FRC delegation in Japan highlighted importance of peace in FATA
Contrary to our expectations, Japanese were more polite, civilized, well mannered and hospitable than we had ever thought of. Our host, Japan Foundation was at our service when we landed at the Narita Airport. The sunshine in the middle of the chilly weather was a great luxury. We were taken straight away to Tokyo where we had to participate in a symposium on exploring the possible areas of cooperation between Pakistan and Japan and seeking solution to the decade long issue in the volatile tribal areas of Pakistan that has been at the center of global attention since the tragic incident of 9/11 and the subsequent fall of the Taliban Government in Afghanistan in the wake of the US-led coalition forces attack in late 2001.
Japan Foundation hosted an international symposium to bring people from different shades of opinion including parliamentarians, civil society representatives, media persons, diplomats, academicians and people from the business community round the table to discuss long-standing issues confronting Afghanistan and its adjacent tribal areas of Pakistan to find out viable solution for the sake of peace round the globe in general and in South Asia in particular.
The symposium had two sessions, one in Tokyo and the other one in Kyoto. The one in Tokyo was a great success that attracted over a hundred participants while Professor Osamu Miyata from the Faculty of International Relations University of Shizuoka moderated the sessions.
The writer’s (Dr Ashraf Ali, President, FATA Research Center) speech took note of how terrorism and violent extremism made its way to once peaceful region of the World-called FATA (the Federally Administered Tribal Areas) of Pakistan that shares a long border with Afghanistan. During the 15 minutes presentation efforts were made by Dr Ashraf to explain how the Russian invasion of 1979 paved way for the rise of ‘Jihadi’ culture in Afghanistan offering the Taliban a golden opportunity to take control of the country and rule it on their own whim. After the fall of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban found good sanctuaries in FATA where they were able to exploit the Pashtun code of ‘Pashtunwali’ (Pashtun’s traditional social norms and values) well in their favor and garner the support of the local people. The political and judicial vacuum, lack of political platform and the developing sense of deprivation amongst people were the main factors responsible for the rising tide of militancy in the region.
Mansur Khan Mahsud, a research scholar at the FATA Research Center spoke at length on the areas where enhanced cooperation between Pakistan and Japan could better contribute to the stabilization of the troubled area that has now become a global flashpoint. He said there were quite a lot of areas where both the countries could explore the possibilities of working together.
Hailing from the South Waziristan Agency of FATA, Mr Khan pointed out that Education was the dire need of FATA. So was health, he added.
Mr Khan highlighted the available potential in the fields of livestock, forestry and agricultural sectors prevailing in FATA saying if this potential was explored and exploited scientifically it will change the socio economic scenario of the area but also play its role in economic growth of Pakistan. Besides natural resources, the war-riddled FATA possesses huge reserves of mineral resources, which will be more than enough to generate employment and economic opportunities for young lot hence stopping them from joining the Taliban ranks and ultimately putting the area back on the track to progress and prosperity.
An Afghan journalist Abdul Sami Yousufzai enlightened the audience on the future prospects of Afghanistan. While taking an account of Pak-Afghan relations, Mr Yousufzai said it was time for both the countries to stop the blame game and join forces for the better tomorrow of the war-ravaged Afghan nation as well as people of the troubled FATA region. Being an important regional actor, Mr Yousufzai said, Pakistan should press the Taliban for negotiations. This could be the only way out to put an end to the decade long Afghan debacle and give peace a chance.
Mr Takuya Goto’s presentation enlightened the audience on the role of Sufism in Pakistani politics. Mr Goto recently concluded his visit to Pakistan researching the issue in question.
The presentations were followed by a question answer session that generated heated debate on sensitive issues like Pakistan’s military preparedness in taking on the militants and safety of its nuclear arsenals. Serious questions were raised about Pakistan’s security agencies’ alleged role in helping out militants across the border in Afghanistan and its alleged double role in the on-going war on terror. Some of the participants raised questions on Pakistan’s callous administration and its strength to defend its nuclear installations while others expressed concerns about its governance issues and corruption.
Efforts were however made to make some of the points clear by arguing that Pakistan’s professional army had all the capabilities to defend its nuclear arsenals from being fallen into the hands of the few hundred militants. We also made the point clear that Pakistan was not fighting its war; it was the war that was posing threat to the security of the whole region and of course the world at large. So this war should be fought altogether. Otherwise, if things went wrong, this would not be only the Pakistani nation but the world community as a whole to bear the brunt of consequences.
There seemed a great deal of interest in the region. This could be gauged from the fact that ‘The Center for Peace and Development in Afghanistan, that was established at Doshisha University, Kyoto, has been conducting interdisciplinary studies and research on rehabilitation and reconstruction in Afghanistan with reference to Peace and development since December 2010’. Headed by Professor Masanori NAITO, the center has been providing a platform for dialogue among different political and ethno-linguistic groups in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries by organizing research seminars, public lectures and symposiums. But despite all this seriousness and interest, due to lack of communication, there is very little understanding about the real issues. Japan has always been coming to our rescue whenever there have been sufferings in this part of the world; may it be the issues of flood affectees or earthquake victims, the IDPs or other natural calamities. Japan is seen as one of our trusted friends. For enhancing better understanding on issues of mutual interest, people to people contacts through cultural exchange programs may be a useful exercise. The educational institutions and academia’ too can play a vital role in this regard. The frequent visits of media persons from both sides may, to a great extent, create a better environment for working relationship.