Currently, the country is facing pervasive mistrust between the government and members of society with respect to state initiatives. In order to address this underlying issue, adopting a community-based approach just may be the answer to reconnecting the state with its citizens
The world today is constantly facing a multitude of armed conflicts usually triggered by disparity or lack of political representation and ethnic or religious contentions, among other things. Such extreme conditions of violence ultimately lead to damaging effects on a country’s basic infrastructure and political systems, economic stagnation and security. However, these consequences are not geopolitically limited and often tend to have a spillover effect expanding beyond the conflict areas and hindering development.
A majority of third world countries are fraught with rising poverty and, as a result, are most susceptible to emerging conflicts as they suffer from weakened political systems and lack the capacity to build lasting peace. Systemic violence is a chronic development problem that sadly Pakistan has not been immune to. Over the last decade or so, the nonexistence of conditions of peace has thwarted the country’s growth potential and has immensely affected the daily lives of the nation. This has become all the more apparent and pervasive in Pakistan’s conflict profile, which includes militancy, terrorism, sectarianism, insurgency and regional disparities.
A development agenda that falls short of addressing the issue of violence will probably not be very successful or effective in the long run. Realising the impact and colossal damage a failed development agenda brings with it, the Planning Commission has taken steps to resolve the current issue the country is facing and has initiated the Peace and Development (PD) Unit as part of its Vision 2025 under the ministry of planning, development and reform under the chairmanship of Federal Minister Professor Ahsan Iqbal.
As its first order of business, earlier this year, the unit organised a stakeholder’s forum on ‘Making peace an integral part of the development planning in Pakistan’ under Chatham House rules. The key objective was to reach out to experts in the field of peace and development for input into PD programmes. The target audience for the stakeholder’s forum included peace and development practitioners, donors, key civil society, youth and minority leaders, and the media in addition to civil society actors. The forum covered a wide range of topics including suggestions on how the PD unit can contribute to all ongoing state and societal processes to develop and disseminate a peace narrative in Pakistan.
Currently, the country is facing pervasive mistrust between the government and members of society with respect to state initiatives. In order to address this underlying issue, adopting a community-based approach just may be the answer to reconnecting the state with its citizens and eventually strengthening governance on a national level. More often than not, these community based processes can help better facilitate governance reforms, serving as a tool to build social and human capital in disputed societies by creating the space or platform for the socially marginalised to raise their concerns in a safe environment and participate in the decision making process. Following suit from Indonesia’s participatory community approach, such processes can help to overcome mistrust and set a precedent for peaceful and constructive resolution of local disputes and conflicts. After all, sustainability is the key to ensuring development, which can only be achieved by executing interventions and initiatives at the grassroots level.
Moreover, lack of coordination among inter-provincial agencies is also a major hindrance in Pakistan’s progress and development agenda. It is imperative to build unity in a collaborative, inclusive and holistic development approach as there is coherence between the federal and provincial level planning processes. The key answer is to develop governance reforms and capacity building of bureaucracy, ensuring effective coordination and communication between the interior ministry and the relevant ministries. Promoting a culture of transparency within state institutions will ultimately help build sustainable socio-economic development.
At the moment, Pakistan is struggling on a daily basis, fighting hard against poverty, conflict and other obstacles in its progress and development. There is an urgent need to build resilience and integrate elements of peace building and stability in order to have a successful development agenda. The fate of the nation lies in its ability to take this agenda of peace and development forward, which can only be achieved by focusing on its weaknesses and addressing the root cause rather than dealing with the consequences.
The writer is a freelance columnist