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Informed debate should be part of alternative discourse: PIPS Seminar

To counter the discourse sympathetic to extremism, there is a need for an alternative discourse built on informed debate, research, and realities grounded in present-day.

There were some of the common points discussed by leading national experts, at launch of two studies of Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think-tank.

One of the two studies, “Reconstruction of the National Narratives and Counter-Violent Extremism Model in Pakistan”shared findings on reconstructing national narratives along with tabling Counter-Violent Extremism (CVE) model in the country. The narratives and model were evolved after extensive discussions among scholars and experts led by PIPS.

Sharing the findings, PIPS’s director Muhammad Amir Rana called for holding structured dialogue among scholars and society. He called for holding debates among religious scholars, similar to what had happened in Egypt, Yemen, and other Muslim countries.

He admitted that one of the points of the proposed CVE model, of reintegrating militants, is quite controversial. Yet, sharing findings of the study, he called for exploring that option which includes both tactical engagement and long-term reorientation of militants. Echoing views of the experts, Mr. Rana called for integrating the National Action Plan in the country’s Counter-Violent Extremism model. “Any discussion on CVE would be useless unless NAP is plugged inside”, he reasoned.

Anchor and columnist Khursheed Nadeem argued that implementing a counter-narrative document is the responsibility of both state and society. He argued that the country’s national security narrative is religious in orientation. He narrated how Pakistan’s foreign policy interests were couched in religious lingo. Today, he said, the society is reaping fallout of that policy, reasoning, therefore, that counter narrative cannot develop unless the security narrative is required. He called for delinking the two narratives – religious and security ones.

The other study, “Role of Post-Noon Engagements of Madrassa Students in Radical Orientation”, was designed to assess the day-to-day activities of the students after their study hours. It found several tendencies among madrassa students that set them distinct from students of universities, while several of the choices of the madrassa students are similar to those of the university students.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Qibla Ayaz, former vice chancellor Peshawar University, shared that seminary students use social media like Facebook – as other students do too. Anchor Nadeem argued that the madrassa study reiterate that they are not much different than the general society. Therefore, madrassas along with other educational institutions should be approach afresh.

The launch was chaired by Barrister Zafarullah, state minister for law and justice, argued that much of what is taught in madrassas today, while useful in its own right, might be outdated in the context of new realities, such as of how there are places where Muslims are in a minority.

Taking part in the discussion, Gen (R) Talat Masood said the country’s institutions and structure needs to be reshaped, to curb extremism. But this doesn’t seem happening, he admitted, adding how all stakeholders are interested in holding the status quo.

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed, Quaid-e-Azam University, said the state of Pakistan that evolved was different than what the founding father, Quaid-e-Azam, had thought of it.

Media coverage of seminar and studies