The bombing of Quetta’s Civil Hospital that claimed the lives of more than 70 people, most of them lawyers who had gathered there after their leader’s killing earlier in the day, has once again left our wounds agape and the entire nation was engulfed by the feeling of intense pain. The nation wants an end to such agonizing and despicable acts of terrorism which intermittently hit Pakistan. However, an in-depth analysis of the factors behind terrorism suggests that the dream cannot be achieved only by government and its intelligence and law-enforcement agencies; for this, civil society has to come forward and play its role in the elimination of this perpetual threat to Pakistan.
Civil society can play a proactive role not only in promoting development of a country but also in resolution of the gigantic problems faced by that. Since the biggest threat to the very existence of Pakistan at present is indubitably terrorism, therefore the role of civil society assumes even more importance especially given the fact that in the recent past Pakistan’s civil society has spearheaded a successful campaign for the restoration of judiciary and for the return of democracy in Pakistan. Even in the complexity of terrorist threats, Pakistani civil society has bravely countered extremist’s narratives, helped reduce violence and fostered a culture of peace and human rights.
The importance of involving civil society in a comprehensive and multidimensional response to terrorism has been stressed by various international documents. At the international level, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, for instance, in its resolution adopting the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy on 8 September 2006, affirmed the determination of Member States to “further encourage non-governmental organizations and civil society to engage, as appropriate, on how to enhance efforts to implement the Strategy.”
In the context of Pakistan, the civil society organizations can play an important and a meaningful role in the prevention of terrorism. They have valuable expertise and experience in removing the causes which lead to the spread of terrorism in Pakistan. Their presence in social fields endows them with opportunities to reach to the people at the grassroots level and educate them on terrorism and how it has been, and still is, proving detrimental to Pakistan. Besides raising their voice for the have-nots and the oppressed strata of the society, they can keep a vigilant watch on the activities of legislature, executive and judiciary and press them to introduce reforms within their respective ambits and be in unison against the menace of terrorism.
The close observation of this modern world demands that in times of crises, civil society must come to the forefront to help the state machinery. But in Pakistan it is still a void which needs to be filled at the earliest.
What is Civil Society?
Civil society is “an umbrella term for a range of non-state and non‐market citizen organisations and initiatives, networks and alliances operating in a broad spectrum of social, economic, and cultural fields. These include formal institutions, non‐governmental organisations, trade unions, professional associations, philanthropies, academia, independent pressure groups, think tanks, and traditional informal formations, such as faith‐based organisations, shrines, seminaries, and neighbourhood associations.”