PACE to counter radicalisation in Pakistani society

By Javed Mahmood


Conferees discuss avenues to fighting terrorism and promoting tolerance at a June 1-4 training workshop in Islamabad. PACE held the event. [Javed Mahmood]

ISLAMABAD -- The Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) has launched a new initiative to counter radicalisation, promote rule of law and equality, and end bias, extremism and militancy.

"We recently launched this 3-year programme that would focus on promoting religious tolerance and equal human rights for all and on discouraging the misuse of religion," said Imtiaz Gul, executive director of CRSS, an Islamabad-based security think-tank.

In Pakistan, Muslims consider themselves to be superior to non-Muslims and society has been drifting away from social equality, which is leading to injustice, extremism and other problems, he told Pakistan Forward.

Through the Pakistan Centre of Excellence (PACE) programme, academics, television anchors, analysts, police officers and other influential members of society will undergo training to counter radicalisation in Pakistan, he said.

"The PACE programme will mount a politically informed intellectual challenge to those exploiting religion through their narrow interpretations of faith," Gul said.

PACE will help develop alternate narratives that will sprout from structured debate on universally acknowledged democratic values, rather than a direct disagreement or negation of extremist narratives, he said.

This end will be reached through a conscious inculcation of the universal principles of freedom of expression, freedom of religion and equal rights among opinion multipliers in Pakistan, he said.

Spreading nationwide

"We have organised eight training workshops in Islamabad in recent months, and now we are expanding the scope of training to other cities in collaboration with public and private universities and other organisations to make the programme more productive and results-oriented," Zeeshan Salahuddin of Islamabad, head of the PACE programme, told Pakistan Forward.

PACE will empower young professionals with intellectual tools to counter intolerance and propagate peaceful conflict resolution in their social and professional spheres, he said.

The goal is to sensitise these influential individuals about the crucial need to respect fundamental human rights and to accept others instead of judging them by their faith, ideology, caste or colour, he said.

PACE will conduct monthly collaborative workshops for professionals drawn from diverse backgrounds to advance the counter-radicalisation narrative among society, Salahuddin said.

"Young leaders must be trained to use digital media to promote tolerance, equal human rights and rule of law for all in this country," Mubasher Mir, a security analyst and Resident Editor of Daily Pakistan in Karachi, told Pakistan Forward.

At present, social media are the number-one source of information for people around the globe and some groups are using these platforms to spread hatred and extremism, he said.

Television channels and newspapers should invite only qualified religious scholars to discuss issues relating to Islam and other religions in a fair manner, he said.

"We often see that the hosts of the TV programmes running talk shows on religious issues mostly invite 'ulema' according to their own choice and ignore the qualification and expertise of the scholars," Mir said.

"If we follow the criteria of inviting only qualified, unbiased and popular religious scholars to talk shows, we will certainly be able to minimise hatred, extremism and other related issues," he said.

The same goes for newspaper articles and commentary.

"Every Friday, the Pakistani newspapers ... publish articles relating to different aspects of Islam, but the newspapers do not bother to look at the expertise and qualification of the authors, which creates disharmony in different sects of the society," Mir said.

PACE is a key initiative to counter extremism and militancy and to promote harmony and tolerance in society, and the stakeholders of the programme must explore avenues that encourage inclusion and purge disharmony and hatred from the society, he said.

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