists, the majority of Pakistanis are demanding an ever greater role for religion in public life. They find the violence done by Taliban hateful, but even then they want a strict application of Sharia in Pakistan, a survey conducted has proved that total 79% of the population wanted Sharia to be implemented in the country. Public discussions on the issue of religious extremism are non-existent. When the issues of Pakistan are analyzed, the majority of the people think that they are facing all these issues because they have forgotten their Islamic principles, and getting far away from the true essence of Islam, therefore, they think that the solution lies in the strict implementation of Sharia in all aspects of their lives. There are some strange perceptions of the majority of the Muslims of Pakistan because of which they are dreaming for a more religious state, and not only they are aiming strict implementation of Sharia in Pakistan, but also in the entire world. I will like to share these perceptions with you so that you can trace the roots of religious extremism in it. The perceptions are:
Islam is a complete code of life and the Quran has the best solution of all these issues. The Muslim can dominate all the world with teachings of Islam
Islam is for all the periods and times, therefore Sharia system should be implemented the same as it was implemented by Prophet Muhammad.
Islam is the only reality, all other religions became invalid after Islam and it is the utmost responsibility of all the Muslims to implement this reality and to demolish the false religions.
It is the order of God to make Islam dominant on all religions and systems because every other system except Islam is based on ignorance and insurgency from God. Non-Muslims are enemies of God and it is the responsibility of each Muslim to fight against the enemies of God.
The Muslims are the best Nation of the world, they have been selected by God for ruling the world and have been awarded the Quran which is the best system. therefore they must spread Islam through different means including war, and to bring all states under the flag of Islam.
The process of dominating Islam on the entire world and defeating the non-Islamic forces is Holly war is mandatory for every Muslim and those who are killed in this process are martyrs. The martyrs will be awarded Heaven where there will be at least 80 Beautiful virgin women for each of them. Isn’t it a good reason for war?
Three levels of “faith” are described; the highest level, the moderate level, and the weakest level. The weakest level is, if you see something bad is happening and you can’t stop it consider it bad; the 2nd level of faith is to speak against any bad thing happening, and the highest level of faith is to stop any bad act with your hand, s to achieve the highest level of faith many tend to stop every action they consider bad through violence. And as we know good and bad are subjective, so if they think you are doing anything bad in the public or private sphere they can impose violence on you.

  1. The knowledge of religion Islam is superior to every kind of education, and therefore a Scholar of Islam is superior to every scholar and every scientist. Therefore, a large number of Muslim in Pakistan take pride in schooling from the madrassas rather than normal public schools.
  2. We know that the number of Muslims is increasing in the world because they consider it their right to preach Islam and convert people, but in Pakistan, they deny the right of Muslims to adopt other life stances. And if they do so, they are at the risk of being killed. Therefore, humanists and atheists can’t show their status publically, otherwise, they are at the risk of being killed.
    The perceptions about the superiority of Islam and Muslims are just one part of the problem, many other factors are playing its role in the religious extremism in Pakistan, let’s start from the Education System of Pakistan. According to the National guidelines of the Primary School Education, one of the objectives of Education is to prepare children for Jihad in every aspect of their life. Just imagine, young school kids are taught in the school that they have to fight for the invasion of Islam. In the School books, they are taught about all the perceptions I talked about. The school books are breeding hatred against non-muslims especially Indians. The non-muslims are termed as enemies in the textbooks. Thus, the education system is promoting religious extremism among young people.
    Not only in formal schools the agenda of extremism and Jihad is promoted, but also a huge number of non-formal religious schools known as Madrassas are active in breeding religious extremism and militants. It is an irony that even today the number of these schools is increasing, and the state has no control over their syllabus. Millions of children and young people are living in studying in these madrassas. The madrassas are especially attracting the poor, by providing incentives such as free food, accommodation, and a monthly stipend. But not only the poor people but people from all socio-economical classes are also being attracted by these religious schools. It is such an irony that the today the Heroes of young people of Pakistan are atomic scientists and invaders, not intellectuals or activists.
    Now coming to the role of media, the media. It is one of the most independent institutions in Pakistan, and have the freedom of speech, but unfortunately, it has always been reluctant in presenting a good analysis of the issue of religious extremism. It is at the forefront of spreading anti-west and extremist agenda. I still remember many songs and Drama from my childhood played on TV which was aimed at promoting the spirit of Holy War among the youth.
    The religious political parties are playing a crucial role in spreading religious extremism in the population, their open hate speeches, and anti-west speeches trigger violence and hatred in society. These religious political parties portray themselves the leaders of Islam and use every opportunity to trigger hatred against non-muslims and the west. They have a strong influence on the mindset of people.
    The most vital role of oppressing religious minorities and spreading religious extremism has been played by the Constitution of Pakistan. The preamble of the Constitution of Pakistan which is known as “Objective Resolution” clearly states that all the rules and regulations of the country should be framed according to Islam. In the effort to have a different political identity from India which is a secular state, Pakistani leaders wanted to create a pronounced Muslim society, as a result over the succeeding decades especially in the 1970s and 1980s, the Pakistani state instead of guaranteeing equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, it pushed Islam on its people as a matter of policy thus affecting the civil rights of Pakistani especially minorities.
    The Constitution of Pakistan tried to present itself as a reflection of the Muslim majority, the constitution defined religion of the state as “Islam”, whereas it was clearly mentioned in the constitution of Pakistan that no law repugnant to Islam can be enforced in Pakistan, Islamic way of life will be promoted by the government, while the two highest offices in the country – the President and Prime Minister – can be occupied by Muslims only. Thus minorities having no chance of assuming leading roles, and acquired second class citizenship. The Islamization of the constitution led to the institutional exclusion and segregation of minorities.
    During this Islamization process of the Constitution of Pakistan, discriminatory laws against minorities and women were introduced in Pakistan such as “Blasphemy Law”. It was meant to counter blasphemy against the Holy Book of Muslims Quran and the Prophet Muhammad through severe punishments such as sentence to death. This law prohibited women and minorities from initiating blasphemy cases, thus making minorities and atheists, more disempowered and to be easily accused by the majority Muslim Society. This law institutionalized prohibitions on thinking in a rationale and humanist manner. And the only way left with the people is not to express their humanistic views and keep quiet; otherwise, they can be sentenced to death. The Islamization of the constitution increased insecurity for humanists and religious minorities, and as a result of Physical attacks, large scale killings, social stigmatization, psychological insecurity, forced conversions and continued institutional degradation characterize the position of humanists and religious minorities
    The support and spread of religious extremism through the different institutions of states such as Education, Media, Religious Political Parties, and Constitution have directly and indirectly led to the strengthening of the movement of Taliban in Pakistan. It seems that the government is interested to keep the Taliban movement alive because of some economic and political reasons. The economic reason is “Pakistan receives millions of foreign aid to fight against the Taliban, and ceasing of Taliban movement can also lead to the ceasing of foreign aid, therefore it is better to keep the movement alive. The political reason behind keeping the Taliban movement alive is strategic depth, as they supplement and support the Pakistan Armed Forces in conflict Zones such as Kashmir.
    The growing religious extremist has badly affected young people and women of Pakistan. Young people who comprise more than 60% of the total population are brainwashed regularly through the biased education system, media, and propaganda of religious political parties. These young people are thus an easy target for the militant organizations, who recruit these young people. The Talibanization has claimed thousands of lives in hundreds of suicide attacks and leaving many traumatized behind.
    The tale of issues will not end, even if I keep on talking for the whole day, therefore I would like to move towards what I and my Organization are doing in this situation.
    We are also working for a secular Pakistan, last year we did a signature campaign for a secular Pakistan, and we were able to collect few thousand signatures, which means we still have to go long way to promote secular approach among the youth of Pakistan.

    I hope that decades from now Pakistan will become a secular country, which will not discriminate between its citizens of different religious identities; its public schools will not poison young minds with hatred; Pakistanis will look for human qualities rather than an individuals’ religious affiliation; and the life and property of all citizens will be considered equally valuable. The concept of “extremism and Talibanization” shall have become irrelevant. Tolerance and non-violence will become the norm, and everyone will have the freedom to be religious or non-religious. There will be space for open dialogue between religious and nonreligious people, and we Humanist have to be careful also not to be extremist in our discourse. We have to work for a moderate, secular, pluralistic, and tolerant societies. Though these dreams appear difficult today but are not impossible, and our continuous struggle will lead to these goals.

Recruiting the Next Generation of Peacebuilders in Pakistan

By Dawood Shah

Growing up in Pakistan in the 1990s, I witnessed a “systematic radicalization” of society. I observed this phenomenon most acutely in my hometown in the rural Swat district, which was controlled by the Pakistani Taliban between 2007 till 2009. I saw open recruitment by the militant organizations in the name of jihad. What was striking to me was that most of these people who were being recruited by the militant organizations were our local youth. Radicalization continues to be a grave problem in the country. The 2017 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) ranked Pakistan as the fifth-worst country out of 163. Between 2000 and 2018, 63,438 people were killed by terrorism-related violence, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, one of the largest online databases on terrorism in South Asia. There is no monolithic trigger. The sociopolitical context, along with personal triggers, pushes young people towards radicalization. However, let me clarify one thing: Poverty, unemployment and lack of education are not the primary triggers. While these things may be a trigger in other countries, they are not drivers of radicalization in Pakistan. One of the primary factors driving extremism here has been the state’s reliance on fundamentalist discourse. The state was instrumental in promoting radicalized ideas, through education, the media, and religious right-wing political parties. This is why society became more extreme, more right-wing and more vulnerable to recruitment. Another factor is that Pakistan, like many other countries, has a strong war economy. War has become a billion-dollar business; extremism has become a billion-dollar business, while peace has not.

I believe that in each context, the triggers for violent extremism are different. It is, therefore, the job of local peacebuilders to develop context-specific solutions, because they are living in their communities and they know what will work best, and what will not work. The strategy I am using in Pakistan might not work in another community. For example, Boko Haram is able to recruit people because they offer money. But in Pakistan, the scenario is different. So different strategies are needed to deal with both Boko Haram and the Taliban in Pakistan. But, either way, the effort has to be local, because local people have the experience. In Pakistan, we have been living under violent extremism and radicalization for the last 30 years. We are the ones who know why we have this issue and how to solve it. Strategies to counter radicalization among vulnerable youth. First, violent extremist groups promote one worldview. They promote unity and, in the name of unity, they promote uniformity. In other words, uniformity is encouraged, diversity is discouraged. To counter this, we celebrate existing diversity and pluralism. We give young people the opportunity to interact with people of different religions, sect, ethnicities – people who have different opinions and different thoughts. In the process, they learn how to humanize the other, how to break the process of othering that is so integral to militant identities.

Second, extremist organizations promote one kind of heroism: violent heroism or martyrdom. Meanwhile, we promote nonviolent heroism. We are teaching the youth that heroism is not in killing yourself for an ideology, but in working on developing your community and building peace and prosperity. We can introduce an award program for young people who engage in long-term and effective community development. We give them awards to recognize them as heroes ( nonviolent heroes).

Third, militant organizations leverage an identity crisis that plagues many of Pakistan’s youth. Pakistani youth have been alienated from their indigenous identities and culture in favor of a transnational Muslim identity. They are not taught their indigenous mother tongues, their indigenous history or their music traditions in schools. What’s more, indigenous movements and indigenous heroes have been portrayed as traitors in our books. In this context, militant organizations can recruit youth by giving them a sense of identity, a sense of meaning and purpose. To counter this, we are connecting the youth with their indigenous culture, through intergenerational dialogue which allows them to engage with the older generation. We teach them about indigenous movements. Some of our volunteers have even started music academies and they’re teaching native musical instruments which are becoming extinct.

Fourth, militant organizations are very good at personal engagement with recruits. This technique is important because the triggers for radicalization are not only socio-political but also deeply personal. This is why it’s also very important for us to reach out to young people on an individual level. We invite them to build relationships with members of our network and engage with them in peer-to-peer education processes.

Finally, we encourage our community to engage in nonviolence to curb the appeal of extremism. We have learned that small-scale local programs are very helpful in preventing and transforming conflict. We provide support to these young people so that they can do small-scale programs in their own communities on peace education and campaigning. For example, they would go to a madrasa (religious school) and they will teach nonviolent conflict resolution skills. They do an interfaith harmony dialogue. We give them support and provide them endorsements so that they can do programs for peacebuilding in their communities.

With the madrasas (religious school), our main takeaway is that we shouldn’t be labeling anyone. The best way to approach young people, even if they’re in madrasas (religious school), is not to see them as victims or as to see them as beneficiaries, but to see them as partners. If I go to a madrasa and I tell students I have come here to de-radicalize you, it would be disrespectful to the people and it would show my own biases. It means I have already established the fact that these people are radicalized when that is not necessarily true. Therefore, it is important to use positive terminologies and positive words when working with young people. We talk to them about issues that our country is facing, issues that our local community is facing, we talk about the drivers of those issues, the history of those issues and how, together, as young people, we can build peace in our communities and the role nonviolence and pluralism can play.

“Peacebuilding”

By Dawood Shah

Peacebuilding can be defined in many different ways. Scholars, policymakers, and field practitioners have developed different conceptions of peace building, the timeline it is associated with, as well as the main priorities and tasks it entails. 

According to John Paul Lederach, a key scholar in the field of peace studies defines Peacebuilding as  ” a comprehensive concept that encompasses, generates, and sustains the full array of processes, approaches, and stages needed to transform conflict toward more sustainable, peaceful relationships. The term thus involves a wide range of activities that both precede and follow formal peace accords. Metaphorically, peace is seen not merely as a stage in time or a condition. It is a dynamic social construct.”

The term “peace building” originated in the field of peace studies more than thirty years ago. In 1975 Johan Galtung coined the term in his pioneering work “Three Approaches to Peace: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding.” 

In this article, he posited, “peace has a structure different from, perhaps over and above, peacekeeping and ad hoc peacemaking… The mechanisms that peace is based on should be built into the structure and be present as a reservoir for the system itself to draw up… More specifically, structures must be found that remove causes of wars and offer alternatives to war in situations where wars might occur.”1 These observations constitute the intellectual antecedents of today’s notion of peace building: an endeavor aiming to create sustainable peace by addressing the “root causes” of violent conflict and eliciting indigenous capacities for peaceful management and resolution of conflict.

Apart from Johan Galtung and John Paul Lederach, other scholars have been conducting research along similar lines since the 1980s. Meanwhile, throughout the world, well-known international NGOs, as well as local NGOs and community groups were working to help individuals, communities, and societies transform the way they perceive and manage conflicts – a core component of peace building. But since the peacebuilding as an industry had not yet developed, these analyses and field work were considered peripheral to international affairs, much like projects in human rights, civil society, and rural development that were undertaken by UN and bilateral development agencies. 

Today each of these streams can be considered key areas that comprise overall efforts needed to ensure a sustainable peace. In my own view peace building is the understanding of conflicts and their reasons in order to be better equipped for preventing them from happening. Had the conflict of the Swat Pakistan been understood, it would not have happened.

The Role of Law Enforcement in Prevention of Violence

By Dawood Shah

A law enforcement agency (LEA) is any agency, which enforces the law. This may be a special, local, or state police, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Also, it can be used to describe an international organization such as Europol or Interpol. This is a list of law enforcement agencies, organized by continent and then by country.

Pakistan is federal republic with a capital territory called Islamabad where federal government and its law enforcement agencies operates and four provinces and three territories where respective provincial government operates. 

Law enforcement agencies of Pakistan at the federallevel are Anti-Narcotics Force, Airports Security Force, Federal Investigation Agency, Frontier Constabulary, National Accountability Bureau, National Highways & Motorway Police, Pakistan Maritime Security Agency, Pakistan Coast Guards, Pakistan Customs, and PakistanRailways Police.

Law enforcement agencies at the provincial and territory level are Azad Jammu and Kashmir Police, Balochistan Levies, Balochistan Police, Capital Territory Police, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, Gilgit-Baltistan Police, Punjab Police, Sindh Police, Pakistan Rangers (Sindh and Punjab), Frontier Corps (Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

The role of law enforcement agencies in the prevention of violence is very important and critical. They are the first line of defense for the citizens of a country and are in direct contact with its citizens and hence are at the forefront of any person involved in committing criminal activities or some one or a group creating or inciting violence. Law enforcement agencies need to be well equipped with proper knowledge and resources to prevent violence in the peaceful way possible. Law enforcement agencies and its personnel provide the citizens the confidence that they will ensure peace and safety. The citizens can enjoy a sense of security in the presence of vigilant and professional law enforcement.

When the Taliban conflict started in the 2000s in Swat, Pakistan, it was the police of Swat who confronted the Taliban in the very beginning. The police of Swat and KPK were the first to sacrifice their lives.

Unfortunately the law enforcement agencies of the developing countries like Pakistan lack proper resources and hence are too weak to be manipulated by politicians and government legislators for their own politicalvendettas. The developed countries should invest in de-politicization of the law enforcement agencies of countries such as Pakistan.

My Swat the Switzerland of Pakistan

By Dawood Shah

Swat valley Pakistan

I, Dawood, am a resident of the Swat valley. Swat is locally known as the Switzerland of Pakistan due to its beautiful green mountains, its picturesque valleys, and above all its beautiful people. Situated in the Northwest of Pakistan it has a population of two million people and the most visited tourist destinations of Pakistan till 2005. This beautiful paradise was turned into a conflict zone in 2006, when a local hardline cleric named MolviFazlullah, launched his illegal FM radio station, persuading the valley’s people to join his supporters and wage jihad on the stateof Pakistan for allying with the U.S in the latter’s War on Terror(WoT). Many people believe that Fazlullah was the outcome of the 2001 U.S campaign against the Afghan Taliban regime in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks in the U.S. The insurgencies on the U.S. forces in Afghanistan also spilled over and affected the western regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. Swat, which situates in close proximity to the war-torn FATA andAfghanistan was one of them.

Swat was known for its liberal and progressive values and quality educational institutions, a society relatively forward looking than all the districts that exists in the surrounding. Fazlullah targeted these progressive values by hitting at girls education. Obscurantism was preached in which young peoples’sexual and reproductive rights were interpreted as a wrath of God, a strategy to obscure what is scientifically clear, attributing everything to God’s will. HIV/AIDS, for instance, was considered as God’s revenge on bad people. Less educated and unemployed young men joined his militia in their hundreds, swelling its ranks to around 6,000 foot soldiers. The State of Pakistan after huge losses to the social fabric of Swat, launched a military operation in 2008, too late to be effective. By thenFazlullah was already a phenomenon to have reckoned with. Instead of eliminating these militants, such military operations increased militancy, identifying the lack of official will to fight this war. In short, Swat was turned into a hub of Islamic militancy and extremism. Teenagers were turned into suicide bombers. My family, just like the two million Swat population, was the direct victim of this conflict, who suffered huge business and property losses due to Fazlullah extremism.

​I was in college student back then. For me, the classroom was not the only place for education, but to engage people and play my role for my community. This was the basic purpose behind my joining Youth Peace Network (Aware Girls) and later joined a network “Coalition For Peace”.I began to feel from the start that our people were living in a state of denial regarding the slow poisoning of the social fabrics by the wave of religious extremism. The lack of free debate about religion has given birth to a culture in which ignorance has stigmatized our society. 

What I wanted through the platform of Coalition for Peace was to pave a way for discussions which otherwise is not possible. My emphasis on engaging youngsters in group meetings is mainly due to their readiness to engage in free speech. I have found them curious enough to know what are happening around, which opens up a condition of possibility, a room to encourage them to talk, share and contest, if necessary. In this way, Coalition for Piece endeavors to protect and promote young people rights and responsibilities in a militancy-hit Swat, where religious obscurantism is already defeated following the 2009 military operation, but the culture of religious intolerance is still existing and will take much more efforts to be defeated through non-militarized peaceful means.This is what I am eager about, to facilitate these youngsters to live their lives as active and responsible citizens.

Conflict is not a given, natural phenomenon, it is the outcome of human actions, a tragedy with roots in policy level power politics or narrow mindedness at the quotidian (ethnic or tribal) level. The conflict from which my family and I suffered the most and about which I want to write here, qualified to be included in the first category, an example of State duplicity and discrimination. I want to show how this conflict affected my family and me and what I have learned from it.   

While, I am very active on the ground in my activism towards peace through young people, attending SPP, I want to learn from the experiences and approaches of scholars and practitioners who work on some of the most difficult challenges our world faces today, including resolving conflict, ending all forms of violence, providing social justice, and creating more secure and developed societies by transforming the conditions and relationships of conflict.  Through a process of self-reflection, gathering of theoretical and conceptual data and its application to real-world problems, I believe I will be the luckiest to have a chance of improving my approach. 

In all the interactive sessions of the Summer Peacebuilding Program, be it conceptual inputs, visits to on the ground active organizations, or practical sessions of application of the learned knowledge, will serve as not only a self reflection of my mistakes but also help in taking my confidence and perfection to the next level. 

After coming back to Pakistan, I want to strengthen my organization academically and practically to play its role in reviving the peace and tranquility of Swat. My ambition is to help my community and pay back to my Swat Valley and that people start calling it once again as the Switzerland of Pakistan.