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Peace Building in Pakistan: What’s The Way Forward?

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By Waleed Tariq:

Peace is a concept which cannot be limited to a certain definition and varies from person to person. My understanding of peace is not merely an absence of war but it is an environment where there is coexistence, hope, imagination and creativity. It is the existence of social justice in the society thus providing the people with basic human rights including food, shelter and education without any hindrance in reaching to one’s full potential.

Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a country in South Asia bordered with India, Iran, Afghanistan and China (Wikipedia). World War II inaugurated the idea democracy in the third world and thus the trend was marked here as well with its creation as an independent state in 1947. Jinnah being a man with secular beliefs wanted a democratic secular Pakistan but soon after his death, the country fell under corrupt interest groups of elitist bureaucracy, feudal lords and politicians. The widened structure of the Constitution, corruption of Judiciary and violation of human rights has lead to a wider set of problems ranging from socio-economics to violence and extremism.

The dream of stable democracy has yet not been materialized in the presence of political shakiness, judicial crises, frequent military interventions, deep-rooted feudalism and the lack of impartial accountability both at public and private levels.

Pakistan is left in the aftermath of distorted democracy in the form of regional and religious parties inflicting ethnic and sectarian norms, the outcome of which is extremism and terrorism. The country continues to face an active Taliban-led insurgency on its soil along with cross-border conflicts with the rival India and Afghanistan. Rising separatist militancy in Baluchistan belt is also a bone of contention.

Other than that, Pakistan’s chief problem is its monstrous debt. Half of the government expenditures are dedicated to the debt-repayment obligations.

Moreover the utmost loss comes in the area of education which is unquestionably connected to the country’s economic problems. Education is considered as the cheapest defense of any country but the downtrodden condition of education in Pakistan bears an ample testimony of the fact that is unable to defend its own sector. Though, sixty three years have been passed with twenty-three action plans and policies, the educational sector is yet waiting for a savior.

Furthermore the country’s energy crisis does not let the boom enter the industrial sector creating inflation, unemployment and decline in the service sector.

Pakistan has become an intolerant nation. Intolerance is very much a characteristic of the Pakistani society nowadays. We do not respect choice, we do not allow individuality and we do not accept alternate opinions.

Thus, deeply linked to all the above problems discussed, Pakistan’s population is largely poor and there is little chance that someone born into a lower or middle class household can move up the social ladder through legal channels.

The real problem however is not diagnosing Pakistan’s problems, but actually solving them.

In the light of democratic peace theory, in my opinion, Pakistan requires uninterrupted democratic rule over a long-term for political maturity and stability to return to the country. Strengthening of Pakistan’s democratic institutions and enhancing their capacity shall be the goal of all the state apparatus. A nuanced understanding and cooperation between the civilian and military bureaucracy shall also be encouraged. It will give a positive boost to peace building in Pakistan. True democracy as a system of national politics brings benefits to the country in different ways as it promotes the rule of law, freedom of speech and choice and most importantly accountability by the people thus discouraging corruption and extremist policies. According to Khalid Mehmood’s paper ‘Democracy and Economic Growth’ democracy has a significant and direct connection with the GDP of that country. This has been proved through mathematical analysis in the paper. He further argues that democracy is a pre-condition for social justice in any society.

Simultaneously, the state must tackle the militancy both within and outside its borders. In this context, defeating the insurgent Tehrik-I-Taliban should be the very first priority of the government. Along with military strategies which can only go so far in addressing violence and extremism, a host of other non-military policies must also be developed to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country. An extensive work on the causes and effects of militancy, it’s financing and methods of recruitment shall also be carried out to curb he violence in the country,

Counter terrorism expert, Ali K Chishti in his article ‘Countering Jihad Incorporated’ suggests short and long term solutions to counter terrorism and dry the terrorist funding. He writes ‘In this piece we will try to give out both short-term and long term solutions to counter terrorism and dry terrorist funding. While good steps like identity cards and documentation of economy had previously been taken it’s the Special Investigation Group (SIG) of FIA a counter-terrorism unit launched in 2003 with 87 officers needs to be re-activated and given a central role. Currently they have only 3 financial auditors which need to be increased to at least 30-35 plus a better co-ordination with State Bank and intelligence agencies would immediately affect and pressurize terrorist finances. Fortunately, financial regulations are only one policy option for counter terrorist financing. Following are the steps Pakistan needs to take a) targeting passive state sponsorship (in which a state allows terrorists to raise funds and conduct logistical tasks without territorial interference) through diplomatic channels b) organizations that rely on external financiers are also dependent on the financier’s approval of their operational activities, both the IRA and ETA lost significant support after misguided operations, failed terrorist plots needs to be projected c) issues surrounding financing have sown conflict within terrorist organizations particularly if elements within the group are suspected of misappropriating funds. Promoting this type of internal strife, however difficult a proposition might be potential instrument that counter-terrorist entities should be used to undermine the unity and cohesion within terrorist groups.

Additionally in medium term, Pakistan needs to revive back an additional slot of, National Security Adviser to PM. Previously the office of NSA at PMO where all intelligence agencies sat to exchange and co-ordinate was closed after the Kasab incident. A maverick intelligence chief confirmed TFT’s, “that there’s no intelligence co-ordination between any intelligence agencies in Pakistan. Infact, there’s a sense of rivalry”. This need’s to be fixed and a proper mechanism should be set-up where there’s an honest exchange of information between our intelligence agencies. The alternate to NSA is the newly formed spineless and toothless National Counter Terrorism Authority (NCTA) which is a brilliant idea but fell pray to the tug of war between the PM and a very strong interior minister. NCTA should ideally be an independent body under, PMO which supervise and should work as a channeling organization for all intelligence agencies and ensures that honest information between various intelligence agencies is exchanged.

To conclude, countering terrorist financing has not been and likely will not be the silver bullet that some of our policymakers seem to have hoped. Insurgencies such as the TTP require significant funding. The rampant drug trade and smuggling is especially influential, and there is much that we could do to target the insurgency through curbing both the drug trade and smuggling by improving our border controls. Terrorism, especially transnational terrorism, requires relatively insignificant resources. Pakistan needs to apply a range of policies, including international intelligence cooperation, diplomatic pressure, human intelligence gathering and public relations campaigns can be as used in countering terrorist financing as the currently favored financial regulations’.

For peace building across borders, Pakistani government along with its civil society organizations should initiate a series of dialogues with key players of the Afghan and Indian counterparts to generate confidence, trust and a common agenda for peace and security cooperation. These dialogues will play a crucial role in reducing the potential for confrontation between the neighbors. It should cover a broader set of issues including terrorism and most importantly the Kashmir issue. Infact, the Kashmiri leadership of shall also be kept on-board.

Reduced tensions with India would likely strengthen civilian control in Pakistan. It would allow the military to focus on the domestic insurgency.

In addition, serious steps shall be taken for the improvement in the education sector of the country. Implementation is what that needs to be focused instead of projecting policies. Allocation of funds should be made easy from federal to provinces and then to districts and educational institutes. Also, teachers and professors shall be consulted while devising academic plans, syllabus and policies.

Principally, two systems of education are prevailing in Pakistan: the traditional religion-based education system and the modern formal education system which further can be divided into two main categories begun under British colonial rule and continued after the country’s independence. With colossal differences in both educational systems, one should think the kind of students it breeds. For instance, the Public Education System caters to common masses hence produces clerks who serve the Public office and bureaucracy. On the other hand, Cambridge Education System reaches to rich established people hence produces elites who either become entrepreneurs or travel to develop countries for higher education and ultimately settled there. Students who opt for Private Education systems aspire for the excellence. The need of the time is to bring education in its original form to the masses.

In a unified Pakistan there has to be one education system for all the children of Pakistan thus leading us to Unity, Faith and Discipline. Improvement in education will also help in eradicating other social evils from the society as the founder of The Citizens Foundation, Mushtaq Chhapra says ‘Education is the key to solving many ills in society – from lack of basic knowledge about hygiene to developing more sense of tolerance’.

Yet the challenges ahead are enormous. The economy also needs a fine- tune. The economy needs to grow at a rapid rate per year to employ the young people entering the workforce. In addition to new jobs, alternative employment needs to be found for the huge number of people.

Water and power scarcity are posing a major obstacle to the strategies suggested above. Therefore, development of water and power development projects should be given top most priority by the government. Power policy of the government should have both a short term as well a long term plan. Bridging the gap between supply and demand in the short run, when supply cannot be increased should focus on demand management and reducing transmission losses. Both commercial and domestic consumption of power has to reflect the fact that there is a serious power crisis in the country.

Over the two decades policies have been generating poverty and the poverty alleviation programs instead of making a dent on poverty, have resulted in elitist capture. Pakistan has been converted into a country of ten millionaires and ten million baggers, with the state having to take care of the ten million baggers. Provision of infrastructure, giving assets like land to agricultural peasants along with the development of a viable industrial structure will through expanding employment alleviate poverty. These could be supplemented by micro finance schemes to encourage small entrepreneurs.

For some it may look like a dream but all nations must dream before the dream comes true. Through the above mentioned steps, I think Pakistan can attain the path of Peace which then can lead to all man’s happiness.


The writer is a Pakistan based activist and a Correspondent with Youth Ki Awaaz.

Follow more of his writings here.




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