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Peace and Conflict Zones

Peace and Conflict Zones funded by the Ford Foundation, USA and Pakistan Environment Program.

Study objectives

  1. To redefine conflict, conflict zones and security concepts in Pakistan,
  2. Challenging conventional peace formulae;
  3. To re-conceptualize peace in relation to everyday life as part of process of deconstructing and embedding the concept of peace in civil society

The major external threat perceived by Pakistan emanates from its eastern neighbor: the traditional arch rival, nuclear equipped India. The other increasingly consequential vein of conflict has been it’s relations with Afghanistan.

A substantial focus of the peace movement in Pakistan has therefore been India-centric. After Partition and its upheavals and violence, borders were sealed; the two countries have since then fought three direct wars, engaged in constant border skirmishes with thousands of civilian lives lost. The tensions have been accompanied by ‘protective’ measures such as mining of border territories, deployment of troops, policing of communities; orthodox education vilifying the ‘other’ and such. The balance of power solution touted has been nuclear capability.

With Afghanistan, Pakistan has oscillated between periods of disassociation, intensive engagement for ‘strategic depth’, respected borders and boundaries and intruded beyond, depending on a host of geo political factors. The post 9/11 security discourse in Pakistan has necessitated the closing of borders, immense troop deployment, while simultaneous overtures of solidarity with the new regime have been made. Meanwhile, under the umbrella of the War on Terror, the country has witnessed internal conflict and state sponsored repression and military operations. The emerging regional scenario has propelled the peace movement to respond to this increasingly militarized version of peace.

Similarly ethnic and sectarian militancy and violence within the country has been answered at the state level by arrests, detentions, court cases, banning of sermons, Section 144 (prohibiting public gatherings) and such measures.

In the face of geo-strategic and political compulsions and domestic power wrangling, the people who suffer in the conflict, directly and indirectly, have been rendered invisible.

There have been no moves to build a positive peace fostering plural values. The moves, so far, are aimed to minimize violence, not build peace. Peace is seen as essential for national security, for saving people from death, for investment, economic and trade ties, for continuity of governments. It is still not envisioned as important for normality and quality of life for all. There seems to be a limited understanding of what peace can and should entail and what formulas for peace should contain

The common understanding seems to be that since military and paramilitary forces fight wars, they and their instruments should govern peace as well; for example, UN peace keepers are in effect, an armed army. This militarization of peace takes on special significance in the current world order post 9/11.

Pakistan’s role in the war on terror and consequent actions of the State are largely predicated on the assumption that peace building is a compulsion of state and global states’ security. That it is a necessity for humanism, requiring all human beings to respond is still not understood. Against the backdrop of military operations, house searches, arrests, bombardments and elimination of terrorist bases and networks, the root causes of conflict, growth of religious right and fundamentalism and volatility of people’s sentiment are given little attention. A culture of peace remains the Holy Grail.


The study will undertake to question traditional notions of conflict and peace. It will seek to empirically prove summary observations of peace activists and the women’s movement; that that mere cessation of hostilities does not create peace and that peace cannot exist by default. In conflict, notions of insularity are imaginary. The battleground expands to encompass the community, society and country, making the frontlines a conjectural border.

In the first part, the study will analyze conflict zones and zones considered vulnerable to conflict. It will develop indicators for assessing the impact of hostilities on the ‘civilian’ community who may or may not be ‘active’ as ‘soldiers’. It will examine the emotional, psychological, familial, communal, economic and cultural opportunity costs of conflict, with reference to the human rights and entitlement framework. It would look at areas seen as vulnerable, cross comparing the two, and looking at the gains and losses of being on the ‘edge’.

It would attempt to draw out the ‘spill over’ of war into communities, examining the relevance of battlefront and home divide. The basic assumption that it will seek to challenge is the idea that there is a public private dichotomy and the war takes place in a public zone, a militarized, male frontline whereas the ‘feminized’ home is a safe, private, secluded zone, unless the enemy attacks it directly. The study will analyze this, through for example, seeing if a rise in external violence results in internal, domestic violence. And see how homes and communities become ‘militarized’ in response to external hostilities that they may not even be directly a part of.

It will reflect whether intrapersonal peace and inner peace is possible in a hostile environment, by gauging the mental health of communities in question, highlighting the dividends of peace.

In part two, the study will use the same indicators developed for conflict zones and test them in ‘non conflict’ zones. The premise here is that non-conflict zones suffer on the same counts, and that peace is as absent here as in conflict zones, and that these communities have also been militarized. The data will prove that people’s emotional, psychological, familial, communal and economic health are scarred even in areas deemed peaceful, with the exception of overt, physical impacts such as injuries and death from conflict, and consequences such as caring for the infirm and invalid. This will highlight that peace cannot exist simply if there are no violent hostilities.

It will examine what peace would mean in people’s lives and compare it to visions of peace of people in conflict zones. The study will aim to move the peace discourse beyond the current limited continuum of national security, illustrating the need for a holistic approach factoring people’s lived realities, showcasing peace as a process and culture.

Study Design

A two-part study comparing active conflict zones, zones vulnerable to violence and ‘non conflict’ zones:

Part 1: Conflict Zones

Active conflict zones Zones vulnerable to conflict
Gilgit Badin
Chakoti Kasur
Wana Karachi

Issues to be addressed:

  • Cost of conflict
  • Impact of conflict
  • Is conflict equivalent in human terms to threat of conflict
  • Who is on the battlefront Is there spillover in homes or does the public/ private dichotomy hold
  • Gendered perceptions of conflict
  • Who does the conflict serve and who suffers
  • What inner peace and interpersonal peace mean there

Part 2: ‘Non Conflict’ Zones

Possible areas
Urban: Rural: Tribal (spillovers):
Lahore Jhang Bannu
Dera Adam Khel

Issues to be addressed:

  • Similarities, consistencies and differences from active violence zones
  • Are there ‘non conflict’ zones
  • In the absence of formalized conflict, are they ‘peace’ zones
  • What are the perceptions of conflict Violence Threat
  • Are perceptions altered by gender
  • Visions of peace What does interpersonal and inner peace mean
  • Peace can be realized only through agency of state