On 13 October 2017, PIPS hosted a dissemination workshop in Lahore, sharing findings of the six Punjab dialogue forums discussing different aspects of countering violent extremism in the province. The forums were attended by a mix of scholars, academics, policy makers and civil society representatives.
The dissemination workshop was chaired by Kazi Javed who appreciated the breadth of debates that took place in the consultations. He shared that all sorts of issues came under discussion, and now, it is time to move forward the debate to the do-ables: what can be done to take forward the findings of the consultations on countering extremism from Punjab.
Najamuddin shared findings of the consultations; below are some key ones:
- 1-Cultural aspects that could strengthen counter-extremism perspectives had weakened greatly. Punjab’s immense linguist diversity had not been acknowledged or benefited from. Efforts to -revive culture essentially seem event-based.
- 2-Attitudes towards faith-based diversity were generally informed by ancient caste bias, not necessarily religious ones.
- 3-For marginalised groups, the state only has charity-based models instead of fundamental rights for all.
- 4-Members of the majority religion are largely ignorant of problems of non-Muslims or the contributions of the latter in Pakistan’s independence. At times, the debate of equality hovers around economic opportunities. The economic perspective and deprivation must be addressed.
- 5-Social and attitude changes will not come through policy. People must be sensitised on their donations.
- 6-The space for scholarly responses to counter violent extremism seemed to have shrunk in recent decades. Intellectuals, civil society, the media and political parties no longer acting as think tanks and violent actors taking over the space in educational institutions had contributed to the rot.
These findings were extracted for the six policy briefs published on the consultations. The policy briefs can be accessed here.
Taking part in the discussion, Irfan Mufti of SAP-PK recommended that the “supply side” of the militancy in Punjab be also explored. Saeeda Diep, a social activist, reminded that even now banned outfits are able to collect funds.
Meanwhile, head of Ajoka Theatre, recommended that the existing work on promoting peace should be assessed to understanding what works and what doesn’t. A sort of performance evaluation of the existing peace projects be carried out. He argued that while there are constrictions in place by the government, there are some avenues too that can be explored.
A government representative appreciated the exercise but lamented that civil society often fret from engaging with the government. Such exercises of dialogues will help ease the atmosphere.
Earlier, PIPS Senior Project Manager Muhammad Ismail Khan shared that PIPS has already convened national-level consultations on countering violent extremism in the country. Those consultations identified specific processes and procedures on tackling different entry points to extremism. One of the holistic findings of those consultations was that diversity is key to ensuring harmony in the country. Diversity be promoted in different policies and programs.
When it comes to Punjab, he said it was found that while Punjab is relatively peaceful than other provinces, the province has often witnessed mob violence, often provoked by hate speech. He called for understanding how can hate speech be curbed.