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Peace and Social Cohesion essential for combating social discord in Pakistan

Shezil Abbasi (Program Intern, SSDO)

Peace and social cohesion are the two forces that hold societies together. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals also aim towards making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The 17-point agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by all United Nation Member States in 2015 is an urgent call for all the developed as well as the developing countries to ensure peace and prosperity of their nations. They are a blueprint to achieve a better and sustainable future for all. Peace and social cohesion are the fundamental predictors to achieve this goal. All around the world, it has been observed that cohesive societies are politically stable and have relatively better economic growth and business development.

Now what does social cohesion mean? Social cohesion can be characterized as how connected and united the members of society are. It refers to the situation when people work together and cooperate despite the existing differences. Battaini-Dragoni and Dominioni (2003, part of Council of Europe's Strategy for Social Cohesion) presented a paper at the conference on social cohesion held at the University of Hong Kong and described social cohesion as an indicator of a society that can ensure the well-being of its members who form a mutually supportive community of free individuals. Social cohesion is not gained within a day, rather it takes years to build.

The main factor in building social cohesion are the policies – policies that allow people in the society to share its prosperity. For a peaceful and fruitful society, it is the key determinant. It helps to create strong bonds across different groups and encourage trust in governmental institutions.

Pakistan is among the countries that have the least percentage of social cohesion and higher conflict. Moreover, several economic, political, and social factors have an impact on the cohesion of any country. The reason why Pakistan has the least social cohesion is that Pakistan is extremely biased in terms of class, ethnic, sectarian, and religious differences. In addition to that, lack of law and order and a weak judicial system play a vital role in this as well. These social indicators evaluate the attitude of authorities and extremist groups with respect to certain religious, class, and ethnic groups. The key indicators can be broken down as class differences, interfaith differences, religious conflicts, and cultural conflicts. Every day, we see a number of cases on social media sites and news channels that clearly depict why Pakistan has the least percentage of peace and social cohesion.

Dr. Qaisar Rashid in his OP-ED, “Ethno-sectarian conflict in Pakistan” highlighted the case of the Hazara community: on 10th January, at Alamdar Road, Quetta, 80 people belonging to the Hazara community were killed by two bomb blasts. On the other hand, on January 17, an MQM MPA, Manzar Imam was gunned down in Karachi on sectarian grounds. These examples show the extremism and sectarian conflict in Pakistan that threatens the peace and social cohesion of our country.

To all this violence, peace is the only answer. Peace here refers to the absence of conflict and only through peace, we can maintain a good democratic nation. Peace and social cohesion go hand in hand. For a society to be peaceful, it is important to have close and understanding relations with its government. One way to do this is by sharing the information with the public, as every citizen has the right to information. Transparency and the right to information are very important for the sustainable development of society. There is a dire need to empower the ordinary citizen. Article 19A gives every citizen the right to take information from any organization. Furthermore, the Federal Right of Access to Information Act 2017 seconds this.

The executive director of SSDO, Syed Kausar Abbas, while narrating his stance on Peace and Social Cohesion at a webinar said that, “Peace and Social Cohesion are important needs of Pakistan. The situation that Pakistan has faced over the past few years such as sectarian and ethnic conflicts should be countered. It needs a platform to enlighten people to go towards social cohesion and harmony. In addition to this, peace and social cohesion should also be included in the syllabus to make a perfectly harmonious society. Pakistan needs to start working on these issues to combat the consequences of terrorism and extremism it has faced. We should inculcate humanity and especially Pakistaniyat in the citizens and discourage extremist concepts.”

Peace and social cohesion contribute to economic growth, good governance, health, and social security. By improving the social factors, we can make a huge difference. People should be taught tolerance and respect for all religions and cultures. This will serve as the basis for the peace and progress of our society. We, as true Pakistanis, should work hard to make Pakistan a country free of violent and extremist groups so that the minorities can feel secure. Moreover, all the differences must be eliminated for a successful and just society. We all should play our part to represent Pakistan as a peaceful and cohesive society globally.

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