National Consultations on Afghan Refugees

Currently, there are some 1,470,000 displaced persons of Afghan ancestry or origin (also referred to as “Afghan refugees”) living in Pakistan, to whom the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has issued Proof of Registration (POR) cards during the country-wide registration in 2006/2007. There are, in addition, an estimated 500,000 undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan. 74 percent of Afghan refugees are second or third generation born in Pakistan. It is widely recognized in the international community that Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world, which has hosted such a large refugee community over such an extended period of time. Pakistan’s generous and prolonged investment in the Afghan refugee community is, however, in danger of being frittered away because of the absence of a long-term, comprehensive and well-thought-out national policy for the management and voluntary repatriation of Afghan Refugees. The adoption of a comprehensive policy would allow for a more predictable and solutions-oriented approach to managing the refugee population, in line with the national interests of Pakistan. A long-term strategy would further support the efforts to mobilize resources needed for facilitating voluntary repatriation and for continued support to Pakistani host communities, pending the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland. Please refer to our Introductory Booklet to National Consultations on Afghan Refugees for further information The absence of a comprehensive legal and administrative policy governing the issue of refugees is detrimental to Pakistan on many fronts; from security and border management to the regulation of labor and migration. Indeed, adopting a national comprehensive policy for refugees would serve as an important part of national security policy, a population and border management tool, and above all, ensure that all residents of Pakistan are being afforded the rights that they are entitled to. Furthermore, it should be noted that such an undertaking would be beneficial for promoting regional stability by strengthening Afghanistan-Pakistan relations. In order to respond to the need for comprehensive national legislation and policy formulation on Afghan refugees, CODE PAKISTAN has initiated the National Consultations on Afghan Refugees in Pakistan to sensitize the Government of Pakistan on evolving a comprehensive policy on voluntary repatriation and management of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The specific objectives of the project are two-fold and as follows:

  1. Conducting stakeholder consultations for developing policy recommendations on the voluntary repatriation and management of Afghan refugees in Pakistan;
  2. Presenting policy recommendations generated through stakeholder consultations to the Government of Pakistan and other relevant state institutions.

The consultative sessions will be held in two rounds in Islamabad. The first round was held on January 10, while the second round was held on January 24. Each round of consultative sessions comprised of simultaneous consultations on the following six themes:

  1. Existing Legal Mechanisms to Manage Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: The Application of National and International Legal Instruments;
  2. Institutional Mechanisms for the Management of Refugees in Pakistan: Past and Future;
  3. The Emerging International Climate on Refugee Management: How should Pakistan Respond?
  4. Tapping into the Economic Growth Potential of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan;
  5. Political response to Afghan Refugees in Pakistan;
  6. Islam and Muhajireen: Viewing Pakistan’s Afghan Refugee Phenomenon from the Lens of Islamic Discourses on Hijrah.

The first round of consultations was aimed at a general discussion around the six themes, while the second round was meant for converging on practical recommendations on each of them. We held another round of consultations with senior-level government officials on February 28 to share the draft findings and recommendations of the two rounds of consultations with them and to seek their feedback on both. Currently, we are in the process of finalizing the comprehensive report of the National Consultations on Afghan Refugees including policy recommendations on the matter of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, which will be shared with key government officials through the Ministry of SAFRON. In making this effort, CODE PAKISTAN is following in the footsteps of the Government of Pakistan, which has approved the adoption of a National Refugee Law in a federal cabinet meeting on August 15, 2013.

Surfsafe Pakistan

Since we are aiming for a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan by unlocking the potential of Pakistanis, we believe that it cannot be done without peace, tolerance, and inclusivity in the society. Most of our work revolves around these three themes. Through Surfsafe®, we are not only aspiring to save lives but also trying to increase space for our message of peace, tolerance, and inclusivity.

Pakistan has lost thousands of civilian lives to terrorism since 2002. Thousands more have lost their limbs or sustained physical injuries, while hundreds of thousands have suffered mental trauma because of the death, destruction, and terror caused by terrorism. These figures are not mere statistics; they are hundreds of thousands of tales of tragedy caused by someone’s hatred and disdain for human life. The Government of Pakistan and its law enforcement agencies are mindful of their responsibilities in this regard. Pakistan’s security forces have killed over 33,000 terrorists and sacrificed over 6,500 of their own lives in their efforts to protect civilians from terrorism. Thousands of terrorists are behind bars facing the law owing to the efforts of Pakistan’s security forces.

We need to be mindful, however, that security forces come into action only after a terrorist is created and is about to about to commit a terrorist act or has already committed it. By the time security forces zero-in on a suspect for taking action, he has already gone through several steps of indoctrination, radicalization, recruitment, organization, and action. If we would not try to counter the mindset and narrative that breeds extremism, our law enforcement agencies will continue fighting terrorism and sacrificing their precious lives for our safety.

Therefore, we have a responsibility toward ourselves and our saviors: We have to fight the extremist narrative that breeds terrorists. Such narrative comes in various forms and shapes, but in this day and age of technology, the most potent platform available to extremists to spread their message of hate is the internet. We are aiming to deny space to the killers of innocent civilians in the cyber world, so that cannot indoctrinate impressionable minds into mindless violence. We need your help with that.

Through our expertise in promotion of peace, tolerance, and inclusivity, as well as the pool of experts in the field that we are networked with, we are in a very good position to analyze any extremist content reported to us. More importantly, through our sustained efforts in the field in the past few years, we have developed a good working relationship with various law enforcement agencies of Pakistan.

Therefore, we can not only best analyze the extremist content on a page that you would report to us, we can also get your message across to the right quarters in a format that would be quick and easy for them to process and take action on.

You can either report a page to us anonymously through our anonymous hotline or by becoming a member of our E-Scout team through creating a User Account. In the case of anonymous reporting, all you need to do is to paste the link of the concerned website in the given space. That’s it, and we will take care of the rest. If you would want to be a part of our effort in rooting out extremist content from the internet in Pakistan, we would strongly encourage you to become a member of our E-Scout team by creating a user account with us.

University Madrasah Interaction Program

Pakistan is struggling to contain rising extremism and polarization within the society. The opaque religious and sectarian madrasah education system that insulates its students from diversity and tolerance is compounding this social division and exclusion. The students of madrasahs hardly get a chance of any meaningful dialogue with the students of the mainstream education system, that is, schools, colleges, and universities etc. This causes polarization and radicalization among the madrasah students.

CODE PAKISTAN embarked on the four-month University Madrasah Interaction Program (UMIP) in October 2015 to bring the madrasah students closer to the students of the mainstream educational institutions through a series of ten discussions between students of Abasyn University and various Islamabad-based madrasahs. The study we conducted among the participating students to ascertain the change in their perceptions after participating in our activity has revealed that we have brought about a certain degree of moderation of views among the participating madrasah and Abasyn University students. The program has also resulted in producing a detailed study on the convergences and divergences—in opinions and logical discourse—between madrasah and university youth that could inform future interventions in the field. Our impact evaluation study as part of the program is another informative document on the perceptions of the students of madrasahs and the target university.

List of University Madrasah Discussions

Following is the list of the 10 discussions that we held between the students of the two institutions:

Muslim Ummah and the Challenges of Modern Times (October 12, 2015)

Peace through Economic Cooperation: Can India and Pakistan Move Forward? (October 15, 2015)

Problems of Education System in Pakistan (October 22, 2015)

Causes of Pakistan’s Weak Economy (October 29, 2015)

Who We Are? Pakistan’s Sectarian War (November 04, 2015)

The Shrinking White in the Pakistani Flag (November 26, 2015)

Pakistan’s Cultural Identity: What are the Sources of our Cultural Pride? (December 03, 2015)

Art Forms and Islam: What is Permissible? (December 10, 2015)

Are Reason and Religion in Conflict with Each Other? (December 16, 2015)

The Role of Science in Development and Prosperity of Nations (December 23, 2015)

Training Sessions

Besides the discussions and the study based on the discussions, CODE PAKISTAN also conducted training sessions for every participating group of madrasah and university students separately. The training sessions were aimed at introducing the project to the participating students as well as training them on having a non-hostile and meaningful dialogue in a situation where there could be serious disagreements in opinions. The participating madrasah and university students were trained on understanding the topic and giving logical arguments in favor of their stance on the topic. They were also trained on keeping the discussion relevant and on refraining from monopolizing time in order to give every participant of the discussion an opportunity to participate. The participating students were trained on how to express a difference of opinion without getting confrontational in a spirit of a logical discussion rather than a competition as well. Since all the discussions under the program were moderated, the students were also trained on the rules and procedures of participation in moderated discussions.

Concluding Ceremony

The concluding ceremony of the project was held on February 29, 2016.

Conserving the Untamed Polo

Polo is played in Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) for centuries. The rules of this historic form of polo, which we call the Untamed Polo, differ from the modern polo played elsewhere in the world. The Untamed Polo is so popular in Chitral and GB that it symbolizes the local culture of the areas. Another important cultural aspect of the game is its close association with folk music. Every polo team, every polo situation, and even every polo-playing family has a distinct folk music tune.

In spite of all its charm, however, the game is facing serious difficulties at various levels because of several constraints. Various government institutions have introduced their own Traditional Polo teams ostensibly for supporting the game, but it has proved counterproductive for the traditional sport in a variety of ways. Conserving the Untamed Polo (CUP) is aimed at supporting the traditional polo played by the historic geographically based polo teams in Chitral and GB through a variety of interventions for: Enhancing the popularity of the Untamed Polo at the national and international levels; protecting and preserving the history and heritage of the Untamed Polo and its associated art forms; and strengthening the geographically-based Untamed Polo teams at the levels of villages, Union Councils, Tehsils, and districts.

Stitching Hopes

In difficult times nations require renewed human energy and skills to overcome challenges. In such times women suffer from all sides. She suffers because of cultural barriers. Despite being capable and talented they cannot step outside of their residence to find economic opportunities. Stitching Hopes is not only an effort to empower women and educate young girls but it aims at preserving and recognizing the traditional embroidery skills of Chitral. CODE PAKISTAN will assist skilled women from Chitral to find place in the national and international markets. The idea is to fuse their skills with contemporary market requirements both in terms of trends and techniques. The monetary profits from the project will be utilized to educate the girls (age 4-18) in Chitral. The skilled women who are part of the project will nominate these girls. The idea is to embed lifelong empowerment feeling in the minds of the beneficiary girls and on the other hand empower those women by making them the decision makers. The unique aspect of the project is that the beneficiary girl’s educational financial guardians will be women not men. This idea alone will make the girls and women feel genuinely empowered. CODE PAKISTAN aims to assist women to have sublime faith in themselves, because then they will always have sublime faith in mankind.

The Buried Treasure of Peace

The Buried Treasure of Peace is the story of the Sufi saints.  The project’s inbuilt strength is borrowed from the Sufi message of peace, tolerance, and inclusivity. The project’s innovation lies in the skillful fusion of media and community engagement.

The first aspect of the project’s communication strategy is engaging TV viewers and National Radio listeners in helping create a reason to choose peace and condemn violence. The second aspect of the project is to engage university and madrasah students through Youth Engagement Dialogue Series. The dialogue series will provide students with an opportunity to debate on important peace themes and encourage them to condemn violence and reject extremist ideologies. The project’s third aspect is engagement with the the international audience that would help Pakistan in presenting its non-violent, tolerant, and inclusive image. The fourth aspect is to hold an International Sufi Conference and help strengthen international peace-loving Sufi networks. The fifth aspect would extend the message of peace for an indefinite period by creating a Center of Excellence. The Center will act as an academic platform to connect religious education with formal education, a resource center, and an international networking institution for scholars of Sufi studies world over.