Citizens And Communities Better Able To Pre-empt Violence Peacefully
It needs to be understood that in Pakistan, local disputes can rapidly deteriorate into violence. Family, caste, political and tribal affiliations can be a source of stability but they can also escalate disputes at the same time. In the context of increasing vulnerability and insecurity, there is a fundamental lack of trust in the capacity of existing institutions to equitably and effectively resolve conflicts. A long history of disenfranchisement, corruption, poverty and underdevelopment facilitates conditions of lawlessness, insecurity and extremism,and enables an environment that is conducive to conflict. Currently local mechanisms are frequently used to resolve disputes or address local problems. These local dispute resolution mechanisms operate in an isolated environment and are largely accountable to local elites and power groups. The well-publicised and highly abusive decisions relating to women highlight a wider abuse, which is that decisions tend to be made with little or no regard for Pakistan’s laws and its considerable international obligations under international human rights treaties. There is a widely held assumption that local communities support these decisions; but this is an untested assumption that may in fact reflect the monopoly of local power structures, rather than individual belief. Therefore, while people may be able to access ‘quick justice’ through these channels, the quality of decision-making is, at best, poor. As a rule decision making tends to be discriminatory and represent the needs of local elites rather than the vulnerable. The collapsing legitimacy of traditional systems combined with limited access to formal justice has left a vacuum in which the peaceful resolution of conflicts can be a positive and much needed intervention.
The programme envisages that AAWAZ field teams will develop an understanding of the dynamics of disputes and conflicts in their local context, learn from local communities about contentious issues, and develop area-specific strategies to help pre-empt and resolve disputes and conflicts. Mobilisation and capacity building efforts will be anchored in the knowledge of formal and informal structures that operate in target districts, and a commitment to respect domestic and internationally guaranteed human rights. In particular, these include equality before the law, the right to due process, presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and protection against cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments.
The concept of dispute resolution refers to the adequate information, knowledge, skills and broad-based humane mechanisms at the community level to pre-empt and resolve disputes at the level of early-stage mediation in civil cases and related issues, and develop linkages with civil society representatives and groups that work towards the same objectives.
Even though their influence has waned with urbanisation and changes in the rural political economy, in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, traditional informal councils for dispute resolution and dispensation of justice, namely panchayats and jirgas, still operate. Rooted in tribal and feudal systems, these councils are patriarchal in structure and composition, with local elders dominating the process and the tribal or feudal leader often serving as the ultimate authority. Following unwritten codes derived from a combination of local norms and religious edicts, panchayats and jirgas cannot be said to be following due process, especially in criminal cases. That said, it is generally believed that people resort to these traditional structures, at least in part, because ofthe costly and long drawn-out nature of the dispensation of justice through formal bodies. Considering the normative and legal gaps underpinning traditional councils, the AAWAZ programme does not seek to work directly with them. Instead it is expected that AAWAZ Committees will play a crucial role in pre-empting conflicts that may arise, and in helping to resolve disputes and conflicts that emerge. Vertical linkages with committees and forums set up at union council, tehsil and district level, it is hoped, will also facilitate in resolving major disputes, including those that cannot be resolved locally. At the same time, it has to be recognised that access to formal courts and officially recognised forums of alternate dispute resolution, such as the Musalihati Anjumans, is a fundamental right the attainment of which must be facilitated, at least in terms of awareness, sensitization and information disseminationin the event that the AAWAZ Committee and partners are unable to help resolve a dispute or conflict.
Against the above backdrop, activities under Output 2 will be geared, in the main, to motivate and build the capacity of AAWAZ Committees (from village to district level) to help mediate and resolve conflicts peacefully and to create an environment of harmony that reduces the likelihood of disputes from emerging in the first place. To strengthen communal tolerance, sensitize communities for dispute and conflict resolution and encourage access to the formal justice systemin case of failure, activities under the output will include promotion of legal literacy and training of activists and lawyers in mediation, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), law and gender, and human rights law.
There is also a need to make sure that activities under Output 2 complement the work being done under the other two outputs and vice versa. For example, legal literacy campaigns at the community level as well as training of activists and lawyers could emphasise the right to vote (Output 1). Similarly, improvements in public sector education under Output 3 could involve advocacy for removing gender and religious biases in school curricula and classroom practices with a view to creating an environment of peace and harmony (Output 2). Similarly, knowledge and awareness imparted through Output 2 activities could help pave the way for the lobbying required for the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Output 3).
It is important to note that the inherent values of Output 2 are justice, equality, gender justice, patience and inclusion of excluded groups. This means that all activities planned by the team reflect and support the stated values. Further, activities planned for Output 2 must be in line with the spirit of the Constitution of Pakistan, international agreements such as CEDAW, CRC, CERD, ICCPR, ICESCR, etc., must take into account queries related to the Pakistan Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC), the Police Order 2002, and contribute to creating an environment of peace in 5,000 specific geographical entities. AAWAZ teams will be given adequate orientation of the stated Conventions and sections of the Constitution of Pakistan, so that all planning,advocacy and lobbying is informed by the knowledge that is gained.
As part of the wider State led efforts to improve State mechanisms, including the justice and security sector, the AAWAZ programme proposes a participatory, bottom-up approach, based on the premise that people are the best resource for building and sustaining peace. Such an approach aims to strengthen community capacities to resolve disputes peacefully; to develop trust, safety, and social cohesion within and between communities; and to promote inter-ethnic and inter-group dialogue. AAWAZ recognizes that nothing can replace action on the ground. The absence of the State and high levels of insecurity, discrimination, polarisation and violence that exist at the local level mean that the space for influence, most particularly for the excluded sections of communities, is limited. Therefore, action carried out in isolation at the local community level is unlikely, at this stage, to resolve conflict. It may present real risks to the individuals at the community level. In thiscontext, the means by which the output will deliver results is to seek to end the isolation of villages and the disempowered and give voice to their concerns. In other words, to link local level civil society actions to civil society action at union council, district and national level, amplifying local concerns and seeking influence of State and non-State mechanisms on the local elite to resolve local disputes in accordance with the law and Pakistan and international obligations, before they escalate into violent conflict.
The approach is rights-driven. It recognises the links between peace, security, development and human rights, and the need to tackle marginalization and vulnerability, and empower citizens to become actors of change with rights, entitlements and duties. The AAWAZ model of intervention and processes is guided by core human rights principles.
The peace building arm of AWAZ seeks to carry out three key roles:
- monitoring and facilitation at the local/district level
- confidence-building measures, peace building conflict management, social harmony and reconciliation at local, district and provincial level
- support to restoration and extension of state authority at local, district and provincial level
Local civil society is inherently best placed to report on emerging disputes and conflict, but their capacity currently to carry out this role is very low. Their capacity to act is severely limited by local level insecurity, discrimination and the constant threat of violence. They also lack the means, knowledge and capacity to analyse, and disseminate information more widely. They have limited knowledge of available national mechanisms, the media, national law, the various international treaties ratified by Pakistan that obligate the state to intervene, and the international mechanisms that can be invoked when the State fails.
The role of AAWAZ’s interventions is to provide those skills and capacity, and strengthen the voice of the voiceless at the local level. The action is focused on enabling facilitation and problem solving. The peace-building initiative seeks opportunities to support and leverage the work of other national actors and, failing that, the international community. In turn, local peace-building work will enable the AAWAZ coalition to speak with authority with its hand on the pulse of the nation, and increase its influence through contacts with government and political party leaderships. It will ensure that regional and local considerations are integrated with its national advocacy and policy and priority-setting processes. AAWAZ aims to provide local communities with a bridge to the State that they may have perceived as being outside their reach.
Figure 1: Local Conflicts - Ending the Isolation
 Verbal controversy; contest by opposing argument or expression of opposing views or claims; controversial discussion; altercation; debate (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dispute)
 Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women
 Convention on the Rights of the Child
 Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights