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Pakistan is a country that has suffered from political instability and high levels of violence since its creation. Current challenges include rising sectarian tensions, evidence of radicalisation, continued poverty for much of the population and the ongoing impact of events in Afghanistan. Fortunately the current government is committed to addressing many of these challenges, and there is a vibrant civil society which continues to work towards managing conflict without the use of violence.

Saferworld has been working in Pakistan since 2002 – our work focuses on supporting peacebuilding initiatives and improving access to justice and the rule of law, as well as carrying out research on the formal and informal justice systems. We work across the country, from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the north-west, to Sindh and South Punjab in the south-east.

Current programming

Peacebuilding support to post-crisis needs assessment

As part of a consortium Saferworld is assisting the implementation of the Post-Crisis Needs Assessment conducted by the Government of Pakistan. The programme aims to improve security, justice and governance service provision and enable citizens to exercise their rights, leading to improved trust in the state, increased stability and sustainable development. Currently Saferworld is contributing to efforts to strengthen the rule of law in KP, in terms of security and justice, by providing technical support and expertise for community policing and gender-responsive policing.

Improving Access to Justice in South Punjab

In March 2015 Saferworld began work to improve access to justice in South Punjab, as part of a consortium led by Galway Development Services International (GDSI). Prior to the project launch a baseline study was completed. The project aims to improve access to justice for poor and vulnerable groups through support to legal and civil society organisations and judiciary in Punjab.

Supporting Disaster Risk Reduction

Saferworld is part of the Start Network consortium project, led by World Vision in Pakistan, called Linking Preparedness, Responses and Resilience (LPRR). The project aims to develop and test new ways of building community resilience to disasters; design humanitarian response interventions in ways which strengthen long-term community resilience; and develop a framework that supports continuous learning among project partners and that can inform the wider sector. Saferworld is contributing to the Disaster Risk Reduction training, and to local-level power analyses in the target communities.

Pakistan’s formal and informal justice systems

Saferworld, with the support of Oxfam Novib, has conducted a baseline study on the formal and informal justice systems in Pakistan, and community perceptions of both. Research was carried out in 12 districts across three provinces (Sindh, Punjab and KP) through a local consultant group. The conclusions from the study will be used to inform a report about people’s experiences of the formal and informal justice systems in Pakistan, and how gender, religion, ethnicity and socio-economic status can affect access to these systems.

Previous work

Strengthening the peacebuilding capacities of local actors

In 2015 we worked with 19 civil society organisations from KP, FATA, Southern Punjab, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, as well as at the national level from our Islamabad base, to build capacities of local actors, especially civil society, in early warning and early response. These efforts were part of a regional programme implemented with our partner Conciliation Resources in 32 countries. In addition to the overall objective to enhance in-country actors' capacity and opportunity to engage effectively in early warning, at the regional level the programme worked in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia to build the capacity of CSOs to engage with the concerns of the 2014 drawdown of international troops in Afghanistan and resulting changes in regional dynamics.

Jirgas, justice and conflict transformation

In 2012 Saferworld and partner CAMP completed research on the challenges and potential for jirgas (gatherings of elders to mediate a dispute) to be used for conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and restorative justice in KP. This research formed part of the People’s Peacemaking Perspectives Project, a global project by Saferworld and Conciliation Resources, which used participatory conflict analysis to inform the European Union’s planning processes for conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

Saferworld also supported CAMP to research the harmful impact of small arms on security in 2005 and to conduct a ‘Ballot without Bullet’ campaign for gun-free presidential elections in 2008.

Participatory approaches to peacebuilding in KP and FATA

In January 2012 Saferworld and CAMP began work on a three-year programme to promote and develop participatory peacebuilding initiatives in KP and FATA. Civil society has a direct role to play in local peacebuilding initiatives, including mediation and dialogue, and building on traditional mechanisms such as the Jirga system. We supported civil society organisations (CSOs) in the region to gain the skills and confidence needed to ensure that decision-makers understand and act on local security needs, and that communities and marginalised groups are consulted in national and international peace efforts.

After publishing our needs assessment of these local CSOs, we developed conflict transformation and peacebuilding training courses based on the conclusions. These courses aimed to develop practical skills and theoretical knowledge of peacebuilding on the following issues: participatory conflict analysis; conflict sensitivity; mediation, dialogue, negotiation and peacebuilding; advocacy for conflict transformation; understanding and measuring change; and community-driven initiatives for peace. We trained 70 CSOs from Swat, Chitral, Malakand, Shangla, Burner, and Lower and Upper Dir in KP. The manual developed for these trainings is available to download here.

In November 2014 small grants were given to community driven initiatives developed by local CSOs after their training. These focused on a range of outcomes including mediation, rebuilding infrastructure and raising community awareness.

These programmes have been supported by the European Union Delegation to Pakistan.

The May 2013 election in Pakistan was a historic event as it marked the first time in the country’s history that an elected government completed its term and transitioned to another elected government. Nawaz Sharif, of the Pakistan Muslim League, was elected as Prime Minister. This election also marked the highest ever voter turnout (over 60%) as reported by international observers.

However, despite the importance of the election, the government and the country still face multiple challenges, including militancy and terrorism in the north-west (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas); ethnic, sectarian, and criminal violence in Karachi; insurgency in Balochistan; rising sectarian tensions and militancy in Southern Punjab; political tensions with opposition parties; as well as concerns about underdevelopment and governance issues leading to radicalisation and extremism. Along its borders, Pakistan is dealing with long-standing tensions with India in the east, and on the western border the Pakistani state is engaged in intensive military operations against militants. It is facing a number of unpredictable scenarios as a result of the 2014 drawdown of international troops in Afghanistan, which could have a destabilising effect on regional power dynamics.

In December 2014 a deadly attack on a Peshawar public school killed 147 civilians including 133 children. This resulted in a significant shift in Pakistan’s security context, with full-scale military operations launched against militants. These ongoing security operations are having significant consequences for Pakistani civilians, especially in the tribal region of North Waziristan where a large military operation is underway, aiming to eliminate terrorists living in this area. Since this operation began over 800,000 people have been forced to migrate to nearby towns. These temporarily displaced persons, the majority of whom are women and children, are in need of humanitarian assistance after the Pakistani government failed to give them sufficient time to evacuate, and has not made adequate provisions to feed and house them.

Another consequence of the Peshawar attack was the adoption of the 21st amendment to the 1973 constitution, allowing the rapid establishment of military courts to try ‘suspected terrorists’. As a result, more than 300 people have been condemned to death since December 2014.

This map is intended for illustrative purposes only. Saferworld takes no position on whether this representation is legally or politically valid.

more features

The impact of Afghanistan’s transition processes on conflict in Pakistan

This policy brief discusses the impact of the multiple transition processes underway in Afghanistan on peace and conflict dynamics in Pakistan.

Case studies from Pakistan

In three case studies from our work in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa we look at the role of women in peacebuilding, how mediation skills can help people resolve conflict, and 'building back better' for peace.

Jirga in PakistanPromoting participatory approaches to peacebuilding

This research is a needs assessment of local CSOs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. We identify how non-state actors contribute to peacebuilding efforts in the region, and where capacity building is required.