Right to use of force should only rest with state: Speakers

ISLAMABAD   –  Speakers at a regional consultation on ‘Promoting soft approaches in countering terrorism & extremism in Pakistan’ said that right to use force should only rest with the state and ensuring rule of law, civic education, equality of citizens and youth and women’s engagement are imperative to end extremism and terrorism in the country.  

The two-day regional consultation was organised by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) here at a local hotel. The event was aimed at seeking input from experts from all regions of Pakistan to formulate a Charter of Peace, which, with the support and endorsement of key stakeholders would be pursued for realising the goal of sustainable peace in the country, according to a statement issued by PIPS.  

Besides others, journalists, religious scholars, academics, rights activists, former military officials, representatives of civil society and law enforcement agencies attended the event and took part in different sessions.   

The speakers talked about the recent violent protests of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) to force the government to meet their demands and urged that the state should have the monopoly over the use of force.  

They underlined that students of mainstream schools and colleges were as vulnerable to radicalization as those from seminaries and needed to be engaged by creating spaces for them at different platforms including activation of local bodies.  They emphasised the need to engage peaceful youth movements that stand for human rights and democratic values.  

The state, the political parties and parliament should move forward to give a counter narrative on extremism and terrorism and realise their responsibilities and ensure civic education and constitutional literacy to promote tolerance and equality for all citizens in the society, the experts suggested.  

The participants were of the view that whatever space was available to political parties must be used to give counter narratives on extremism and they should engage the youth. “Less space for youth gives opportunities to extremist elements to influence and trap them.”   

They said that economic, political and social empowerment of women would prove instrumental in countering radicalisation.  

They said that situation in Afghanistan since the takeover of Kabul by Taliban had a direct impact on Pakistan and the government should consider implications of the same for internal peace and rule of law.

 An inclusive and holistic approach would have to be taken while making policies on counter extremism, de-radicalization and re-integration of militants, they said.  

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal of the Quaid-e-Azam University said that there were no tangible initiatives to de-radicalize in society. He said the government by reaching an agreement with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would only have a “tactical but no strategic outcome in future.” He cautioned that there should be a proper strategy to deal with “re-radicalization.”  

Former Corps Commander Peshawar Lt Gen (Retd) Masood Aslam in a panel discussion said that hard approaches always created spaces for reliance on soft approaches but such opportunities had seldom been availed. He said that the state and the government should give equal opportunities to citizens, including that of employment, to end extremism.  

Former National Security Advisor Lt Gen (Retd) Nasir Khan Janjua participating in a discussion viewed that there was a need to redefine war on terrorism and soft approaches should be adopted. “Prevent misuse of religion and that will dry down the militancy,” he said urging a people-centric approach and introduction and implementation of madaris reforms. He said that a new counter-terrorism and counter-violent extremism (CVE) framework should be formed and parliament should play a key role to end extremism.  

Former ambassador Qazi Humayun was of the view that the West would not accept Taliban government in Kabul and this would have blowback impact on Pakistan with rise in terrorism.  

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Zarina Anjum, in-charge of CVE Section of Punjab’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), said that anti-radicalization and counter-radicalization were the two basic steps that should be prioritised ahead of de-radicalization. DSP Shafqat Rasheed, another officer of CTD Punjab, in his remarks said that there was a need to de-radicalize those terrorists who were languishing in jails by engaging their families and childhood friends.  

Dr. Kaiser Bengali, a known economist, said that equal distribution of resources and wealth was necessary for “economy of peace” as “inequality in wealth gives rise to anti-peace.”  

PIPS Director Muhammad Amir Rana in his welcome note highlighted the need to improve the counter-narrative paradigm and said that mere absence of armed conflict alone does not amount to peace.

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