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PIPS launched its “Charter of Peace” in Quetta

Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) launched its “Charter of Peace” at a ceremony held on March 16, 2023, at Serena Hotel, Quetta.

Lawmakers, politicians, academics, journalists, students, and representatives of Balochistan government, and civil society attended the event, among others.

The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about the Charter and obtain endorsements from different stakeholders. “Charter of Peace (CoP)” is a consensus document that lays down key recommendations for countering terrorism and violent extremism and building sustainable solutions towards attaining peace in Pakistan. It basically focuses on softer and political approaches to bring long-lasting peace in the country and has been developed after consulting multiple stakeholders.

Director PIPS Muhammad Amir Rana in his welcome note said that hatred and violence are the outcomes of any faults within the social contract of the society.  “The basic purpose of CoP is to redefine and review the social contract and set its direction right if there is some contradiction in it at some place.”

Rana argued that political forces and civil society had a primary role in the continuous process of reviewing the social contract to address different problems or tensions arising within society. The state and its institutions use a muscular approach to resolve the problems, he said, adding that dialogue was the only way to bring peace.

He underlined that the purpose of CoP was to form a peaceful democratic society where there is harmony among the state institutions and no conflict exists to grab power. “Similarly, all segments of the society can get their due rights without political and apolitical manipulations.”

Programme Manager PIPS Ahmed Ali told the audience that this launch was the fourth one at provincial level followed by Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi. He shed light on the key points of the document and added that the feedback of the participants would help them to improve the charter.

Ali underscored that the charter started with the word of “We, the people of Pakistan” as it was formed through an inclusive process. He said that they were getting endorsements on the charter from different segments of society including political parties, civil society organizations, and lawmakers among others. “Our stress is that any national policy (on peace) gets legitimacy (from all stakeholders),” he said. He explained that the mainstream political parties did not give much legitimacy to the National Security Policy approved by the last government.

Deputy Speaker Balochistan Assembly Sardar Babar Khan Musakhel, the chief guest of the ceremony, speaking on the occasion said that the security situation in the province was precarious. “I want to say with regret that no substantial steps have been taken to improve (this bad law and order situation).”

He informed the participants that security institutions recently warned about threats to the provincial legislature asking for restricting entry of the commoners into its premises. “Now the threat has reached the assembly and I think no one is safe if we (lawmakers) are not,” he said.

“The provincial assembly has spent most of its time discussing (violence and terrorism related) incidents for the last more than four years,” said Deputy Speaker Musakhel. He assured the audience that his office was ready to take every step to ensure peace in the province. “God may help us in attaining peace if the problem is bigger than us and its solution lies somewhere else,” he also said in the same breath.

The deputy speaker underlined that they would have to see which foreign countries did not want peace in Balochistan and what their interest was? “Whether they are eyeing our mines and minerals?” he questioned and added that the lives of people of Balochistan, regardless of their ethnicities, were more precious than anything else. “The future of Balochistan is bright only when we would think ourselves safe … When we would end our biases towards localities of certain ethnicities including Baloch, Pashtoon, Hazara and settlers.”

Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen leader and former provincial minister Agha Raza said that the meaning of peace could be different for different people or societies. “Peace (in Pakistan) means for some people and the loss of some other people,” he said while talking about the security threats to the Hazara community in Balochistan.

“When we talk about countering terrorism and bringing peace, there is a need to protect those vulnerable segments of the society who have been marginalized and pushed to the wall,” Raza said. He deplored that the Hazara community unfortunately had been spending their lives in confinements in Quetta. “There is a need to make serious efforts at all levels, from mosques to civil society, to bring peace in the society.”

Dr Nasrullah Khan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Centre for Peace and Development, Balochistan, remarked that Balochistan remained a battlefield of Pakistan’s neighbouring countries including Afghanistan and Iran besides others. He said that all ethnicities including Baloch, Hazara, Pashtoon, Punjabi and Urdu speaking became victims of this warfare. “We understand that ensuring basic human rights, rule of law, and good governance, and bringing democracy in behaviours are the basic four pillars without which peace cannot be attained.” He said that CoP was an initiative to break the deadlock and called journalists, political parties, lawyers, and women organizations for initiating dialogue on major points of the document.

Maulana Abdul Qadir Luni, head of JUI- Nazriyati, Balochistan, speaking on his turn said that there was a sense of deprivation among people of Balochistan due to their long-standing unresolved problems. He said earlier their demand from the center was to give due rights to Balochistan but now this call was on the backburner due to bad law and order situation in the province. He urged the center to give due share to Balochistan in federal resources, minerals and government jobs, adding that these problems were major causes of unrest in the province.

Kalsoom Niaz Baloch, Provincial Women Wing Secretary of the National Party, said that peace was missing in Balochistan as youth and even women have become victims of enforced disappearances. She said that women of the province had played their role in politics and economy during peace and war. “Now we are being barred from playing our due role in different fields.” She urged the women to continue their struggle through the political process and contribute to the social sector.

Religious scholar Allama Akbar Hussain Zahidi said that peace couldn’t be achieved by muscular power rather it was linked with ensuring social justice. He said that the state and its institutions had a primary role in bringing peace by making people-centric policies. He further said that there were two opinions whether Pakistan came into being into the name of Islam or emerged as a welfare state and this difference still exists till today. This confusion is the main reason that the Pakistani state could not decide its principles of governance and ultimately failed to ensure peace, he also said.

“Around 250 million people (of this country) are not a priority for the state,” Zahidi said. He stressed the need to improve the administrative structure of the state to serve the masses, which can be a recipe for peace.

Naseer Khan Mandokhel, an additional secretary of the government of Balochistan, said that unfortunately law and order deteriorated in the province rapidly, seriously impacting social and economic life. “It is very important for likeminded, positive, and socially empowered people to make such policies that are acceptable for the parliament and can bring peace and revive our economy.”

Mandokhel said he, being part of the bureaucracy, had always thought about giving such positive things to the people that can bring stability in the province. “We should devise our policies in such a way that we can get a better and peaceful society.”

Jamaat-e-Islami Balochistan Ameer Maulana Abdul Haq Hashmi pointed out that peace was linked with ending poverty, corruption, and injustice, and ensuring protection of women, especially in Balochistan. He said that the state has no control over elements that cause unrest, distress and chaos. “Peace cannot be attained until we rein in those destructive elements that create hurdles in the way of development.”

Hashmi said Balochistan had been facing the issue of missing persons and families of victims had no other option but to resort to violence to express their anger. “In such circumstances, we cannot expect that peace can be ensured,” He hoped that CoP is an initiative to guide the policymakers but added that it can be productive only if those forces who implement the law accept it.

Senior journalist Sabookh Syed said that lively societies ensured that human rights were not violated and no law was made, which was repugnant to principles of basic human rights. He said that the society should stand up and raise its voice peacefully against any law that violates basic human rights.

Central Vice President National Party Dr Ishaque Baloch in his concluding remarks said that the Pakistani state itself was intolerant towards its citizens. He added that the state should rectify its mistakes.

Dr Baloch said that Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his August 11 speech clearly noted that Pakistan was for all and there would be religious freedom for everyone. He held that Pakistan as a “buffer state” remained a tool of foreign imperialist forces, which promoted sectarianism and jihadi culture in the country. He highlighted that flaws in Pakistan’s foreign policy were the main reason for its bad law and order situation.