Conflict: At What Cost?

Conflict is a no-win situation. It starts, when parties involved in a dispute, stop talking to each other and start fighting. Better sense dictates that such a situation is best avoided. This, however, is not usually the case. The end result of a short or protracted conflict is almost always unpleasant. It leaves in its wake a lot of damage and destruction. Lives are lost, properties destroyed and a large number of people displaced and made refugees. Costs of a conflict are difficult to calculate. More hurtful than the material losses is the burden of trauma that victims of the conflict continue to bear throughout their lives. Physical wounds may eventually heal but the psychological scars are of a permanent nature. Nightmares keep haunting the sufferers of painful experiences and even a minor incident can trigger an agonizing episode buried somewhere in the recesses of the memory. Often an entire generation or two bears the brunt of conflict. Sometimes the tragedy lingers on without any end in sight. Palestine and Kashmir are two such examples. Syria is currently on the throes of an unending civil war that rages on after five years. Death, starvation, migration, human smuggling and drowning in a pitiless sea journey to Europe have become the painful images of this disaster of the twenty first century.

Although wars and conflicts rarely lead to an equitable solution, human beings frequently resort to violent means to resolve disputes. Social and economic injustice is often the root cause of violent conflict. Agitation and conflict is most commonly the product of factors like low or  declining per capita  incomes, unequal distribution of wealth, exploitation of natural resources by one and marginalization and exclusion of the other, usually the minority or the weaker group. The causes of the conflict can be varied and very many and may differ from one case to another; however, there is always one odd chance to prevent conflict by addressing the root cause of the problem in the initial phase before it becomes out of  control. A bit of common  sense and patience can, at this stage, prevent an ugly turn of events and retrieve the situation.

All hope is lost, when emotions run high and caution is thrown to the winds. When conflict becomes inevitable, it quickly acquires a momentum of its own and follows an erratic and unstoppable trajectory. Once the spark is ignited, conflict rapidly transitions from one stage to another, peaking and subsiding and peaking again before one party of the conflict gains an upper hand and the other party becomes a spent force. At times, conflict is brought to a close when the belligerents have simply had enough. Sometimes, the parties to the conflict do not have the will or the capacity to close the conflict, in that case, outside intervention is required  to restore order. In contemporary times UN peacekeeping interventions in conflict zones takes place, when it is beyond the ken of the parties to the conflict to stop fighting with each other.

After cessation of hostilities, the parties to the conflict, either of their own accord or through the good offices of an honest broker, agree upon a mutually acceptable face saving formula. There are occasions, when the weaker party has to surrender abjectly. It is then left to the victor to either exact vengeance at the most intolerable terms or to behave maturely and humanely, and display magnanimity and generosity by agreeing to forgive and forget and move on. A return to peace and normality is usually ushered in through painstaking negotiations and a tacit understanding of each other’s point of view. Reconciliation  is  a  moot  point  in  this  process.  Traditional  experience  of  conflict resolution tells us that meaningful and successful post conflict rehabilitation only takes place with a lot of tolerance and acceptance. There is no gainsaying the fact that post conflict phase is the most difficult part of the entire conflict cycle. Unless it is enacted with sensitivity, compassion and commitment, it can only become an exercise in futility. Worse still, there can be a relapse into conflict that can even be worse than the original conflict. The post conflict situation needs to be tackled imaginatively by designing strategies which make it convenient for all parties to pick up the threads of their lives and rebuild their society gradually in the short-, medium- and long-term time period. A lot of thought and effort has to go in to make the entire process sustainable.

Post Conflict Rehabilitation Process

Post-conflict peace building and development must address those  threats to security which gave rise to the conflicts in the first instance and to ensure that these do not recur in future. Areas of focus in post-conflict peace building include restoration of law and order, security and pacification of hostile territories; re-establishment of the governance  structures  including  law-making,  adjudication,  enforcement,  as  well  as policy  and  implementation  institutions.  Internally  Displaced  Persons  (IDPs)  and refugees have to be re-integrated and resettled. Damaged infrastructure has to be reconstructed and rehabilitated. Economic engine has to be re-ignited to facilitate resuscitation  of  full-scale  economic  activities  and  setting  the  country on  a  path  to peaceful and inclusive development.

With the growing recognition of the multidimensional nature of post-conflict peace building, there has been a progressive move to build multidisciplinary, comprehensive and integrated approaches that not only ensure a smooth transition from emergency relief to long-term development but also puts in place a long term development framework.  The  groundwork  for  long-term  development  must  begin  at  the  earliest stages following a conflict. Many national and international agencies are involved in the rehabilitation process. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is mandated to develop frameworks and promote a long term development perspective, in close cooperation with other parts of the UN system (UNDESA 2016).

After the conflict is over, the writ of the government has to be restored in the disturbed areas. Pacification measures generally commence with the deployment of substantial military force, the cause of peace and order can only be fully served if attention focuses on the long-term strengthening of capacity for the routine law enforcement agencies. Demobilization and Disarmament of former combatants and the attempt to Reintegrate (DDR) them into society is part of the process of restoring order and security. Civil administrative structures and institutions have to be rebuilt before displaced people can even consider returning to their native land. This involves, improving civil service effectiveness i.e. ability to deliver basic services; enhancing the capacity of the government and its ministries to implement basic decisions. Budget

preparation, book-keeping, and financial reporting system have to be revitalized. Mobilizing tax revenue and ensuring prompt lodgment of proceeds in the national treasury. The public service’s institutional memory has to be restored through the establishment of operational record-keeping and archiving systems; and enacting a new tax and financial management law, and the ancillary rules and regulations.

As territories wracked by conflict are secured, and basic governance institutions are put in place to perform essential functions, attention is shifted to pressing issues such as the resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees and IDPs, including victims of violence and of provision of emergency relief assistance. Critical to the goal of reintegration are efforts towards skills development and youth employment. The key challenge  in  handling  emergency  relief  operations  is  developing  the  capacity  of domestic and international agencies not only to work in tandem, but to plan, sequence, and coordinate the operations for the benefit of all stakeholders, particularly, the refugees and former host-communities and their home governments.

Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure are critical to the success of post-conflict stabilization efforts. Many low-income countries do not have the wherewithal to energize their economies and to reduce the chances of backsliding into conflict. If social services, such as health and education, are instituted or restored at an early stage this can make a vital contribution to people’s lives as well as fostering greater support for the process of national reconciliation. It is during the first few years that the roots of peace can be firmly implanted. Sometimes international aid becomes essential.

Among the measures that should be undertaken in pursuit of confidence-building and economic normalization are essential steps such as: Formulation of sound gender- sensitive macro-economic, fiscal, monetary (including commercial banking) policies; strengthening of the capacity of law-enforcement and judicial agencies; implementation of trade policies aimed at the integration of the country into the global economy; inculcation of service-delivery, ‘customer-caring’, and investor-friendly attitudes in all cadres of the public service; provision of financial, technical advisory, and information services to small- and medium-scale enterprise, including enterprises run by women;

and provide them services to link them to domestic with foreign investors, and local producers, including women producers, with the world market (UNDESA 2004).

The success of post conflict rehabilitation is dependent on a large measure on the agencies involved in the process, the political will of the government, and the spirit of the displaced people themselves.

Pakistani Agencies involved in Post Conflict Rehabilitation

In Pakistan a host of government agencies are involved in managing different sorts of human and natural disasters involving displacement of people and managing the relief and rehabilitation operations. A number of NGOs, INGOs, volunteer groups and public spirited individuals are also part of these efforts. The official organizations include the National and Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (NDMA and PDMA), the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), Chief Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees, Ministry of Interior and Narcotics Control, Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces. The last named institution in almost all cases provides the first responders to any emergency. The training and wherewithal of the military makes it convenient to quickly and efficiently mobilize and move in response to any calamity. Over the years, the armed forces of Pakistan have responded to so many emergencies that their standard operating procedures (SOPs) have been refined and they know exactly what to do and how to collaborate with the civilian agencies in the long run. In most cases even before the civilian agencies gear up to mount a credible response, the soldiers move on foot, vehicles and helicopters to reach remote zones not only for rescue and relief but also to provide the first relief with their own rations and tent-age.

The NDMA, at the federal level, is the lead agency to deal with whole range of disaster management activities. The PDMAs also refer to NDMA for all policy matters. Technically the  NDMA  is  the  executive  arm  of  the  National  Disaster  Management Commission (NDMC), which works as the apex policy making body to manage disasters under the direct leadership of the Prime Minister. All agencies involved in disaster management  i.e.  all  ministries/departments/organizations,  Armed  Forces,  INGOs, NGOs, UN agencies are supposed to work through a ‘one window operation’ of the

NDMA. Among other things the NDMA is required to develop sustainable operational capacity and professional competence of disaster managers. The NDMC lays down the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management. Among its multifarious tasks, it is not supposed only to “arrange for, and oversee, the provision of funds for the purpose of mitigation measures, preparedness and response”, but also “take such other measures for the prevention of disaster, or the mitigation, or for preparedness and capacity  building  for  dealing  with  disaster  situation  as  it  may  consider necessary.”(NDMA 2016). Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) was established to carryout long term rehabilitation of the victims of the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP). ERRA is on the verge of being subsumed into NDMA (Khan 2015).

SAFRON is the ministry responsible for the affairs of the refugees and those belonging to the tribal areas. In that context they are involved in setting up camps for the refugees and displaced people. They are also responsible for the movement of the displaced people back to their native places (SAFRON 2016). The Commissionerate of the Afghan Refugees was created primarily to look after the affairs of the displaced Afghans and is an attached department of SAFRON (Commisionerate 2016).

The Ministry of Interior and NADRA keeps count of the displaced population. One purpose to keep them all in the camps and to see to it that neither the militants are permitted to infiltrate the IDP camps nor is the displaced population allowed to lose themselves in the urban areas in their vicinity. NADRA also issues watan (nation) card that entitles the head of the displaced family to draw a monthly stipend to cover his family’s basic expenses (NADRA 2016). Fund raising is done at various levels. Sometimes accounts are opened directly by the Prime Minister’s and provincial Chief Ministers’ secretariats and even the military’s press information department ISPR. Collection points for aid are opened by the federal, provincial and military authorities at various prominent places in the cities and towns of the nation. The camp management and distribution of relief goods is the responsibility of the national and provincial disaster management agencies. In remote places the military provides direct relief through air and helicopter drops.

Post Conflict Rehabilitation Challenges in Pakistan

Pakistan is faced with a raft of post-conflict challenges. To add to its problems, is the fact that the conflict hasn’t really ended in the tribal areas and the ongoing counter insurgency campaign Zarb-i-Azab has yet to reach its culmination stage. Pakistan also has the dubious honor of hosting the world’s largest population of refugees. It has as of now almost 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees and a similar number of unregistered refugees.  According  to  UNHCR,  in  August  2014,  there  were  714,548  registered internally  displaced  people  (IDPs)  in  need  of  humanitarian  assistance  due  to  the ongoing security operations in the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) and KP. The North Waziristan emergency has further displaced approximately 500,000 people. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), as of July 2015, there were more than 1.8 million people displaced by insurgency, counter-insurgency and other related violence in Pakistan (UNHCR 2015). To underscore the transient nature of their displacement, the Government of Pakistan insists that they are not internally displaced rather they are Temporarily Displaced People or TDPs for short.

Huge amounts of money are needed to create a safe environment for the people to return to the areas that they were forced to vacate because of conflict. This means a gigantic rebuilding and reconstruction programme. Speaking to a correspondent in January 2015, the minister of SAFRON Lt Gen (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch estimated that the rehabilitation of around 2 million IDPs would cost Rs100 billion and all out efforts were being made to raise funds for the process. He did not specify whether it would also include the rehabilitation of the areas destroyed by conflict (APP 2015).

There is no gainsaying the fact that the return of the IDPs has been painfully slow.  The  ground  situation  prevents  their  going  to  areas  devoid  of  the  basic infrastructure and facilities like schools and hospitals. The administrative void has to be filled in by government agencies providing the administrative setup, law enforcement agencies, a legal system and most importantly jobs. Another major issue that is of significance is the status of FATA. Long governed by a mix of the colonial political administrator armed with the repressive Frontier Arms Regulation (FCR) and a system of local Maliks comprising local elders, the tribesmen are pressing for their agencies to

be either given the status of a separate province or to be absorbed into the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). This is a long and complicated process needing consensus and legislation. Parliamentary committees have been established to look into this important matter but no end date is known to the public about how long these deliberations will take (Wazir 2015).

DDR is also a major challenge. Particularly reintegrating those who have laid down their arms is a difficult and slow process. This requires the restoration of confidence in those who had picked up arms against the state. The state needs to underscore the fact that they have been forgiven and they are welcome to rejoin the society that they left behind by choice. Jobs have to be created for these young men well versed in only one skill – fighting. Some rehabilitation centers have been opened up in various places such as Malakand, Swat Valley, Bara tehsil and Dera Ismail Khan with the help of the army (Ahmed 2012). These are commendable steps but these pale into insignificance when compared with the task at hand. No exact figures are available of those, who fell prey to virulent ideologies and how many of them actually have given up on their violent ideals. Reintegrating them into the society is a difficult job. Many previous Taliban may not be willing to come in for rehab programmes. Even if they join in and are taught skills to help them in their new lives, it is not certain if the society will accept them as reformed people. Their past will always be an albatross that they will carry around their necks. To mainstream and de-radicalize former cadres of militant organizations would be the collective effort of the individual, his family, the society, and the government.

The Army has claimed on more than one occasion that the militant infested areas in FATA have nearly been cleared. The figures being quoted from time to time mention

95 to 98 per cent area as having been sanitized. The real task will, however, begin once these cleared areas are repopulated and normalized with meaningful economic activity.


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