The Charter of Peace – Background
The Charter of Peace – Background
Pakistan has achieved considerable success in its counter-terrorism endeavors in recent years, leading to an improved overall security environment. However, Pakistan’s counterterrorism campaign, since early 2000s, has been largely kinetic, or muscular, and less soft, or political. Experts agree that Pakistan needs to take a different, multi-dimensional approach to deal with the factors, dynamics, and actors of Pakistan’s growing extremism challenge, which is not confined to fighting the terrorists militarily only.
Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) has been working since 2011 to explore and suggest policy options for Pakistan’s counter-violent extremism (CVE) and terrorism. In 2021, it undertook a project titled “Promoting soft approaches in countering terrorism and extremism in Pakistan.” The project involved regional level consultations with key stakeholders based on which a document was designed titled Charter of Peace.
The Charter of Peace is a blueprint for soft approaches to countering extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. The Charter is meant to reflect the aspiration of the people of Pakistan from all walks of life from the government to legislature, and from intelligentsia to academia, clergy, media, and civil society, among others. The purpose is to strengthen the use of political or soft approaches, which are considered an effective tool for reducing the appeal of militants’ ideologies as well as bringing the radicalised individuals or militants back into the mainstream by persuading them to quit violence. Such approaches seek to challenge the foundations upon which extremist movements and ideologies are built, through targeting radicalised and vulnerable individuals cognitively, rather than relying on physical force alone.
The Charter of Peace also conforms with the United Nation resolutions urging the role of civil society in building peace and countering violent extremism (CVE). For example, in its resolution 2178 (adopted in 2014), the Security Council “encourages Member States to engage relevant local communities and non-governmental actors in developing strategies to counter the violent extremist narrative. Similarly, in Resolution 2354 (adopted in 2017), the Security Council recognizes that “efforts to counter terrorist narratives can benefit through engagement with a wide range of actors, including youth, families, women, religious, cultural, and education leaders, and other concerned groups of civil society.
Civil society organizations have been part of CVE and de-radicalization programmes in many Muslim-majority countries mainly including Algeria, Nigeria, Indonesia, Egypt, and Bangladesh, etc. For instance, the role of civil society in Algerian experience is an important source of ‘soft power’. Many appreciate Bangladesh’s strategy of involving and exploiting the extensive influence and reach of its civil society organisations in the country’s de-radicalization efforts. Similar lessons regarding the role of civil society are on the offer in the northeast of Nigeria and Somalia. In Indonesia, too, “some civil society organizations are engaged in facilitating the disengagement and eventual reintegration of ex-offenders” including through skills training and employment placing such as “employ[ing] former extremists as chefs and waiters in restaurants.”
Lessons learned from these initiatives coupled with Pakistan’s own needs and context can help in framing CVE responses in the country, and Charter of Peace is one such effort.
THE CHARTER OF PEACE SUMMARY
We, the people of Pakistan
– Believe in democracy and peace, respect all religions and faiths, revere our ethnolinguistic
diversity, and accede to equal citizenship;
– Affirm the sanctity of the Constitution, and demand uniform application of the Constitution in all parts of Pakistan;
– Call upon the authorities to demonstrate unambiguously, through words and actions, that
respect for human rights and rule of law is the basic philosophy of the state.
– Note an unsettling rise in extremism in the country and urge the state to address the same as
per the declared policies and strategies, and further call upon the law enforcement to ensure
that no counterterrorism or counterextremism measure breach the fundamental rights of a citizen;
– Appreciate the democratic value of inclusivity, and stress that all policies and strategies on countering terrorism and extremism be formulated with input and backing of parties across the political spectrum and civil society to ensure legitimacy, broad ownership, and effective implementation;
– Call for a robust promotion of democratic values and culture through all available means
including through constitutional literacy among the masses particularly the youth;
– Impress upon the government and parliament for the resolution of all internal social, political, and economic disputes through peaceful and inclusive means;
– Demand the implementation of the prohibition on private militias in letter and spirit
– Call upon the state to firmly reinstate rule of law across the country to ward off any perception that the state is weak or fragile;
– While reaffirming the supremacy of the Parliament, iterate that the Parliament is the center of collective decision making, and stress upon it to take an unambiguous stance on terrorism, extremism, hate-mongering, and discrimination and lead on resolution of these issues;
– Reaffirm the undisputed right of the people’s elected representatives to have a meaningful say in the formulation of Pakistan’s foreign policy and relations including with the neighboring states;
– Demand that all political parties refrain from seeking any sort of assistance from extremist groups for electoral matters or political gains;
– While acknowledging the bulging youth population, urge all political parties to empower the youth by providing them space and platform for free expression and creativity as well as leadership;
– Recognize the civil society as an important bridge between the state and communities, and call upon the state to take the civil society along as a partner rather than treating it as an adversary;
– Urge the civil society to use its abilities and skills to the fullest to spread mass awareness about the significance of democracy and constitution, responsible use of social media, and the dangers of extremism;
– Call for educational reforms, aiming at removal of hateful, discriminatory, and insensitive
contents from the textbooks and inclusion of more scientific inquiry, debate, and critical thinking and reasoning;
– Reaffirm freedom of religious beliefs and that no citizen can be denied his/her fundamental
rights on account of their beliefs;
– Demand that the Parliament and the government take all necessary steps for the protection and equitable development of all religious communities;
– Call for the inclusion of women in all walks of life and protection of their social, political, and economic rights, and further stress upon the Parliament to rectify laws that discriminate against women in any shape or form; UN resolution 1325 acknowledges the role of women in the promotion of peace and security.
– Call for increase in education budget to improve the quality of education;
– Call upon the state to own and celebrate the indigenous cultures and promote cultural identities in Pakistan;
– Acknowledge the indispensability of education for peace, and urge the government to prioritize promotion of book reading culture in the country; and
– Urge the government and civil society to facilitate dialogue among various segments of society to stem disharmony, intolerance, and uncivilized behaviours.
 For instance, see “The rise of religious-based radicalism and the deradicalisation programme in Bangladesh,” and “Transforming terrorists: examining international efforts to address violent extremism.”
 For instance, one CSO there provides psycho-social and trauma counseling for both the victims of Boko Haram and former perpetrators.
 Few organizations there are engaged in enhancing vocational and trade skills of former combatants.
 Christina Nemr and Rafia Bhulai, “Civil Society’s Role in Rehabilitation and Reintegration Related to Violent Extremism,” The Global Observatory, June 25, 2018, <https://theglobalobservatory.org/2018/06/civil-societys-role-rehabilitation-reintegration-violent-extremism>