Karuna Center: Can you tell me a little bit about your peacebuilding work, and how you first came in contact with Karuna Center?
Mossarat Qadeem: In 2007, when nobody could even speak about community peacebuilding, Paiman started working in the areas that were hard hit by violent extremism. We found there was a lot of opportunity for us to build the capacity of youth and women at the community level in how to conduct community dialogues, and how to resolve small feuds which ultimately lead to incidents of violent extremism, which are used by the extremist groups for the exploitation of the people. That's how we started our work: we felt the need for it, because there was nobody working in that area and there was no capacity in civil society.
Then, we got the opportunity to invite Olivia from Karuna Center, who trained our master trainers in various aspects of conflict transformation and peacebuilding. It gave us a lot of hope that we can invite people like Olivia from international communities who can help build the capacity of Pakistani peacebuilders and peacemakers, and that's the beginning of the relationship with Karuna Center; we came to know about its work, and we came to know about the leadership role that Karuna Center has taken up when it comes to peacebuilding in South Asia. And I would like to pay a great tribute to Paula, who is not only our mentor, but I think she's a global mentor for developing a community of peacebuilders around the globe.
Paiman has been working particularly in the areas where radicalization was on the rise, where violent extremism has affected everybody in the society and the community: Khyber Pakhtunwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATA], the region that borders Afghanistan, and which for quite some time was considered the most volatile region in the world. We started our work in those communities, and we started with the youth, and with mothers, because we found potential in building their capacity—but at the same time we found they were very easy prey for violent extremists, because they could use them for their own interest. They took the youth, transformed them into radicalized ones; they worked with mothers, worked with women, and of course radicalized them. So with the same mothers, the same youth, we started building their capacity.
First, we work with the mothers of extremists, we build her capacity in critical thinking, we help her build her capacity in livelihood skills so she starts having something to take back home so that she has a say in the decision making at home—and it helped, because in a conservative society like ours, in Khyber Pakhtunwa and FATA, women are not allowed to go out. So we attracted these women to livelihood skills so when they go back home and start earning, they will be revered, they will be respected, and they will be listened to. We build their capacity in critical thinking where they are told what the indicators are if your son goes the wrong way, because it is always a mother who registers the first sign of resignation, anger, and attitude and behavioral change in her son. So we work with these mothers, and we then formed mothers' peace groups in these same areas and youth peace groups.
It was through the mothers' peace groups that Paiman started identifying the youth who were either on the way to becoming radicalized, who were with the radicalized group or extremist group, or who were very vulnerable to becoming an extremist radical. So Paiman started working with them, and we started transforming, deradicalizing, rehabilitating and reintegrating the youth from these areas, an we used a very indigenous, very localized model of deradicalization and of course rehabilitation. Today our model is recognized as one of the best models for rehabilitation and reintegration of the extremist youth, and its been replicated by three other countries with the help and support of Paiman. The communities today take ownership of this whole process of rehabilitation and reintegration of the deradicalized youth.
MQ: Yes, I always tell people, when I travel internationally, and the topic comes in of how to rehabilitate them: when we were talking about it 10 or 11 years back, nobody was listening to us.
KC: What do you see as the highlights of your work together with Karuna Center, or the parts that stand out most in your memory?
MQ: Olivia was the first one to train our resource persons, and we really enjoyed working with Olivia, because that was the very first time an international trainer came and interacted with the local trainers. We still remember Olivia; we have her pictures in Paiman's office. We mention her to all of our trainers, because all of them are still working with Paiman, and many of them went to Nepal [for CONTACT South Asia] and met Paula as well. So for Paiman, Olivia and Paula are the names which resonate with us from time to time and we refer to their work from time to time as well.
With Paula—Paula would not stop. When we were in Nepal, we would start at 7:30 with the breakfast, and then after dinner, there was no going back to your rooms, rather you had to sit and do other activities. So for us she is an inspiration, and here, in our trainings, when people get tired, we say, "Oh, you remember Nepal? Remember Kathmandu? Paula used to do this and that!"
So we still follow her footsteps and try to give her example to our trainees here: don't stop, because peacebuilding is a work where there is no stopping. When you stop, I think you actually are inviting more conflicts.
KC: What do you think will need to change most fundamentally, in our world today, in order for your vision of a more peaceful world to be possible?
MQ: People should start knowing each other, and start developing understanding of each other's religions. Because today, globally, what people are trying to grapple with is a certain ideology, and that ideology is not Islamic ideology. Everybody feels like what is happening in the world today is because of a particular religion, or a particular ideology. I think that what we really need to do is to develop an interfaith understanding or an understanding among various faiths so at least we are clear that it is not religion that is the basis of this conflict: it is the lust for power, it is the lust for authority, it is because of certain discriminatory practices globally that have always been there. So sometimes it is the capitalists versus socialists, and sometimes it is the allies against the others, and again, it is happening in the same way. It is a tug of war between the haves and the have-nots, because of those who feel that the order of the day should be in their favor, and they are working for their sort of balance or their sort of an order.
We need to understand the dynamics of this conflict to which we have given the name of "religion" and "a clash between civilizations" and "a clash between religion and ideologies." I think we really need to work with those who really are the moderate voices in all the faith groups, they need to stand up to this challenge, they need to work together, they need to come up with a collective voice, they need to come up with a collective global strategy for how to counter this menace which is challenging everyone, whether sitting in New York, or in Landi Kotal—it's challenging everybody, anywhere, and anywhere.