Launch of “Charter of Peace”
Despite clear direction in National Action Plan to develop a more comprehensive counterterrorism strategy with a mix of hard and soft approaches, Pakistan has mostly relied on kinetic measures against terrorist and extremism. Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) initiated a project to promote soft approaches for CT and CVE and consulted multiple stakeholders to develop a Charter of Peace – a document laying down key recommendations for countering violent extremism and building sustainable solutions towards peace in Pakistan. On 26 March 2022, the Charter of Peace was formally launched in the presence of important government officials, media and civil society.
The event commenced with the welcome remarks of PIPS Director Muhammad Amir Rana, who welcomed the participants and spelled out the rationale behind conducting the event. He explained the key notion behind Charter of Peace as the dynamics and bearings of war against terrorism, the complex challenges including aggression in attitudes and radical tendencies among ideological, religious, social, cultural values and state policies. Lastly, he signified ‘Charter of Peace’ as an evolving document that can take various dimensions depending on the changing dynamics.
Adnan Rafiq, Country Director of the United States Institute of Peace, set the stage for the discussion on the Charter of Peace. The center of his discussion was the inculcation of soft power approaches and social transformation for the establishment of sustainable and positive peace in Pakistan. He argued that the state’s approach toward peacebuilding has involved law enforcement to deal with bewildering social and critical problems. These deeply entrenched and perplexing socio-political prejudices cannot be dealt with administrative response, but rather through bringing together intelligencia and civil society to institute a charter that lays down the pathway towards sustainable peace. He concluded by reinstating the four fundamentals, democracy, diversity and dignity along with regional peace, to ascertain sustainable and long-term peace.
Shaheera Syed, a researcher at PIPS, introduced key features of Charter of Peace that involves inclusion of softer approaches to counter extremism and terrorism. She signified that although several initiatives have been taken, such as thirteen peace agreements with militant factions from 2002-2008, but the impacts or footprints appear limited. Perhaps, the changing contexts and challenges demand to think about ingenious solutions. For that purpose, PIPS organized consultations of various experts, in order to bring about some common themes and recommendations. Simultaneously, perception assessment survey and campaigns were held to incorporate youth and individuals of different regions of Pakistan. She stated the roadmap for the Charter of Peace will be the endorsement of the charter by major stakeholders and incorporation of soft approaches in our national discourse.
Professor Dr. Syed Jaffer Ahmed, an educationists and political scientist, in his keynote address associated the concept of peace with the absence of violence and looked into the two fundamental causes of violence in Pakistan. He signified the first cause to be related to historical or permanent violence, which continued and thrived due to certain realities of the society of Pakistan, such as primordial system, colonialism, feudalism, and tribalism. These practices consider the society as subjects, instead of sovereign citizens, thereby provoking violence. Similarly, violence was essentially instituted in our society through external and domestic policies endorsed by the state. In the 1980s, Pakistan became a frontline state in the Soviet-Afghan War, therefore introducing Kalashnikov culture and deteriorating the social fabric of the country. While Pakistan was striving to regress the impacts, 9/11 and geopolitical decisions made Pakistan more vulnerable. Overall, Pakistan has suffered mainly due to our misjudged involvements in affairs, and we have moved from Jihad in Afghanistan to Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. He further questioned the practicality of the National Action Plan in moving us away from peace. He suggested public awareness and education programs that provide the capability to revisit dogmatic ideas and narratives that can hinder peace.
Dr. Khalid Masud, judge at Shariah Compliant Bench of Supreme Court of Pakistan, mentioned that the changing dynamics of security in the modern era were no longer confined to securing territories from external threats and aggression, but rather broadened to the maintenance of internal peace and security. He educated participants on Quaid-i-Azam’s vision of comprehensive national security that included economic, social, and traditional security elements. He shared that the Quaid-i-Azam emphasized on freedom of religion, economic security, and decolonizing the economy to retain peace, sovereignty, and security. He signified the multidimensional aspects of conflict beyond the conventional view. Two renowned Muslim scholars, Hamid Al- Ghazali and Abu Ishaq al-Tha’labi, defined security and protection in five basic facets; religion, life, conscience, family, and property, which can be attained at legal, ethical, and cultural levels. He described the doctrine of “Maqasid-e-Shariah” that involved problems relating to economical, ecological, medical, ethical, political, and legal issues. Moreover, he elucidated that wars, unethical developments and hegemonic control of world economy are the prime factors behind the scarcity of water and natural resources, and conflicts. He concluded that the conventional focus on conflict has limited the notion of security and colonial and post-colonial periods have always focused on war which escalated terrorism.
Raoof Hasan, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information, emphasized on the significance of consensus and focus on geo-economics for the prevalence of peace and harmony in Pakistan. He was of the view that in past 75 years, we have never thrived for the development of harmonious environment by inculcating divergent views together. The major constituent of peaceful society is the forbearance and patience to pay heed to others’ ideas and perspectives to move into the future. He asserted that we have a credible base for raising edifice of our national structure, but for the establishment of creative peace, we need to bring together the efforts from divergent backgrounds with different views. He criticized that we have, regretfully, focused on the maintenance of external peace while overlooking the concept of internal peace. Moreover, he mentioned Pakistan’s transition from geostrategic to geo-economic policy that can contribute to strengthen peace. He concluded by stating that we donot have to ‘fight for peace,’ but rather work on the notions of peace.
Maulana Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, Special Representative to Prime Minister on Interfaith Harmony, addressed the impacts of coarse behaviors and intolerance in peace making process, which needs to be replaced with civility and kindness. He asserted that insensitivities have become an attribute of our society, which can be countered through dialogue and the patience to listen to diverse points of view. He believed that in the past two years, there has been some change in attitudes and society is gradually embracing tolerance. He mentioned various cases that were resolved through dialogue and consensus. He held that the society needs a public forum in which conceptions about interfaith harmony and rights of all citizens, irrespective of their religion, can be discussed. He cautioned against the self-harm caused by our prejudiced attitude as a nation, giving example of how in response to an act of blasphemy in France, we burnt our own country and mainly the properties of the poor. He maintained that blasphemy laws are to be implemented through judiciary alone and the public must not take law in their hands.