ISLAMABAD - The participants of a consultation entitled ‘Research and Teaching of Conflict Studies and Conflicts in Pakistan’ resolved to undertake collaborative efforts for promotion of research and teaching of peace and conflict studies at higher education institutions of Pakistan.

Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS) in collaboration with Open Society Foundations (OSF) organised the consultation that was attended by senior academicians, researchers from various think tanks and representatives of civil society. The main objective of the consultation was to bring academics of various disciplines of social science together towards improving teaching and research content on the issues pertaining to peace and conflicts with focus on generating Pakistan-specific knowledge. The participants deliberated upon various aspects, challenges and opportunities related to the topic and identified existing gaps in academic discourse on peace and conflict resolution.

The participants unanimously agreed that Pakistan was facing with multiple political, ethnic, religious, sectarian and environmental conflicts, which required immediate attention in research and teaching at Pakistani universities. They termed peace and conflict resolution as vital preconditions for sustainable economic growth, democracy and development. The delegates also suggested for offering of special courses, research grants, scholarships, promotion of culture of seminars, dialogues and conferences, and close interaction among universities and research institutes for improving teaching of peace and conflict studies at higher education institutions of the country.

Ahmed Ali of Institute of Social and Policy Sciences underlined the importance of assessment of the state of social science disciplines in close collaboration with academics, universities and HEC in order to strengthen research and teaching of conflicts studies. In this regard, he also suggested development of case studies and production of relevant reading material, which could be included in the course content.

Dr Abdur Rehman of Quaid-e-Azam University in his detailed presentation stated that Pakistani universities were offering very few courses on understanding violence, extremism, terrorism and conflict resolution, while conflict resolution mechanisms did not exist at schools and colleges. He underlined the need for inclusion of topics related to rights and duties of citizens and constitutional provisions on human rights and peaceful techniques of resolution of conflicts in curriculum.

While citing 2013 Global Think Tanks Index report, Muhammad Feyyaz form National Management College, Lahore, informed that 4 out of top 100 think tanks of the world and 4 out of top 65 defence and national security think tanks were from South Asia. Among these think tanks, no one is from Pakistan expect one among 70 environment think tanks. He further stated that performance profile of all research organisations reflected a complete vacuity of tradition of peace research, theory building, scientific study of conflict and conflict analysis and absence of rigor and application of theoretical constructs in South Asia. He stressed upon need for indigenisation of conflict resolution processes and methodologies.

Dr Anwaar Ahmed, member of national committee on development of social sciences of HEC, highlighted the importance of strengthening of social sciences for inculcating the values of peace, tolerance, critical thinking and conflict resolution among Pakistani youth.

In his concluding remarks, Dr Nasser Ali Khan, Vice Chancellor University of Haripur, emphasised over close interaction among academic, research organisations and policymakers in order to resolve various socio-economic problems being confronted by Pakistani society. He was of the view that social scientists should undertake efforts to highlight the soft image of the country at national and international level. “Pakistan has very rich centuries old cultural heritage and we need to highlight it,” he added.