PESHAWAR -- Pakistani peace activist Mossarat Qadeem has been internationally recognised for her efforts to combat radicalisation and extremism in Pakistan, especially in areas beset by militancy.
Each year the N-Peace Awards, co-ordinated by the N-Peace Network and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), recognises community leaders working on women and peace efforts in three categories: Untold Stories – women transforming their communities from the grassroots level, Campaigning for Action – women and men mobilising for peace on the national level, and The Peace Generation – young women and men (under 30) building peace in their communities.
The N-Peace Network comprises peace advocates from Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Philippines.
Campaigning for peace
Mossarat was nominated for the N-Peace Awards under the "Campaigning for Action" category for her innovative approaches and dedication to promoting peace and social cohesion in Pakistan.
As executive director of the PAIMAN Alumni Trust, a non-profit organisation based in Islamabad, Mossarat has helped thousands of young people and women across the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pukhtunkwa (KP) province to prevent and resolve conflict.
Mossarat is one of 23 nominees in her category, among whom one man and one woman will be awarded. The 2016 winners will be announced October 24.
Under Mossarat's leadership, PAIMAN has formed local peace groups called TOLANA, a Pushto word that means "togetherness". The 32 mothers and 55 youth working in TOLANAs address violent extremism through community mediation, dialogue and awareness.
They "have helped resolved 54 feuds and averted eight cases of violent extremism/bomb blasts by unearthing plans of extremists groups", according to the nominating committee.
"Mossarat can proudly claim that from this platform she has prevented hundreds and thousands of youths from becoming extremists by creating awareness among community members, by making them vigilant, and above all empowering mothers," N-Peace Network said. "She walks into extremists’ homes, schools and workplaces and speaks to those who feel they have no alternative."
An inspiration for all
"The nomination for N-Peace Award has instilled in me a new spirit and the encouragement to wage more efforts for bringing peace in my terrorism-affected country and making it a progressive and developed nation,” Mossarat told Pakistan Forward.
"The objective behind my peace efforts is to make Pakistan a peaceful country where people get equal rights of education, human rights are protected, and everyone lives with due honour and respect," she said.
"From the PAIMAN platform, we formed a team of young boys and mothers called TOLANA to act as an internal community mechanism for addressing violent extremism through creating resilient and vigilant communities in FATA and KP," she said.
She said the idea was conceived during a 2008 PAIMAN campaign titled "Let's Live in Peace".
Due to the efforts of TOLANA team members, a number of radicalised youth, especially in the tribal areas, have been successfully converted into "Peace Practitioners", according to Mossarat.
The programme has sensitised around 250,000 community members in KP and FATA to the causes and impact of violent extremism, and role they can play in addressing these problems, she said.
"So far our team members have been able to reach out to 35,000 vulnerable men and 11,500 vulnerable women in different parts of KP and FATA," Mossarat said.
She said her team has succeeded in convincing at least 1,256 radicalised people to renounce violent extremism.
Improving Pakistan's image
Syed Akhtar Ali Shah, former secretary of the KP Home and Tribal Affairs Department, said Mossarat's nomination for the prestigious award will help improve Pakistan's image which has been marred by international terrorism.
"Mossarat Qadeem has worked against violent extremism with a very strong commitment and missionary zeal,” he told Pakistan Forward.
"Her nomination for the award will convey a message to the world community that Pakistani citizens want peace, and among them some are working very actively for peace building in the country," he said.
"Mossarat Qadeem has prevented hundreds of thousands of youths from becoming extremists by creating awareness among people about the damages of radicalism on society and its members," said Dr. Fazle Akbar, a physician who volunteers with PAIMAN.
"In our region, extremism has gained roots at a fast pace and any effort for the restoration of peace deserves appreciation," said Muhammad Zafar, a lecturer at Peshawar University and the only research scholar in KP specialised in de-radicalisation.
Zafar expressed hope that Mossarat's nomination will encourage her and other peace activists to continue to take on the challenge.
"Peace building efforts in a society gripped by extremism is like walking into a storm, and encouragement is a must for the continuation of such endeavors," he told Pakistan Forward.
"Mossarat deserves the highest appreciation for her peace efforts in Pakistan and her nomination will send a good message to the world community about our longing for peace and non-violence," he said.