From Caux to Karachi

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

Mountain House - the Caux conference centre
Mountain House - the Caux conference centre. Photo courtesy Rajiv Agarwal
AFTER five days at the Human Security Forum in Caux (Switzerland), the news from Karachi left me stunned — more than 100 people killed in five days!

The bitterness expressed by those directly hit was unnerving. There was a report from my colleague in Dawn, Nizamuddin Siddiqui, about the travails of families trapped in their homes as bullets rained round them. There was also a plaintive email from a friend in Qasba appealing for help.

Abdul Waheed Khan runs a school in his locality where mainly Pushto-speaking children are helped to transition to Urdu. Waheed describes himself as a disciple of the iconic founder of the Orangi Pilot Project, Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan.

Here was Karachi once again being torn up by hidden hands because the leaders who claim to represent the people were busy levelling recriminations at one another in their quest for power. Will these wounds ever heal? That was the first thought that came to my mind. How?

And I thought of Caux, which is a small town located in the Alps on the shores of the picturesque Lake Geneva. It has become synonymous with peace and reconciliation having been the venue of numerous conferences hosted by the Initiatives of Change every year since 1946.

The Mountain House in Caux has provided space for numerous dialogues and encounters that bring together as many as 2,000 participants of varied backgrounds every summer. Many of these meetings have significantly set the peace ball rolling, the most notable being the Franco-German peace process that came in the wake of the Second World War.

Located at a distance from the hub of civilisation, Caux has magic that facilitates quiet reflection. Unfortunately, it is just this we have stopped undertaking in our age of communication when 24/7 television, cellphones and Blackberries give us no time to think. We only have knee-jerk reactions.

Caux’s concept of human security is very realistic and is not based on building defences and stocking arms. Its strategy is to seek to construct a society that strives for just governance, intercultural dialogues, sustainable living and inclusive economics while working to heal the bitter memories of the past.

Launched in 2008 by Mohammad Sahnoun, one-time adviser to then UN Secretary General Kofi Anan, the human security forum has a pro-people approach and its sessions hold one lesson or another for its multicultural participants. Caux should provide food for thought for those in whose hands lies the destiny of Karachi. This battered city is so badly factionalised and the wounds run so deep that one can only wonder how they will ever heal. Karachi lacks the leaders of vision needed to bridge the great divide.

In this situation it is time for civil society to act. True, the concerned citizens of the city have expressed their consternation at the violence that grips Karachi. But getting all the political parties together in a conference to vent their spleen and put pressure on those believed to be instigating the killings is not enough.

What Karachi needs are leaders at the grass-root level. It is time communities in various neighbourhoods, especially the strife-torn areas, informally created peace committees to bring together elders and youths of all backgrounds with a one-point peace agenda. Women must be included as they are the worst affected by violence. When the firing stops, as it does after a few days during a bout of violence, committees of every area must investigate who the killers were and devise ways to ensure that violence is stemmed. Some basic rule to be observed: no revenge killings, no blame game.

If the peace committees make themselves credible — that can be ensured by a multiethnic composition and showing compassion — they can become effective. It is inconceivable that there are no honest and well-meaning people left in our corrupted and perverted law-enforcement agencies who can be relied upon to help. The people of Karachi have been so brutalised and traumatised that they have even forgotten to react naturally to various situations they encounter. They are losing their humanism.

Normally in such crises the first step is taken by political leaders who also have greater authority and resources. But in our case this seems unlikely. They lack the capacity and will to bring about peace and reconciliation.

At Caux one session was devoted to a ‘leadership that builds community’. The speakers who spoke from personal experience emphasised the value of inclusivity, integrity, truth and, above all, the willingness and intellectual honesty to understand the point of view of the ‘other’. Thus alone can leaders win public confidence and show the creativity and courage to devise peace-building solutions that may put their popularity at risk in their own community. But that is how statesmen are born.

At Caux were people from Africa and the commissioner for victims and survivors in Northern Ireland who recounted the experience of their countries that had been torn by violence and war. The situation began to improve, sometimes with outside help, only when people said enough is enough.

It is time the people of Karachi say what Didacienne Mukahabeshimana said when as a Rwandan schoolgirl she went to a ground to witness the execution of some men charged with murder. This was at the height of the Rwandan genocide. Something broke within her. “Stop, stop! Don’t kill them!” she had screamed. The men were killed but thereafter many took up this cry and peace came to Rwanda.

23 thoughts on “From Caux to Karachi

  1. A reconciliation and spirit of compassion is called for in every war-torn area.

    This is to the point : –” The speakers who spoke from personal experience emphasised the value of inclusivity, integrity, truth and, above all, the willingness and intellectual honesty to understand the point of view of the ‘other’. Thus alone can leaders win public confidence and show the creativity and courage to devise peace-building solutions that may put their popularity at risk in their own community. But that is how statesmen are born. ”

    Enough is enough , indeed.

  2. Invite Vaclav Havel, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama, along with the spirit of Akhtar Hameed Khan to Pakistan to inspire the people and its leaders with integrity – scarce though they are – to begin the process of peaceful change.

    Meanwhile, get those dharnas going!

    1. To ISA
      First of all we don't need these western charectors to come in our country. We have the best of the best example of "Prophet Muhammad Salal La Ho Alaehi Wasalam".
      Secondly, we are not muslim anymore. We are Mahajir, we are sindhis, punjabis, pakhtun, baloch and so on. We have completely forget the best guidance provided to us with QURAN and SUNNAH. ALLAH SUBHANA TALLAH made us muslim but we categorize ourself as Arabi, Irani, Sindhi, Pakhtun, Mahajir and so on.

      MAY ALLAH protect our nation.

      1. Thank you Abdullah Sahib for this reminder. But Allah has asked us to show compassion to all including those you call "these western characters". Have we? They have learned the lesson of Allah and the Holy Prophet better than we have as you yourself point out.

        1. Dear Zubieda ,Why are we Muhajirs after 63 year . We should be taught the native languages of the provinces ,(where we are born and educated) ,at school level ,so when we come out of schools ,we don't feel like strangers .All the people in Peshawar know and speak Pashto and sometimes Persian as well ,and every one in Lahore speak Punjabi what ever ethnic background they belong to . Why is it not so in province of Sindh .

  3. Oh where to begin, where to begin? The leaders? The crippling violence/poverty/illiteracy-struck awam? How did they become the 'leaders'? What have they led us into? The body of my nation is wounded and scarred all over. Because we believe in killing first and then talking.

  4. I was very much moved by this very beautiful article of yours. I have spent 2 summers in Caux and so I know it fondly, respectfully and well.

    I am glad to keep up with you and see that you and your flag are still flying high.

  5. Madam Zubeida mustafa has drawn a comparison between caux and Karachi. As far as Karachi is concerned this metropolis is in no way lags behind those of other largest cities of the world but owing to lacking of a sincere leadership and political will Karachi is going to be ruined. there exist a variety of mafias, such as drug mafia, land mafia and so on which are playing their tricks to meet their nefarious ends.
    Weaponization is another factor of Karachi's woes. For improving the law and order situation enforcement of law, with out fear or favor is the only remedy, but the question arises who dare bell the cat.

    1. What do you mean by Karachi,"…no way lags behind those of other largest cities of the world…" There is no law and order, there is no leadership other than sectional gang leaders speaking for their group's interests, there are no leaders who can say something and stand by their word. Most of the big cities in the world do not do that.
      I am not blaming you, only advising you, to be clear so that others may understand you. I have dozens of relations in Karachi, most of them were earning their honourable living for years on end, now, they can not, because there is always one righteous section or the other, who is on their killing venture to make things better, for whom? they do not know.
      Is killing other people ever makes sense?
      Sitting down and talking to resolve the basic principles, makes sense. The first principle is: no violence against any one.
      How about that to start with.
      Tell your Mosque leader first, and start acting upon it.
      Peace man peace.

  6. Where does one start ? Start at the top..where else ? Peace committees cannot stop what politicians and governments are engineering, where millions is being spent on weapons and where armed gangs rule the roost. The peace process needs to be as violent and blind as the killing process is, otherwise it just goes on.

    1. Our people will have to show courage and forgiveness. We have achieved nothing because we have left everything to our leaders and are willing to be led to our deaths like the silent lambs.

  7. Dear Zubeida ji,
    I feel sincere prayer, is needed to show the way out of the violence.

    Your article is an important step in the process,as it shows there are options, and they have worked in the very worst scenarios.

    In a lot of situations that I have come across, the first peace step
    is taken by the one mourning the loss of a dear one, who takes a courageous decision to be used as a pillar in a bridge of forgiveness. He or she leads the initiative to reach out to the perpetrators offering forgiveness and seeing a dialogue.
    It helps if there is a trained activist or religious or social worker,
    to help the victims, and mourners overcome their grief and anger,
    And see the need to break the chain of violence.

    Sometimes, some of the others are moved by this, as being human, they experience guilt, and are more inclined to want to offer some type of restitution, when they are forgiven.
    Victims don't want others to suffer the same fate.

    It is also possible for the media to play a very creative and helpful
    role, by facilitating, in a sensitive manner the process. In the last Mumbai train bombing, where some 140 Oreo people were killed, our media highlighted the mourning of many Muslim victims, along with the other communities, the sad plight of their families.

    As a result a great deal of sympathy was built up, as the public
    realized these were not religious based killings, so no
    community was targeted in retaliation.

    I do realize that the suggestions I am abut to make, may have already been carried out at some time, or may mot be feasible for a host of reasons that I may not be aware of, but, peace needs to be that idea whose time has come.

    I have been following some of the new discoveries about our mysterious brains and human behavior. It appears that we all have mirror cells and automatically, our thoughts are broadcast and recorded by others within a physical vicinity. That's why moods, smiles, laughter, and even depression are sort of contagiuous.

    Another strange thing about the human mind is that it recognises only the positive and affirms it. So for all negatives to be
    expressed, the opposite has to be created in the mind to delete them.
    A thought is therefore extremely powerful, as it attracts various
    energies and resources. So the thought has to be created in minds of many people about security, normality, unity, fellowship,
    team work, dialogue, meetings, etc, all of which will help to
    reach solutions that will bring peace.

    You have a very powerful media, and if the people behind the media, could unite, and form a vision, and build the infrastructure of peace workers, highlight events , and even highlight just normality, for a while, give low billing to terrorism and a premium to every thing that is functioning well, it might
    create and sustain the hope and energy that's required for a normal healthy society.

    I have been assured by Otis Moss jr., one of the leaders of the
    African American civil rights movement, that If you behave as if what you wanted was already here, that your cause
    has already been won, and plan for that, the greatest powers that are acting against you, will be silenced. .

    Wishing that very soon, peace is very very normal in Karachi.

  8. I have read your article .One really wonder how these so called politicians work No principles, no scruples human life has no value for them but pawns for their political gains.There has to be a clean young leadership.

  9. loss of innocent human lives in karachi is a faliure of govrenment writ and it will not impact good abroad, we will have to stage strong protest against power hungry people who want to ruin our country,

  10. Nice! I like the last quotation of the girl, “Stop, Stop! Don’t kill them” – And the hatred of the century old injustices vanished with those wonderful words! As you know it does not work that way. Years of injustice by the establishment sometimes surfaces in violence or for a demand for the rights of oppressed or secession in extreme situations. The looting, land grabbers, mafias and violence are the side shows. Belgian gave all the power, land and resources to a small tribe, Tutsis. The majority Hutus won elections and decided to butcher those Tutsis who were the instrument of injustice. It is sad that the third world countries do not show restraint (as that does not work there at all) in the matters of minorities. The power to steal and corruption becomes the only game in town.
    An African American, with criminal record, was beaten by white police officers and riots broke out; they burnt properties and vehicles; and people were injured. The man, Rodney King said something very interesting, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along- We are all stuck here for a while- Let us work it out”.

  11. No one cares for the poor, be it the MQM with their British Leader, or the rest ……. I feel that most of the ills which have fallen upon us is because of our silence. We the passive so called English speaking elite is only geared to self preservation. Till we grow up & stop listening to those Leaders who are too scared to come back, peace cannot come.
    Maybe a City Govt be formed to run it, with members of the main Political Parties ? But till the Fascist nature of both the PPP & MQM are geaerd on to loot, and then send it to the west…..nothing can happen !
    It is time to take serious note of the Election Com. call that those holding ‘dual’ nationalities cannot stand for Elections ! Those who have looted the sweat of the people & stuffed it in cooler climes…cannot change,

    We have to get up, to speak !

  12. I read the above article. It gave me a sense of deja vu from the Zia days, when peace loving people like yourself were asking for a thoughtful response instead of knee jerk reaction. The problem – and which I maintain in the chapter ‘Two Days that Sinned,’ in my book Aboard the Democracy Train, (http// is that there aren’t enough people like you. Also, being exposed to lower middle class staffers at Dawn, I saw how fearful they had grown at a time when MQM called the shots.

  13. You wrote a timely article. In addition what you said I feel Karachi
    has a unique status; its issues have to be addressed on priority
    basis. Most of its issues are related to good governance and socio
    economic development of the city. Political vision, justice and
    fair-play, fair and transparent election, acknowledgement of ballot,
    and complete halt over entry of deadly weapon in Karachi will help a
    lot in establishing peace in Karachi.

  14. Dear Zubieda ,Why are we Muhajirs after 63 year . We should be taught the native languages of the provinces ,(where we are born and educated) ,at school level ,so when we come out of schools ,we don't feel like strangers .All the people in Peshawar know and speak Pashto and sometimes Persian as well ,and every one in Lahore speak Punjabi what ever ethnic background they belong to . Why is it not so in province of Sindh .

    1. You are absolutely correct Samrina. Initially the "Muhajirs" who concentrated in the urban centres like Karachi did not feel the compulsion to learn Sindhi because Urdu was widely understood. The Language Act of 1972 tried to rectify this shortcoming by making Sindhi a compulsory subject in the School Leaving Exam (Matric) but unfortunately this has not spread the language the way it was intended to for two reasons. First the teachers who were employed failed to do a good job and given the weakness of our education system people appeared for their Sindhi papers, got good marks and yet could not speak the language after presumably studying it for seven years. Secondly with falling standards private schools started sending their students for O-Levels from Cambridge and London Boards which did not require them to study Sindhi.

      Besides no concerted efforts have been made to create facilities for Sindhi language teaching in a big city like Karachi. You can learn English, German, French, Spanish and Italian but where does one go for Sindhi?

  15. Thank you, Zubeida, for your very fine article. I look forward to reading the next articles – I much appreciate reading all that you write.

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