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Launch of “Charter of Peace” in Peshawar

Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) launched its “Charter of Peace” at a ceremony held on November 29, 2022 at the Shaykh Zayed Islamic Centre in University of Peshawar.The document of Charter of Peace (CoP) has been prepared after holding consultations with multiple stakeholders for countering terrorism and extremism in the country through soft approaches.

Lawmakers, academics, journalists, students, and representatives of civil society attended the ceremony.

At the outset, Deputy Director PIPS Safdar Sial introduced salient features and objectives of the charter to the participants. He said that Pakistan’s counterterrorism campaign, since early 2000, has been largely kinetic, or muscular, and less soft, or political. He underlined that the federal government’s National Action Plan (NAP) contained both kinetic and non-kinetic measures to counter terrorism and extremism but the soft side of the plan couldn’t be implemented.

Sial said that PIPS had been working since 2011 to explore and suggest policy options for countering terrorism and violent extremism in Pakistan. In 2021, it undertook a project titled “Promoting soft approaches in countering terrorism and extremism in Pakistan”, he added. He further said that the project involved regional level consultations with key stakeholders based on which a document was designed titled “Charter of Peace.”

Director PIPS Muhammad Amir Rana, who moderated the session, said that charter was formed as result of consensus on certain points after a long process of brainstorming with different segments of society, including religious and political, and relevant policymaking institutions. He called for making social contract stronger between different segments of the society. “In a society where social contract becomes stronger and the process of thinking continues, forces promoting extremism start becoming weaker.”

Referring to different peace efforts at civil society and state level including the introduction of  Paigham-e-Pakistan, NAP and National Internal Security Policy (NISP), Rana said that the CoP was an effort to reiterated the resolve that Pakistan was “inclusive and for all, where rights of everyone should be protected.” He also emphasized that social and economic development was essential to bring peace in a society.

Special Assistant to Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) on Information Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif underlined that social development and political stability in the society couldn’t be achieved without peace. “Any society that avoids conflict makes progress.”

Saif, who was chief guest of the ceremony, said that the government should not close its doors of talk with the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as operations by security forces against militants were not the permanent solution to the problem.

“We need to move forward with some comprehensive approach and open mind,” he said.

He argued that the government should keeping talking with the TTP without surrendering to it and respond vigorously if the banned militant group carried out any terrorist activity.

“This is your choice whether you want to end terrorism in the country with hard measures or through talks,” Saif, who is also the spokesperson for the KP government, told the ceremony. He added that negotiations were the better way to bring sustainable peace in the country.

The special assistant said that peace and war were interrelated phenomena, and it depended on conditionalities but the ‘question of identity’ was very important in this regard. He said that the problem was created when an individual or certain segments of society tried to assert their identity but they failed to find any tool or space to assert the same. “Conflict is basically the name of expression of assertion of human identity through violent means.” He held that the identity crisis used to push human beings towards some sort of conflict.

The chief minister’s aide said that terrorism was a universal phenomenon, with having different manifestations, which was not limited to a particular society, religion or region.

He concluded that there were long and short terms steps to end terrorism. He went on to say that talks were the better way to bring long-term peace in the society.

Special Assistant to Chief Minister KP on Minority Affairs Wazeer Zada speaking on the occasion endorsed the CoP and said the peace could be attained in the country if policy should be made keeping in view the main points of the charter. “Then activities should be designed on the basis of the policy.”

He said that the successive governments have adopted no such independent foreign policy which benefited the people. He further said that the Pakistani state had been fighting wars of others on the dictation of foreign powers.

Zada argued that the criminal justice system should be reformed to bring long-term peace in the country. “How peace can be attained (in a society) if its justice system doesn’t work properly.” He said that ensuring rule of law and human rights were the two prerequisites to achieve the objective.

The special assistant told the audience that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led provincial government in KP has started different development programmes for youth belonging to minorities. He said that scholarships had also been announced at higher education level for students belonging to minorities.

Member of KP Assembly Humaira Bashir viewed that peace could not be attained in the country without youth empowerment, and ensuring women rights. She said that enforcing Sariah in the country would be a recipe of peace but deplored that both subjects of peace and Islam had been made controversial in the society.

Ms Bashir said that the youth and women were victims of the on-going conflict in the country. Youth are under stress as they had neither any “proactive projects” to do nor employment opportunities, she said. She claimed that the successive governments had not launched any programme for youth development during the last 20 years.

The lawmaker remarked that women were not being given their rights in society. She urged for giving due rights to women in the light of teachings of Islam. “Any society can’t move forward where youth and women are not being given their due rights.”

Director Shaykh Zayed Islamic Centre Professor Dr Rashid Ahmad emphasized that youth should be encouraged to ask questions and they should be provided with open forums to speak and debate freely. “Questioning is discouraged among youth,” he said, adding that restrictions on freedom of expression caused suffocation which created difficulties in the society. He also said that the constitution provided protection to religious minorities but problems arose when some religious majorities of the society did not accept it.

Dr Ahmad underlined that the purpose of establishing the Shaykh Zayed Islamic Centre was to create such scholars that could promote peace and tolerance among the society. He said that the centre offered separate programmes in PhD and MPhil in which nine major religions across the world were being taught to students. “Thus, we are contributing in promoting peace and tolerance in the society.”

Senior journalist Rifatullah Orakzai said that Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations, especially after terrorism attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School in 2014, led to an improved overall security environment but the situation has started to reverse again in recent months. He said that the banned TTP carried out around 200 attacks during the last three months after it announced a ceasefire earlier this year. He said that number of terrorist incidents was on the increase in KP but mainstream media was not properly covering these.

Talking about the protests in Swat and other parts of KP against rising militancy, Orakzai said that people had stood up for peace for the first time, which was a new phenomenon. He said that the people had lost confidence over security institutions and the government. “There is a trust deficit between the masses and institutions.” He underscored that people were demanding peace but both federal and provincial governments were neither taking responsibility over the fragile security situation nor forming a policy to curb the menace.

Question and answer session was also held at the end of the ceremony.