Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) organized a Lecture Briefing on the proposed ‘National Policy for Peace and Harmony’, as part of Project SALAM, on December 10th, 2013 at National Defense University (NDU), Islamabad. The purpose of the briefing was to introduce the Centre and Project (SALAM), and enlighten the audience with the principal tenets of the National Policy. The Seminar was attended by faculty members and students from various departments, and formed part of the efforts by the Centre to engage educational institutions and create awareness among youth for the betterment of our own society. In spite of the contributions our society has made, there remains an urgent need to engage our youth in helping make Pakistan a peaceful country and work towards eradicating the menace of violent extremism in Pakistan, in the region and beyond. The Briefing was the second in the Lecture Series.
The Briefing Seminar opened with recitation of some of the verses form Holy Quran, followed by a welcome note by the Head of Department – Strategic and Nuclear Studies, Dr Zulfiqar Khan and introductory remarks by Member Advisory Board CPGS, Lt. Gen (R) Syed M Owais HI (M).
Dr Zulfiqar Khan welcomed the CPGS team and said that it was an honour for NDU to host the Briefing Seminar at its premises. He appreciated the efforts of Project SALAM and said that everyone present in the hall was aware of the fact that the South Asian region and Pakistan in particular is in a state of crisis due to the worst wave of extremism and terrorism possibly ever seen, and the proposed ‘National Policy for Peace and Harmony’ can lead the society in the right direction.
Lt. Gen (R) Syed Owais HI (M) emphasized the importance of the role of the youth in the society and said that young people have a larger part to play in resolving such key societal issues; therefore CPGS has taken the initiative incorporate youth in its drive to fight the menace of radicalization. CPGS is a newly established think tank, and right from the beginning CPGS has analyzed and deliberated upon issues which are a point of high concern for the entire nation. He said that Senator Sehar Kamran (TI), President Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies is a very devoted lady and aims to promote Pakistani values in the world. While highlighting the National Policy for and Harmony he said that policy deliberated by the experts is a huge success of the Centre and this policy has been shared with all the concerned stake holders.
The proceedings started with a brief but comprehensive introduction to CPGS and its vision by Ms. Adeela Bahar. She informed the participants that CPGS wass established to Innovate future prospects for peace and security in the region and beyond, through intellectual discourse and to contribute towards sustainable social, political and economic development. Furthermore, the activities and the achievements of the Centre were also highlighted.
Ms Sara Batool continued the proceedings by briefing the audience on the CPGS Mega-Project SALAM. She highlighted the issue of the growing menace of radicalization around the world and said that while terrorism is a global threat, unfortunately Pakistan is the hardest hit victim of it. It is in this backdrop that CPGS has launched ‘Project SALAM: Innovating Means to Resolve Radical Extremism in Pakistan’. The word SALAM means peace and each letter in word SALAM has a meaning in itself where Sensitizing society and institutions, Accessing everyone involved, Linking all, Acting timely, Monitoring progress. Ms Sara informed the audience about the phases of project SALAM and highlighted the upcoming activities under the SALAM.
In the third phase of the proceedings, Ms Sara Batool continued with the briefing on the proposed CPGS “National Policy for Peace and Harmony”. She said that Policy on Peace and Harmony is a comprehensive guideline and aims to assist the counter radicalization policy. CPGS has developed and promoted an indigenous, ‘Pakistani’ narrative in the policy and has not use western jargon and terminology of ‘Counter terrorism’ and ‘Counter radicalization’ in the document itself as all these terms are heavily contextualized. It is with this in mind that the policy has been named the ‘Policy for Peace and Harmony’, which is a guideline to path of peace. While discussing the challenges faced by the society today, Ms Sara said that there are enormous challenges in the political/ideological, institutions/departments, socio economic and perception management sectors of state governance. The policy suggests reforms in certain flawed areas and asserts the need of unified national identity and national narrative supported by both public and private sector. Moreover, there is a need to initiate legal and judicial reforms to improve existing judicial system for fair and speedy justice and incorporate mechanism for prevention of crime.
Q & A Session
Gen (R) Owais
These are the salient highlights of the paper, and not the complete document, which present the broad highlights of this paper. As the policy paper itself is not the final document as yet, it has certain grey areas which require your input, so please feel free to ask anything which want to clarified or raise any other aspect you want to deliberate or comment on.
The house is now open for the Q&A session.
Question: Mr Rana Athar Javed
It was really very interesting and also well deliberated. I am Rana Athar Javed, Director General of Pakistan House based in Denmark and in Islamabad also. I have a questions and a brief comment. The comment is about the grey-white areas of course, because we are dealing with almost entire social-political structures. It relates to Madrassa reforms, as we have already noted the fact that we have many initiatives on Madrassa reforms, standardization of Khateeb speeches, all the way down to syllabus changes, and for good reason; this is just a comment. The other is related to, as you pointed out, the intelligence reforms. As we are aware, intelligence institutions mostly have their internal mechanisms to look into the requirements for how to conduct their reforms internally, just for the sake of confidentiality and also not to be exposed to the entire world regarding what they are taking on. Yes I do believe there should be coordination and cooperation. But when you say that, is it about the distribution of duties between the Intelligence Bureau, Police or the CID, SIU, FIA, or we are talking about the ISI or IB. Just to have to make a clarification; reforms in intelligence system mostly come from within.
Gen (R) Owais
It is very interesting point; as far as Madrassa reforms are concerned, you may be aware that they were institutionalized under the ‘Wafaq ul Madaris’, but unfortunately that institution has also suffered through various radicalizing phases and unfortunately it does not work as we expected. People like the founding person of Wafaq ul Madaris, Mr Ghamdi, these people you had a very moderate approach and they advocated a moderate approach. Unfortunately however, that didn’t work after a while, and this is not a grey area but rather a white area as the government is not working in this problem. That is why we are suggesting that this institution, i.e. the Wafaq ul Madaris or any other institution of choice, should engage the government and carry out reforms because these are very important institutions and they need urgent reform. No think tank and no other institution can do it. It is only the government that has the power to introduce any substantive change. The Government must develop a mechanism and additional measures can be suggested by the society, but how to enforce those measures is the responsibility of government or the relevant ministry.
As far as intelligence is concerned, you see the intelligence has various tiers – it operates at strategic levels, national and international level and also comes down to a grassroots level. The core problem which we have is a socio-political problem which stems from the basic fabric of the society. As such there is need for intelligence mechanisms from where the government can gather local intelligence. The ISI can’t do this thing, the MI can’t do it and even IB can’t do this thing. They can only lay down certain parameters and rules but it has to be down the level at the district level to facilitate investigation and crime prevention.
You have mentioned certain policies that like the mandate for how an Imam should be appointed, but these changes will definitely have certain fallouts Does your paper give ideas as to how the government should deal with those fallouts, how public will react and how the people attached to the religion will react if the government makes such changes, or are you leaving this part upto the government?
Gen (R) Owais
This is very good and important point. If you ask my personal opinion, this should be done at the local-body level. Unfortunately, political parties dictate even at the international level not to encourage local bodies. If an area has local bodies, they are bound to know more and be better aware of the people living and the sect to whom the people of an area belong, as per the area under their jurisdiction. The local bodies need to be trusted with this responsibility and again they must be very honest. They have to be no conspiracy theories and no unnecessary criticisms, but a very honest approach.
I would like to comment here that there is not only the Wafaq ul Madaris but there is also a Tanzeem-e-Shia, fighting with each other. First we have to settle their clashes. Your institution must give some directions as this is absolutely what we are saying; harmony in various segments of the society (different sects).
Gen (R) Owais
All these segments of the society need to live in harmony and this harmony did use to exist. We saw this harmony with our own eyes when we were young. Incidents like the recent Raja Bazaar debacle never used to happen in Muharram – the sanctity of Ashura, whether it was the Ehle-e-Shia or Ehl-e-Sunnat, the sanctity of this month was paramount. Mother used to tell me to stand where there is procession and provide water or whatever they want when they were [passing through that procession, but unfortunately external, internal, dictated and paid enemies have totally collapsed this system. So there is a need to bring that harmony back in our society. There are so many things which can be done by the institutions, young generation and the people of the society.
Question: Dr Saif
It is really very heartening to listen to you and the agenda of the institution and the task which you people are carrying out. It is very demanding indeed. I would require your attention on the aspect which is generally ignored by social scientists and the research institutions inside Pakistan. If we look at the history of Pakistan, since 1980 onwards if we note the population growth and the growth of the Madaris, there is no congruence. Furthermore, it is unclear which organizations are funding them and which school of thought is being promoted. This is an established fact that we have been supporting the religious organizations which have developed their roots with Madaris. Secondly, may I know the publications that are published by your institution?
Gen (R) Owais
I agree with the first part of your question. There are two things which have to be addressed at the governmental level as far as peace and harmony is concerned. One is population control and the other is education. The way this population is growing is a bomb in itself. Population is growing at an uncontrollable rate. If a person living in the urban area of southern Punjab has ten kids then it is not possible for him to send his kids to City School or any other private school. Of course he will then send his child to a Madrassa, where food and other facilities are free. The majority of the youth are going to Madrassas for this reason, and there the teacher or the religious scholar moulds their minds according his choice and personal beliefs.
Second is the education. There are recommendations given in the policy as well that the education sector needs to be reformed. According to statistics by the Ministry Of Education, only 15-20 % of the population goes to school. The remaining 80% of the people are going to Madrassas. So these two areas need improvement – population and education. There is need to create awareness on these issues by the society.
Question: Rubina (PhD scholar)
I really appreciate the bold step you people are taking and I would really like to appreciate you for this. These are very controversial issues, especially when we talk about the media and the public opinion policy. You know that at every step the media complains that its independence have been interrupted in some way or the other. I have a suggestion that in the constitution there should be some clause that dictates that no ordinary person should be allowed to issue statements on sensitive issues like nuclear issues and religion, as it creates unnecessary hype.
Gen (R) Owais
It is a very good suggestion and we will incorporate it into the policy. Even a country like Saudi Arabia has strict rules regarding these matters; an ordinary person cannot issue a fatwa, it is only the mutawa who is allowed to give fatwa.
Question: Muhammad Mateen
Your lecture has been very informative. I would like to add that our society is very diverse and we are not able to indulge every part of society; for example the southern part of Punjab is very different from central Punjab. We have not started any ventures from the government’s side or even by the civil society side to inculcate both the sides of the society to make a joint platform and move towards development. In addition to a top down approach, what do you think the younger generations and students can do to bring harmony to the society and bridge this gap?
Gen (R) Owais
This is precisely what we are doing, and trying to do. Radical extremism is such a challenge that millions of lives have been lost, including civilian and armed forces. Regarding the top down, approach, and initiative has been taken by Senator Sehar Kamran (TI); she is knocking the door of the government and trying to bring their attention to resolve this menace of radicalization. Youth can engage in platforms like the CPGS to help create awareness among the general public regarding the details of such issues. You can also work individually, or via the institutions where you are working and go out in your city and villages to create awareness.
This paper also provides the concept of a national commission, which will actually suggest the final social and economic reforms, so the first perspective of your question can be answered with this. This commission, in a given time frame, will suggest to the government what steps can be taken and how youth can be employed. As you know, unemployment is one of the reasons for creating grounds for terrorism and extremism and through this measure this can be resolved.
My question is regarding Madrassas, as I myself belong to tribal area. The biggest reason of going to a Madrassa is poverty because everything is provided free of cost in Madrassas. We can solve this by providing good quality education at low prices and the standard of education must be harmonized throughout the country.
Gen (R) Owais
Absolutely. In fact I would refer to the answers of one of the previous questions; two situations need reform. One is education and the other is poverty. It is poverty that forces the poor man to send his offspring to Madrassas. If there is a public education system that is of a good standard and affordable by all segments of the society, then this problem will be addressed.
Sir I am here as an MPhil student, SNS department. First of all I would like to quote a sufi saint in addition to your earlier advice about attitudes during your childhood. He says and I quote, ‘We used to live in peace and harmony, all the religions. With the advent of political parties, inter-religious clashes started.’ And when divisive religious parties were formed, sectarian divides came to the forefront. Sir, everyone knows that we are facing fourth generation warfare. The army cannot take on different aspects of this fourth generation warfare, including media, economics, diplomacy etc. The government has to take care of that front. Now my question is, according to data from 2008, NDU, there are over 200 terrorist organizations in Pakistan. Even political parties often have terrorist wings. Over the last decade, we have lost over a 100,000 civilians and uniformed personnel. And yet not a single terrorist has been hung by the institutions. I haven’t seen any comments on this area yet. Secondly, I think more emphasis is required on the nuclear aspects of our defense policy and the need for it. Your policy does highlight the issue, but given the fact that our media today is so inflammable that is has almost become part of the enemy’s machine, more emphasis is required.
Gen (R) Owais
Just before this session we were discussing precisely why is it that captured terrorists do not get sentenced? This is indeed a massive weakness in the system. That’s also what I have said initially, that at the national level we are currently lacking response. Everybody recognizes these things and that it is a very dangerous trend. It’s an internal threat and indulging in fading society. But, unfortunately no government has carried out any work on this side and given a clear national policy regarding what would be the role of judiciary, politicians and other institutions. At the national level, we have failed to have a coordinated response to these threats. This is where institutes like CPGS step in. They can take on the role of promoting these tasks and create awareness among the people. Regarding the legal aspects of the issue, Mr Adil Sharief will now brief you.
First of all I want to tell you one thing; in Pakistan the first legal response to terrorism is the Legal Act of 1997; it is one of the first serious documents for the anti-terrorist court of 1997 and was precisely for the response that was required to cater to the growing sectarianism problem. But systematic terrorism is a new phenomenon which was initiated precisely after 9/11. Until now, no serious document has been created to deal with it specifically. No serious debate has been done on this issue either. If you see the legal side, only recently has the government made any amendments in law regarding terrorism.
Secondly, it must be remembered that there are different stakeholders in the judicial structure. The first tier is investigation, secondly judiciary actions and finally post-judgment implementation. Judiciary is a neutral arbitrator in whole the system. The judiciary cannot be a party of the state. Normally the state is one of the parties in a criminal sitting, for example ‘state versus accused’, or ‘state prosecutes the guilty’. The state has to bring the case before the court and prosecution has to prove each and every aspect of the crime – the judge is a neutral arbiter. He cannot do anything on the basis of prior or personal knowledge. Some people raise questions as to why judges do not hang terrorists. The problem is often a lack of evidence. Prosecution lives in visible fear throughout Pakistan. Bringing evidence against these terrorists is never an easy task, especially when these evidences are not fully developed and do have the potential to turn on the prosecutor. A Judge only ever decides on the basis of these evidences, he cannot decide arbitrarily. If there is no evidence, then a judge must free the accused. This is fundamental, essential principle of the legal regime in Pakistan and almost throughout the world. The accused remains innocent unless proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
What then is the solution?
The solution is that we must replace the law which directly deals with systematic terrorism, and it is the parliament that has the authority to make such new laws. Furthermore, judges should be equipped with new trends and authorities must be given capacity-building training to specialize them in the field.
To my understanding, the approach towards terrorism must be differentiated from regular crime. With a law and order approach we connect every event with terrorism. If two men are fighting and one kills the other, then it is not a terrorist activity. We are talking about systematic terrorism which has political ends. For this we have to need different definition of terrorism, a separate structure for special judges, specific lawyers of terrorism and prosecution standard evidences. We have to loosen our judiciary regime a little bit for the sake of an effective counter-terrorism policy; otherwise we are honestly likely to fail. If an agency intercepts intelligence related to terrorists, then it has to be disclosed in front of the court, but this could dangerous for internal infrastructure and reveal agency working mechanisms, and it is precisely this sort of problem that requires special leeway within the system, where the evidence may be used without endangering the larger system.
European countries have modified their rules and regulations accordingly and you mentioned that our parliament has not delivered anything in this regard.
Gen (R) Owais
This is precisely what has been suggested to the parliament. Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) is knocking the door of parliament on this very issue and as well as suggesting a comprehensive framework to deal with radical extremism. Every new government completes its tenure without tackling this issue. Nobody is taking this matter seriously, but we are working towards changing this.
I want to point out that we lack some of the technical facilities for such intelligence operations, like forensic labs. In many cases we don’t have substantial proof due to a lack of forensic labs facilities. It is a big crack in our prosecution process. With collective intelligence evidence and forensic proof we can counter terrorists groups. It is therefore very important for us to develop the necessary facilities.
Question: Kanwal (Student SNS)
What is paramount – is peace policy formulation based on an ‘economy first’ or a ‘security first’ paradigm?
Gen (R) Owais
Economy substantiates security. Whether it is internal or external, security remains are focus. We have to focus on security and then economy and other elements.
It is a mix of both, we are catering to the security issue while strengthening our economy at the same time.
Question: Mohsin (Student)
You are talking about extremism in your policy but I have found two areas of concern that do not seem highlighted. One is ethnic diversity in Pakistan and the second, what would you suggest for relations with other religions like Christianity, Hinduism, and Sikhism etc?
Gen (R) Owais
Regarding the first part of your query, we are in fact suggesting the exact same. As to the second part, I would personally say that first of all and especially given the fact that this is a Muslim majority country, sectarian divides are an immense source of internal conflict and upheaval, and we need to resolve these issues on a priority basis, before moving to issues related to the interfaith dynamics in Pakistan. Due to the rigidity of the society we are living in today, we face many incidents of religious violence, even though Islam advocates harmony and peace. It is us who have gone astray not following these virtues for peace and harmony.
With that ladies and gentlemen we come to the end of the session. Thank you all for your active participation, dynamic questions and all these helpful and incisive suggestions.