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PIPS launches “Charter of Peace” in Karachi

Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) launched its “Charter of Peace” at a well-attended ceremony held on January 16, 2023 at Beach Luxury Hotel in Karachi.

Lawmakers, rights activists, academics, journalists, students, and members of political parties, and civil society attended the event besides others.

“Charter of Peace (CoP)” is a consensus document that lays down key recommendations for countering terrorism and violent extremism in Pakistan through soft and political approaches. It provides viable and sustainable solutions towards attaining long-lasting peace in the country.

Director PIPS Muhammad Amir Rana in his welcome note said that the document has been prepared after a long process of consultations with multiple stakeholders including lawmakers, policymakers, academics, journalists, youth, political parties, and representatives of civil society etc.

Rana said that its basic purpose was to redefine, and renew the existing social contract within the society. “An effort is being made to address the arising challenges being posed to the social contract to avoid any kind of confrontation.” He also explained that the document was not a charter of demand but it was actually a reflection of commitment shown by the citizens towards bringing peace in the country.

Programme Manager PIPS Ahmed Ali shed light on the key points of the “Charter of Peace” and said that the document has been prepared through an inclusive process. “We, the people of Pakistan, believe in democracy, and peace; respect all religions and faiths; revere our ethno-linguistic diversity; and accede to equal citizenship,” reads one of the points of the charter. “We affirm the sanctity of the Constitution, and demand uniform application of the Constitution in all parts of Pakistan,” says another theme.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member of National Assembly (MNA) Aftab Jehangir speaking in the ceremony emphasized on giving constitutional literacy to the people. He deplored that most of the people, especially lawmakers, had no knowledge about the basic Articles of the Constitution. He explained that this was the reason that lawmakers had to approach the Supreme Court and higher judiciary for interpretation of the Constitution on need-basis.

Jehangir talked about providing training to members of national and provincial assemblies and representatives of local bodies on how they can play their due role in any respective house. He also urged for reforming the country’s judicial system and civil bureaucracy. He called for holding accountable the right institution for any misdeed instead of blaming the politicians for all sins.

Parliamentary Leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQMP) in Sindh Assembly Ms Rana Ansar endorsing the importance of CoP said that political parties should take this document seriously, discuss it, and work on it to ensure peace in the society. She said that political parties should include peacebuilding in their manifestos. She added that the parliamentarians should initiate debate on the subject in the parliament through different tools like call attention notices and resolutions.

Member of provincial assembly (MPA) Rana promised to discuss the charter at the forum of her party – MQM – and introduce it on the floor of the assembly. I would see how some legislative work can be drawn out of it, she also said. “A strong system is required to bring peace in the country, which can only be established when people would have awareness about their rights and they demand the same,” she said.

Deputy Parliamentary Leader of MQMP in Sindh Assembly Ali Khurshidi was of the view that the Constitution was a comprehensive document covering all issues from attaining peace to providing education to citizens but the issue was lack of its implementation. “The political parties themselves are not ready to take the responsibility,” he said, adding that they should show maturity, and set aside their vested interests.

MPA Khurshidi underscored that the political parties should come out of the blame game instead of targeting the military establishment. “Putting the blame of all sins on the establishment is unfair,” he said, and added, “The establishment plays when political parties give some space to it.”

He said that they should discuss the themes of CoP with continuity and increase the frequency of debate, which is the only way to improve the present volatile situation. He said that political parties should initiate a dialogue to agree on certain bullet points that could be helpful in countering violent extremism and terrorism in the society.

PTI member of Sindh Assembly Ms Adeeba Hassan remarked that the people of Pakistan were the real force that could bring peace in the society. She also questioned the role of political parties in solving the problems of the masses. She urged the need to work for the people living in slums and katchi abadis and to give them some role in the development of the country by forming development committees in these areas.

MQMP member of Sindh Assembly Muhammad Abbas Jaferi called for implementing the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism and extremism in the country. He remarked that ensuring peace in Karachi was key to bringing peace countrywide.

He demanded that equal opportunities of education, and development should be provided to the people of the port city. He stressed that they would debate the CoP, work on it, and play their role in attaining peace.

Professor Sikander Mehdi, an educationist and researcher, said that CoP could become a historical document but the major challenge was how it could be pushed forward as the same was linked with the peace process. He said that they shouldn’t forget about “war economy and military economy” whenever they talked about the national economy.

“Both teachers and students have become slaves in educational institutions and as a result, there is no reputation of intellectual movement for change and intellectual movement for peace in the country,” Mehdi underscored. He also highlighted that the people should respect teachers and give them some space in discussions. At the same time, he advised the teachers to come out of textbooks to change the society as they are “prophets of change.” He concluded that CoP should be moved forward under these lines.

Rights activist and Journalist Sohail Sangi speaking at the event said that the word “We, the people of Pakistan”, used in the CoP, was a very “dominating factor” and this needed to be recapitulated again and again. He called for implementing the Constitution in letter and spirit.

Sangi said that they should reiterate in the charter that parliament was supreme and no other institution has the right to usurp the role, as described in the Constitution, of any other intuition. He emphasized that religious extremism that has taken the form of violence should be curbed in the society. He underlined that the CoP should be made more forceful and it should be moved forward.

Scholar and writer Ghazi Salahuddin said that CoP was part of a struggle to form an opinion against non-democratic forces of the country for the survival of democracy and to ensure human rights in Pakistan. He said that the role of citizens was important in the present atmosphere of despair. “A citizen should understand his responsibilities, which is the only way to improve the situation.” He said that an “intellectual and moral movement” was necessary to save the country in addition to the presence of democratic values. He deplored that there was “intellectual deprivation” in the society.

Anchorperson and writer Wusat Ullah Khan gave his views on all themes of the charter and said that its point about uniform application of the Constitution in all parts of Pakistan was of utmost importance as many other topics of CoP were connected with it.  He emphasized on another theme which calls for bringing “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.”

Journalist and anchorperson Fayaz Naich held that people with anti-peace thoughts used to come with strong and firm narratives – a reason that they would also have to assert their own narrative of peace. “We would also have to demand that abrogation of the Constitution is a grave crime and all those should be brought to justice who have abrogated it in the past,” he said.

Naich viewed that the problem was that they were not ready to honour the Constitution, which was the formal social contract within a society. He remarked that dialogue was the only way to understand each other and to form a platform to solidify voices for ensuring peace in the country.

Anchorperson and Chairman Youth Parliament Rizwan Jaffar said that continuity of democracy would solve problems of masses. He called for strengthening the local government system to support democracy in the country. He added that lawmakers while sitting in parliament needed to work to end present political chaos in Pakistan.

Jaffar claimed that the state has failed to provide basic necessities of life including peace, health, education, and transportation to citizens and a major budget of every family was spent to get such necessities on their own. He further said that certain people have formed their own interest-based groups or “small umbrellas” on the basis of ethnicity, language or faith as the state failed to fulfil its responsibility of providing basic necessities of life. “Such mindset gives rise to extremism and violence,” he said, and added, “The state should own its citizens to bring a durable peace in the country.”

Editor and human rights activists Veengas urged the need for bringing equal citizenship and viewed that issues of minorities, especially of forced conversions, should be specifically mentioned in the charter. She said that mainstream democratic political parties were not raising their voice for minorities and their conduct towards these deprived segments of society was unfair. “The state should treat and own the non-Muslims as equal citizens, which is opposite in the case of Pakistan.”

Former MQMP MNA Rehan Hashmi in his concluding remarks highlighted the role of political parties in bringing peace in the country. He said that despite extremism, the society was faced with the problem of intolerance, which was also reflected in the rank and file of political parties. The culture of political victimization should end and people should accept each other with open heart, he added.

“To ensure that peace prevails; identification of root causes of conflict, and its resolution through reconciliation and mediation tools are some of the necessary steps,” he said. He also said that laws were there but there was lack of exercise of power and absence of will to implement these.