For a country just over sixty years old, Pakistan has seen its fair share of wars, separatist movements, leader assassinations and sectarian violence. Today again Pakistan is in the midst of, what the public perceives as, a foreign war. There is a strong argument that US government strategy towards Pakistan and Afghanistan and needs to move beyond military tactics to development efforts on ground. Bringing the public on board is crucial to having a positive trust-based relationship and peace efforts. With billions in aid money pouring into Pakistan there are many international organizations starting development projects, but with little input from, or rapport with, the populations that will be most affected.

An effective long term solution is investing in social entrepreneurs. Raziq Fahim, elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009, is working in the impoverished Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Through his organization, College of Youth Advocacy and Development (CYAD), Raziq reaches out to at-risk, angry, disempowered youth who have felt ignored and overlooked by the traditional social structure long enough and have been, or are being, inducted by extremist madrassas (religious schools). Raziq gives them a way out of a cycle of violence by educating them, training them with skills that will address their communal needs, and providing financial and moral support to implement projects that they have identified as critical to their development.

One such young person came to Raziq’s earlier forums prepared to carry out a suicide bombing. After listening to the forum, he came up to Raziq and told him he had arrived prepared to detonate a bomb strapped to his body. However, he said, after listening to Raziq and the solutions-based approach of the forum he changed his mind. This youth saw hope beyond the money that was promised to his family as a result of his mission and later became one of the most active participants in the forum. Today nearly 850 young people trained and educated by CYAD are passing on the torch of empowerment and peace in a region of the world that is desperate for such hope.

Where drone attacks tear down homes, kill innocent civilians and increase the frustration and anger at the West thereby helping extremist factions recruit disillusioned young people, social entrepreneurs like Raziq build their capacity to become individual agents of change, provide them with opportunities and support for their development ventures and establish an enduring structure for peace.

This post was originally published on the Ashoka Peace Blog.