Policy Framework for a National Program on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration


Conflict follows an uneven and unpredictable trajectory and its shelf life is difficult to predict. Precisely because of this reason crisis managers need different tools and strategies to handle each ebb and flow of the conflict cycle. If handled properly, the situation can be controlled before it escalates into a full blown situation. If the writ of the state prevails, conflict eventually subsides but this is never the end of the story. The most difficult stage is always reintegrating and rehabilitating victims on both sides of the political divide. In order to usher in normality, the state initiates a process called Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) for former combatants. The UN recognizes DDR as crucial activity for the initial stabilizing of war torn societies as well as long term development.

The DDR program in Pakistan’s conflict ridden areas is little known and does not match the scale and intensity of conflict that is still far from over. Some post conflict rehabilitation projects have been undertaken in areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In most cases these initiatives are based on the initiatives of government and non-government organizations, and in some instances it is driven by a sense of corporate and individual responsibility. There are several flaws in this method of working i.e. there is little by way of overall direction and there is no overarching policy to control the existing resources.

The purpose of this paper is to recommend a policy framework for national DDR, so that all elements of the government machinery and those inclined to become part of this program can jointly chalk out a plan for the greater good of the country.

Keywords: Post-Conflict phase, Rehabilitation and Reintegration

*Associate Dean Centre for International Peace & Stability (CIPS), NUST Islamabad

**PhD candidate CIPS, NUST Islamabad


Post-conflict rehabilitation is not a simple process and requires a lot of imagination and patience on the part of the policy planners and implementers to bring it to fruition. It entails elaborate planning; encompassing several programs, policies and strategies. Most importantly, it needs to be coordinated on multiple planes. In a nutshell it is the combined effort of the government machinery, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), humanitarian organizations, as well as the denizens of the conflict zones. It is not merely limited to reintegration or restoration of ex-combatants and reconstruction of infrastructure and properties destroyed during the conflict but in a broader sense it is a transition from violence and conflict to peace and tranquility. It is an opportunity to transform old and archaic structure of governance to a new, modern ones based on the principles of democracy, tolerance and pluralism. It provides to the society a chance to involve not only the ex-combatants but all official and non-official segments to work together to rebuild the nation (Janzen, 2014).

In case of Pakistan, there is no one size fit all solution for the various conflict and post conflict situations prevailing in the country. Axiomatically, therefore, the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) approaches need to be carefully evaluated and implemented on case to case basis. The UN Integrated DDR Standards (2006) can also not be generically applied in all zones of conflict (Nations, 2006). It will not be wrong to say that “The UN-led or UN-styled DDR is hardly relevant in today’s international politics and the world of state-building” (Giustozzi, 2012, p. 01).

Research Methodology

This is an ethnographic research, where a particular community in the conflict zone was the subject of study for an extended period of time. The information gleaned from the extensive literature on post-conflict rehabilitation was extensively used during field visits to analyze what is going around as official and un-official programs to rehabilitate the people affected by violence including both the victims and former militants. The study was difficult because the areas, where these schemes are being run are still considered far from stable and movement in most places is not possible without the support and help of the military and other law enforcement agencies.

For the purpose of writing this paper, Swat in its post conflict phase was chosen as the area of research. The reason for choosing Swat is simple. It is nearer Islamabad and is relatively easy to access. In comparison the restive province of Balochistan is far off and there is no evidence that any worthwhile rehabilitation work similar to the kind undertaken in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Punjab has taken place there. The purpose of the research has been to build up a case for a national policy on DDR.

There is no theoretical framework for this research work apart from the fact that unless there are proper policies in place, any effort at rehabilitation is likely to fail and violence and conflict can return with even greater vengeance than before. The study does not deliberately touch upon the debate of removing the cause of conflict because this is beyond its scope and has been left for a later research work.

The Concept of DDR

The ultimate purpose of any rehabilitation program is to restore a war-torn society to its pre-conflict situation of peaceful co-existence and stability. DDR is the internationally recognized procedure to achieve this purpose. Its essential purpose is to wean away an armed group or person from an ideology of violence and reduce its will and capacity to engage in armed rebellion against the state (Knight, 2012). Once the armed militants realize that armed resistance is no longer necessary, the state can work towards demobilizing, disarming and reintegrating the former combatants into the society. For a successful reintegration, disarmament and demobilization of the non-state armed groups is imperative. There are number of methods and procedures through which the disarmament and demobilization is achieved. After the militants or anti-state elements have been sufficiently weakened they can be won over through negotiations, mediations and arbitration. This is always a painstakingly prolonged procedure e.g. after the three decades long civil war in Sri Lanka only 12000 former Tamil Tigers have been reintegrated into the society. The Sri Lankan rehabilitation program consists of ‘six+1’ model. This is based on: Firstly the recreational approach, which allow the combatants to participate in extra-curricular activities; second is social and cultural rehabilitation; third is the spiritual and religious; fourth is vocational training; fifth is educational; sixth is psycho-social and the seventh is community engagement (Dharmawardhane, 2013). The process of reintegration has failed in most states around the world due to non-satisfactory achievement of disarmament and demobilization (Giustozzi, 2012). Antinio Giustozzi (2012) has collected a number of DDR stories around the world. He found out that in Greece there was the problem of ‘hidden weapons’ with Greek People’s Liberation Army which resulted in civil war; and in El Salvador the ‘best weapons’ were not surrendered as promised in disarmament agreement; and in Cambodia underground paramilitary structure was not dismantled (Giustozzi, 2012, pp. 03-08). 

In case of our country, DDR activities have been taken up in earnest in Swat, which is settled territory and different from the tribal areas. In post-military operation phase in Swat in 2009, the Government focused on the first two components of DDR only i.e. disarmament and demobilization and very little attention was paid to the most important factor of reintegration. The mere disbanding of non-state armed groups does not signify the successful end of the conflict (Giustozzi, 2012). Those, who give up armed resistance because they cannot sustain their movement for the moment can resume their activities if their needs are not fulfilled. Swat was an area that had experienced significant radicalization leading to armed resistance. The government was compelled to launch a military operation. Prior to using armed means to crush the Taliban movement in the valley of Swat, people were moved out of the area of operations.  The relocation of the local population in Swat was a massive logistical exercise. It goes to the credit of the state authorities that they not only evacuated the local population out of the conflict zone before the onset of Operation Rah-i-Nijat (Road to Salvation), they were also able to successfully resettle 2.3 million displaced people of the Malakand division and Swat, at the end of the four-month long period that it took them to clear the area of militants  (Ingrid Nyborg, 2012). After the militant movement had been quashed and its leadership forced to flee, the government administrative machinery began a number of programs to bring back the former princely state to normalcy. Reconstruction programs were initiated on the basis of the Post Conflict Needs Assessment (PCNA) initiated by civil government with the help of national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (GoKP, 2010). Parallel to this activity, Pakistan Army began the program to de-radicalize and resettle detainees, who had either been arrested during military operation or had willingly surrendered or those who had been turned in by their families  (Rana, 2011). This program covered four areas dealing with security, societal, ideological and political aspects of resettlement. The aim was to reduce the security threat by developing moderate tendencies among former combatants and the local inhabitants by building a counter narrative (Rana, 2011). The theme was to project the moderate nature of Islam to detained combatants. It was hoped that in the process their mindsets would change and that they would no longer adhere to virulent ideologies and instead became more balanced and positive in their attitude. Despite many inherent hurdles such as limited expertise and lack of resources, the de-radicalization strategies have yielded positive results. According to available data as of 2014, 2200 youth have been reintegrated into the society as a result of the Mashaal project alone  (Kaiser, 2014).

To be honest not everyone agrees with official policies in post-conflict Swat. In fact the Swat rehabilitation strategy has been criticized for a number of reasons. First, it focuses only on detainees and has ignored the ex-combatants, who have escaped the dragnet or gone underground. Second, these policies have been criticized because rehabilitation schemes have been conducted in detention centers. Prisons or detention centers do not provide the ideal environment, where a violent person can find true peace of mind to transform himself into a peaceable and amiable person. The prison environment is oppressive and does not provide a conducive environment for someone who had taken up arms to press for his demands. In case of female combatant (and one isn’t very sure how many women fighters were detained during the Swat operations), a jail is a place, where personal honor and dignity and those of her family is at stake because of the attitude and behavior of the staff and the inmates. Third, reintegration in prison is not considered rehabilitation, rather it is like serving a prison sentence. The detainee is being penalized for an act of defiance against state authorities for which he is now reduced to the status of a petty criminal. Fourth, the rehab program in Swat differentiates between the so-called hardcore and soft-core militants. Hardcore combatants had actively participated in the conflict  while soft-core are mild-militants, who were merely radicalized and only provided moral and material support and were not physically involved in fighting. The Swat rehab program aims at reforming and rehabilitating the soft-core militants and forsakes the hard-core fighters. Logically a successful rehabilitation strategy should cover everyone. If a certain group is ignored or kept out of the rehab program, the possibility of relapse to violence is more likely.

In most reintegration program worldwide and that is true for Swat as well, names of the former militants are entered into police records and they remain under active surveillance by the secret police and intelligence agencies for a considerable period of time before the authorities eventually lose interest in them. This strategy can be detrimental and overbearing for those, who had participated in what they considered as a legitimate struggle against the state. An offender, who has been set free but is under surveillance lives under constant fear of being apprehended again even for a minor infringement of law that may pale in comparison to his original sin  (Spiked-online, 2013).  Here the liberal principle of individualism is violated, which gives maximum liberty to an individual to do whatever he or she wants to do as long as it does not harm anyone. In this regard, the DDR framework for Swat has its limitations because it doesn’t cover blacklisted former non-state armed groups and considers them a threat to state security, while ignoring others, who tend to operate under the security radar (Dudouet et al., 2012).


Any exercise in rehabilitating those whose lives have been turned upside down by conflict begins by bringing them back and reinserting them into areas hitherto classified as war or conflict zones. To repopulate an area wracked by violent upheaval is the most difficult part of any official activity to reinstate a modicum of normalcy. Experience tells us that it is not easy to convince those dislocated by natural or manmade disasters to go back to their native home unless they are sure that they would be able to resume their lives without a recurrence of a catastrophe. In case of conflict, no amount of persuasion would bear fruit unless displaced people are sure that the law and order situation has improved visibly so that they can resume their lives from where they left off. Those, who had occupied the area and have now been dislodged, would not come back because they fear for their lives at the hands of state authorities. General amnesty and promise to reintegrate former militants into the mainstream is viewed with suspicion. Those hiding in the mountains or jungles are more likely to hold on to their weapons until they see their brothers and sisters, who have already laid their arms being treated humanely and fairly. If this doesn’t happen they would not take these offers seriously and continue to wage war from the remote locations. In these circumstances the government agencies should adopt the policy of winning hearts and minds.

Reinsertion is the first step in the resettlement of the displaced people. In Swat, the displaced population was restored immediately within four months of the military operation. Food and shelter to those returning to their home and hearth was provided by Pakistan Army with the help of civil government and national and international NGOs. This developed an atmosphere of trust in the population. As a result the citizens in the post-conflict phase cooperated wholeheartedly in the restoration of peace and reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure. They also became a part of the peacekeeping mechanism through the Village Defense Committees (VDCs). These VDCs were responsible for restoration of peace and also worked as the eyes and ears of the security forces.

Defining Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation has social and medical connotations. In the post-conflict stage it is the transitory period from war to peace. This transition is accompanied by processes such as democratization, decentralization and market liberalization (Graham Brown, 2011). In post-conflict scenarios the international community tries to achieve these goals through the process of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is a vast program and has different meanings and interpretations in various institutions and organizations, also, its meanings are varies from application to application. The ultimate task of rehabilitation is to prevent ‘recidivism’ or the tendency to relapse into criminal behavior (Justice, 2016). The management and dealing with the consequences of conflict has a very old history (Pante, 2006). The term rehabilitation emerged after the Cold War, when the process of peacebuilding in the post-conflict period was defined as reconstruction, reintegration and engagement. The Oxford Dictionary definition of the term is narrow and focuses on physical or medical care of individual and is stated as “the action of restoring someone to health or normal life through training and therapy after imprisonment, addiction, or illness” (Oxford, 2016). In medical sciences rehabilitation means “the restoration of an individual to his fullest physical, mental and social capabilities” (Villalba, 2011). This definition covers the term rehabilitation but still misses its wider perspective in a post-conflict situation. Rehabilitation should cover both the victim as well as offender. It should help restoration of those adversely affected by conflict to their normal lives. It also creates conditions whereby those grievances are redressed which had been at the heart of the conflict. Research Society of International Law (RSI), an Islamabad based legal think tank has concluded that the definition as rehabilitation is a process through which physical, social and psychological measures are enacted in which those being rehabilitated are restored to a status in which they no longer have a desire or need to participate in activities or groups associated with terrorism (Soofi A. B., 2012). The definition is satisfactory but firstly, it is limited to the combatants of the conflict alone and ignores the civilian victims caught up in conflict by default. Secondly, it only addresses terrorism and ignores the fear and threat perception developed in the society due to prevalence of terrorism. Thus, the term rehabilitation has multiple aspects and should define different in its different perspectives and applications.

There are three main aspects of rehabilitation i.e. rehabilitation of economy, rehabilitation of society and rehabilitation of political institutions. The rehabilitation of society involves the population living in a conflict zone. This population may further be divided into combatants and civilians. Thus, for the purpose of this study the term rehabilitation is narrowed down and is defined from the combatant’s and victim’s perspectives. Eventual purpose to resolve the grievances of both parties in the best possible manner and to reintegrate the community to a status, where each one of them can live normal lives as all other common citizens of the state. In post conflict scenarios, the success of a rehabilitation program is when community is brought to the status from where they were displaced or radicalized. Any conflict leaves deep impact on the community in which a conflict arises. Sometimes the case of post-conflict rehabilitation becomes very difficult, especially in stimulating the people to start dealing with their own problems (Pante, 2006).

Rehabilitation programs in Pakistan

In Pakistan there are a few notable rehabilitation programs running in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, and FATA. Unfortunately these rehabilitation programs are not functioning within a national policy framework. Those operating these programs are doing so on the basis of their own need assessment. At national level, Armed Forces Institute of Rehabilitation and Medicine (AFIRM), Rawalpindi, is involved in rehabilitating soldiers and civilians suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD (ISPR, 2013). This includes for instance children, who had witnessed the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. Currently, this institute is treating more than three thousands patients. The center also provides prosthetic limbs to those who have been injured during the fighting. Unlike any other rehabilitation centers in the country, this center is self-sufficient for its needs and does not depend on financial aid or other assistance from any other organization other than the  Army (interview: Brig. Sher Akber Retired, 2017). Hum Pakistani Foundation, is a Lahore based national NGO, headed by a leading clinical and neurophysiologist Dr. Fereeha Paracha that is also funding rehabilitation programs. This organization is an umbrella of almost 20 sub-organizations and is mostly concerned with the psychological rehabilitation of victims. Its flagship initiative is Sabawoon (Seymour, 2011).

Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) is a national institution, established under an Act, 2013. This institution manages and regulates all technical and vocational training programs around the country. This organization was established in 2013, with the purpose of reducing unemployment among the young citizens of Pakistan, so that they do not fall prey to the radical narratives spewed by the terrorists (TVETA, 2016). This program does not specifically focus on DDR per se but aims at the reduction and elimination of radicalization from the society.

There are a number of rehabilitation projects running under the supervision of Pakistan Army in FATA. These include the rehabilitation program for North Waziristan; Mir Ali rehabilitation program for South Waziristan; Khyber rehabilitation program in Wana, Bara and Nwe Sahar (new dawn) rehabilitation program at Khar, Bajaur. The program in Bajaur is no more functional due to limited resources. The Khyber and North Waziristan rehabilitation programs are successfully functional and only Khyber has rehabilitated 500 hundreds ex-combatants since (Shafiullah, 2017).

            Acclaimed post-conflict rehabilitation programs running in Swat for former combatants are sub-divided into three projects i.e. Sabawoon, Mashaal and Sparlay. Project Sabawoon focuses on juveniles, Project Mashaal concentrates on adult captives and Project Sparlay is for family members of detained persons (Rana, 2011). This rehabilitation program, as described by Amir Rana (2011), covers four areas; security, societal, ideological and political issues through the strategies of rehabilitation, engagement, highlighting religion’s emphasis on peace, winning hearts and minds, respectively.

When interviewed the founding member of Sabawoon rehabilitation center, Dr. Mumtazuddin, revealed that before 2009 there was no strategy of de-radicalization in the country. After the Army detained 84 juveniles in Swat, the need was felt to de-radicalize them. Security forces got the assistance of Dr. Farooq, a well-known physiologist, who was unfortunately killed by terrorist in 2010, and established Sabawoon for juveniles at Peerano, Malakand division (Mumtazuddin, 2017).


Reintegration is the process through which an ex-combatant obtains civilian status. It is a social and economic process in which ex-combatants acquire sustainable employment and can take their place in their communities at the local level (Knight, 2012, p. 18).  It is a long process and usually ex-combatants need long term assistance. United Nations defines and elaborates post-conflict processes. As per their estimation, disarmament is at the top of the process. This is followed by demobilization; then reinsertion and at last reintegration. Reinsertion is the short-term assistance given to ex-combatants during demobilization before the long-term process of reintegration begins (ibid).

In Swat only those caught by the security agencies are undergoing the process of rehabilitation. There is no set rule of who should join this process. Most ex-combatants have been left free to become part of the society in whatever they deem fit. There is no policy of rehabilitation for the non-captive insurgents. The insurgents who fled and slipped into Afghanistan are the potential threat because they are providing assistance and strategic direction to the cadres still inside Swat. Needless to say, successful rehabilitation requires a comprehensive policy, which leaves no stakeholder unattended.


Security Sector Reforms (SSR) has been defined by Knight (2012, p. 18) as an effort “to make the state’s legitimacy, efficiency and effectiveness over its use of force.” By analyzing Swat model of rehabilitation it looks that this model is dominantly focuses on security sector military issues. The military defeated the insurgents and established negative peace within the conflict zones. For the process of rehabilitation the military chose former ex-combatants with the potential of becoming loyal citizens of the state. This is perhaps the easy way out but then this leaves out those who do not recognize the writ of the state and are waiting for the ripe moment to strike back. So the rehabilitation process has ignored a segment of the society that lies in wait to disrupt the process. The official policies need to be more inclusive and should not fail because these are seen as:

The conventional DDR and SSR are biased and state-centric. They are failed to reflect the real pictures of contemporary conflicts and peace building processes. Dominantly short-sighted, overly generic, externally imposed, gender blind and focused on dissolution rather transformation (Dudouet, 2012, p. 30).

Both DDR and SSR are basically meant to engage non-state actors of all stripes and make them part of the state building in the post-conflict period. In Swat or for that matter any other post-conflict zone, one sided approaches will not succeed. The insurgents shouldn’t be treated as mere culprits and should not be dealt as the enemy of the state. The emphasis should be on treating them as equal citizens of the state, who had been seduced by anti-state elements and are now willing to be part of the rehab programs. The DDR and SSR should not fortify the old and archaic structures blocking the way for positive transformation (Dudouet, 2012, p. 31). Exclusive and unjust strategies should be shunned and former combatants should be given enough space to become a willing partner in the process of rehabilitation.

A National DDR Program

To make a policy, three things are essential i.e. a well-defined aim, an elaborate plan and adequate resources. It cannot be over emphasized that a national DDR plan should in the first place flow from a national objective of reintegrating and rehabilitating all those who had been involved in conflict i.e. both the victim and the former militant. Currently no such aim has been identified at the national level. No debate has been conducted in the parliament on this issue. Unless this is done, no national policy can be made. A national policy should not just be limited to certain areas of the country that have actually witnessed violence and conflict because many of those affected by conflict have relocated themselves far and wide and will only return to the homes and hearths that they have left behind if there is an inclusive national plan to cover the DDR arrangement for them and their families.

There are examples that can be chosen from rehabilitation models of other countries e.g. some governments instituted truth and rehabilitation commissions (TRC) as a means of affecting a national catharsis for all parties involved in the conflict. This was particularly the case in South Africa at the end of the Apartheid system. The TRC was seen as a means to give the new rainbow nation a fresh chance to resume life as a mixed country giving equal status to both blacks and whites. This can be one way to let former combatants give vent to their demands that have remained unmet because of the military operations to end their resistance forcibly. There was some talk about introducing such a commission to resolve the lingering issues between the ruling Sinhala and the rebel Tamil elements in Sri Lanka. Our government should seriously consider the option of bringing about peace and amity between the state and non-state actors and also those who had supported either side without actually taking part in combat through open discussions.

A national DDR requires resources. Currently no funds have been being specifically allocated for this purpose. Without resources no program will be able to function. The monies that are currently earmarked are to resettle displaced persons in their villages and towns and provide them some seed money to resume some rudimentary businesses. The main agencies getting these funds are the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SFRON), National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA and its provincial partners and the Army. In case of the Afghan refugees, the Commisionerate of Afghan Refugees (CAR) is the primary conduit for disbursement of aid that has to be disbursed among the refugees. The rehabilitation work is supported by a number of aid agencies such as the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and sundry INGOs and aid agencies. Private individuals particularly those belonging to that area also contribute as a philanthropic obligation. Where resources are concerned there is a lot of turf rivalry among the agencies and they lack synergy in terms of a common policy. It would be good if the Government can identify a lead agency to manage each post-conflict situation. It is also worth to noting that whereas the National Action Plan (NAP) is considered a milestone in counterterrorism strategy, unfortunately its twenty-point agenda neither discusses any rehabilitation program nor has any fund have been allocated for such a project.

The national DDR plan should combine all the resources of the state. There should be a focal person at the highest level to coordinate the national effort. He or she should be reporting directly to the prime minister. It could be the National Security Advisor or either the minister of SAFRON or Interior heading a Task Force (TF) mandated by the parliament to carry out the post-conflict rehabilitation. If there is a consensus this national TF on post-conflict rehabilitation can be approved by parliamentary legislation.  The chief minister of the province that has seen conflict in its geographical area can be made the secretary of the national TF, so that the entire effort is carried out smoothly by integrating all federal and provincial resources. The national TF should be entrusted with making a plan giving important timelines and milestones. The project should have both short term as well as long term objectives and should not be left open ended. The national TF should have a think tank either from the existing resources of the government such as Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services or the Research Wing of the national Assembly. The services of an independent think tank can also be commissioned and there are plenty of them in Islamabad right now such as FATA research center, Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI), PILDAT or PIDE that can be asked to study post-conflict rehabilitation and come up with suggestion in line with the international best practices. University having departments of peace and conflict studies such as CIPS in NUST or FCS in NDU or the department of IR in NUML can be involved in such project as a national duty.

Shortfalls in the DDR Programs

As elucidated within the main text of the paper, in the absence of a comprehensive national DDR programs there are a number of areas of concern. First and foremost, there is an obvious disconnect between civil and military administration on the policy and implementation side. The differences in strategy and execution need to be ironed out because any good program is likely to founder on the rocks of mistrust. Already a rehabilitation center at Bajaur has become dysfunctional due to non-availability of resources and funds from the civil government (interview: Col. JWR, 2017). It was also found that due to the strict security rules of the military establishment running rehab centers, the civilian officials find it difficult to visit these. This has created a lack of ownership among the civil administration (comments of the secretary of prison affairs, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). The involvement of the civilian administration is important in the long-term. A military only model of rehabilitation will not work. Connected to this is the matter of running rehab centers in more benign environment without the presence of gun toting military men. An intimidating atmosphere can engender fear and this can retard the process of reintegration (interview: Mehran Wazir, 2017). An extremely regimented can be difficult for an ex-combatant to adopt to. He should be allowed the freedom to read and learn skills of his own choice and he should have a control over his daily life in matters such as preferences of food; clothing, sleep and sports (interview: Fayaz Zafar, 2017).

The second point is regarding the kind of training that is being imparted. The training syllabus in the rehab centers should not be ‘imposed’ or ‘controlled’ and the interests and preferences of those being rehabilitated should be taken into account (interview: Fazal Saeed, 2017). The vocational training should be instrumental in providing a beneficiary a suitable job or a running a profitable business. It should be kept in mind that skills imparted should be unique otherwise a prospective employer would prefer an experienced person already available in the market instead of one, who is new at the job (interview: Shams Momand, 2017). The Government should also create job opportunities by investing in small industries in areas, where those being rehabilitated are located.  According to a senior Sri Lankan military official the rehabilitation programs in his country and Pakistan are dependent on the individual whims and fancies of those running these and do not cater to the needs of the entire society. In such kind of an approach the danger is that a person being rehabilitated at a center, on release, will again go to an environment which had encouraged him to become a part of a militancy (Jayanath, 2017). Therefore, a comprehensive, community based approach is required in which the whole society could be de-radicalized.

Pakistan is also facing the challenge of non-hierarchical terrorists. According to Rohan Gunaratna, a leading counter terrorism expert: “Instead of hierarchical organizations, countries are now dealing with shadowy networks and home-grown terrorists engaged in “leaderless” terrorist activities. The activities of these entities are difficult to detect and pre-empt” (Gunaratna, 2013). This is particularly true for Pakistan, where hierarchical organizations have been weakened but their ideologies have been penetrated into the main strata of society. A person under the influence of a virulent ideology can act as a lone wolf. He may target security forces, government installations, schoolchildren or any other soft target of his own choice to project the point of view of his chosen ideology. A radicalized person not belonging to any group not belonging to any terrorist organization is more dangerous because he cannot be controlled by any means i.e. by force or by negotiations. Secondly, he may willingly become part of the terrorist agendas of shadowy groups without those groups ever claiming any responsibility of his actions.

Another problem area is that the process of de-radicalization is kept secret by the government agencies for the fear of getting the person being rehabilitated into problem with his former employers. Also, the consequences of a conflict can be harsh and the state forces can be blamed rightly or wrongly for causing harm to the areas owned by civilians, where terrorists are hiding, so sometimes the sympathies of the common people can be aligned with the terrorists and the life of a person willing to undergo rehab under official patronage may be on the line. His home and family can be destroyed by the belligerents or the common people for becoming a government sympathizer. The best bet for a non-hierarchal radicalized person is through a community based approach to rehabilitation. This means that in the first instance the community should take his ownership and then try to reform him according to their own wishes. Three community based approaches exist and are worth exploring.

Restorative Justice Approach; a Participatory Approach

Restorative Justice (RJ) is a bottom-up approach in which the community is involved. This process actually requires the victim, offender and the community to sit together to reach an agreement with the offender to repair the harm that he has caused. This also involves that he submits himself to the process of rehabilitation. A simplified definition of RJ drawn by the United Nations is, “any program that uses restorative processes and seeks to achieve restorative outcomes” (Nations, Handbook on Restorative Justice Program, 2006). This term is further clarified by Tony Marshall (1999), who has defined RJ as “a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offense come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offense and its implications for the future” (Marshall, 1999).  Professor John Braithwaite (2003) had given very short but a comprehensive definition to the term as restoring the balance between victims, offenders and the community.

In most of countries, people have been dissatisfied and frustrated by the formal judiciary or justice system, therefore, they appeal for the customary or traditional practices of justice to deal with the crime and disorder in society. RJ offers some welcoming means of resolving disputes (Nations, Handbook on Restorative Justice Program, 2006). RJ process defined by United Nations (2006, p-9) as, any process in which the victim and the offender, and, where appropriate, any other individuals or community members affected by a crime, participate together actively in the resolution of matters arising from the crime, generally with the help of a facilitator (Nations, 2006). The other community members means; nuclear relatives of the victims and offenders, friends and elders. Braithwaite (2003) has given a comprehensive definition to the restorative process as, Restorative  justice  conferences  work  by  inviting  victims  and  supporters  (usually  family  supporters) of the victim to meet with the offender and the people who  care  most  about  the  offender  and  most  enjoy  the offender’s  respect  (usually  including  both  the  nuclear  and  extended  family,  but  not  limited  to them). within this negotiation  the  consequences  of  the  crime,  drawing  out  the  feelings  of  those  who  have  been  harmed. Then  they  discuss  how  that  harm  might  be  repaired  and  any  steps  that  should  be  taken  to  prevent reoffending (Braithwaite, 2003). 

Barry Buzan (2003) has added to the utility of conflict management through indigenous way. In his view in contemporary conflicts the state is referent object but scholars are agreed that all the conflicts arise from the society. The society should be referent object and the conflicts should be managed through indigenous ways (Waever, 2003). Grievances and frustration are the basis of, almost, every conflict. Unless these grievances and frustration are not addressed restoration of durable peace will remain a hope. An offender when prefer violence over peace has grievances and frustration dominant on his minds. For peace building, it is necessary to address these grievances in a way that provide equal justice to offender, victim and overall community. Therefore, the paper is suggesting restorative justice approach to rehabilitation in which grievances of both parties to the conflict are addressed.

The processes of RJ are found in Pakistan but not in a systematic way and in dispersed shapes that’s includes involvement of community in the form of civil militia, and in giving aid and compensation to the victims etc. This research gives multi-faceted strategies a systemic policy framework for future rehabilitation programs.  Scholars and practitioners of peace and conflict studies are more inclined towards indigenous solution to conflict and peacebuilding and they support humanitarian approach to conflict resolution and sustainable peace. This indigenous-humanitarian approach to conflict resolution, rehabilitation and reintegration remains successful in most developed states, who are trying to replace criminal law with restorative justice.

Village Defense Committees (VDC) as Restorative Justice Committees: The term VDC has been briefly eluded to earlier in the paper. In this paragraph it will be discussed in a little more detail. In Swat the militant’s narrative had penetrated all segments of the society irrespective of age, gender and profession. The irony is that despite the misogynist ideology of Mullah Fazlullah, women in Swat were among his most fervent admirers in the beginning with and even donated their jewelry towards his cause.  Almost the entire society in Swat was radicalized in one way or another. To counter this tendency and its violent narratives, Pakistan Army engaged the civilian in the VDC mechanism to protect their own village. This effort was buttressed by initiating the rehabilitation program for the mild and juvenile militants. The VDC has the potential to contribute meaningfully to the development of the area but due to the dearth of management and expertise, the VDCs has not been able to deliver on its promise. It is now being largely used to provide early warning against any militant organization working in their area of responsibility.

An integrated approach of the RJ system and VDCs has the potential to rehabilitate communities destroyed by conflict. The community based approach is conducted in the form of conferences where the community members, victims and offenders sit together to decide about the crime and its compensation.  In a similar way, VDCs can be converted into Village Councils for bringing about resolution to the conflict in the most beneficial ways.

Testimonial Healing of the Society: Testimonial healing method is an innovative way of using the services of ex-criminal(s) or ex-combatant(s) to inform the society about the advantages of renouncing violent ideologies and becoming useful citizens. In this method, reformed militants are showcased on television shows and at educational and business conferences, as successful models of those who gave up violence and were able to build up new lives as law abiding and responsible citizens. This technique was adopted successfully in USA by acquiring the services of ex-members of Klu Klux Klan (KKK), a notorious white supremacist organization. These former members were instrumental in reducing radicalization and extremism in the society (interview: Azhar Hussain, 2017). There are hundreds of ex-combatants in Pakistan, who are now patriotic citizens. Their services can be acquired for de-radicalizing those still working for militant organizations. This strategy can also give confidence to the reformed people that can be successful in a peaceful existence. In fact one of the major challenges of rehabilitation is to keeping the reformed former combatants steadfast in his new state of peace. In Sri Lanka the graduates of rehabilitation centers have been given employment in National Civil Defense. The basic purpose behind this approach was to repose confidence in them and not burden the security agencies in keeping tabs on them after they had been released (interview: Jayanath, 2017)

Appointment of Psychologists at Elementary Schools: School going children are of an impressionable age and are most susceptible to ideas that can lead to radicalization. Professional help is required to gauge the sentiments and ideas of young students before they fall into a trap from which it becomes difficult to retrieve them. When quizzed about the utility of having psychologists in schools, most respondents agreed that the Government should appoint at least, one psychologist in every elementary as well as secondary school. The respondents were of the opinion that the extremist narratives have penetrated deep into society. The rehabilitation centers can only rehabilitate some acute cases but there is no mechanism to prevent potential militants. The appointment of psychologists in schools of all descriptions including madrassas (religious seminaries) can be helpful in rooting out radicalization and extremism form the society through psychological assessment of the students over a specific period of time. Those prone to radicalization can be identified at an early stage and be given prophylactic doses of counter narratives to defeat their urge to become part of a militant organization (interview: Jayanath, 2017) (interview: Khan, 2016) (interview: Mumtazuddin, 2017).  


DDR policies should provide a healing touch to those who have been traumatized by exposure to violence. Conceived, applied and executed without understanding the hurt of former combatants and the hurt they caused to the people located in the conflict zones is likely to cause more hurt to the future generations. The fragmentary framework that exists regarding the curbing terrorism as outlined in the twenty point agenda of the national Action Plan (NAP) is based on a kneejerk reaction to the extremely sad and grisly incident that took place in Army Public School (APS) Peshawar on 16 December 2014. NAP in no way calls upon de-radicalizing the misguided youth or their handlers and reintegrating them in the society. It calls out with ferocious intensity on rooting out the menace of terrorism. It does not address the issue of rehabilitating those scarred by violence. Those have become willing or unwilling tools in the hands of the perpetrators or those have suffered as consequences have nowhere to go. What is lacking at the national level is the willingness to consider the case of a significant segment of the society that has been caught in the cycle of violence and make a sincere effort to return them to the pristine state of calm, security, peace and stability that they had known in their villages, towns and cities before the world became a dangerous place to live in.

List of Interviewers

Name Designation/Affiliation Organization Station City
Fazal Saeed CEO, Development expert Naveed Khan Center for Research and Dialogue (NCRD) NCRD Islamabad
Naveed Shinwari CEO CAMP CAMP Islamabad
Mehran Wazir Expert: Peace, conflict and civilian engagement in conflicts Peshawar University Peshawar University Peshawar
Brigd (R) Sher Akber Instructor to UN Peacekeepers NIPCONS, NUST NUST Islamabad
Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed Dean Qaid e Azam University Marriot Hotel Islamabad
Azhar Hussain President, Peace activist Peace and Education Foundation (PEF) PEF Islamabad
Admiral Dr. Jayanath Practitioner Sri Lankan Army Serena Hotel Islamabad
Col. JWR (confidential) Practitioner Pakistan Army ….. Lahore
Dr. Mumtazuddin Psychologist, Rehabilitation practitioner Dr. Farooq Psychiatric Center Mardan Mardan
Shams Mohmand Senior Journalist, Key-informant of rehabilitation in Pakistan CRSS Abbottabad Abbottabad
SFLH (confidential) Instructor at rehabilitation center Rehabilitation center in Swat Khwazakhela Swat
Abd ur Rahim Wazir Legal practitioner, human rights expert Islamabad High Court Islamabad High Court Islamabad
Fayaz Zafar Senior journalist Chairman of Swat journalists society Mingora Swat


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