Farhat Akram works for IPRI, a Pakistan-based think-tank. She says that think-tanks have an important contribution to make to peacebuilding in Pakistan, by encouraging research and dialogue on policy-related issues. “Think tanks in Pakistan have a long history of providing evaluations and commenting on policies that are implemented or are going to be implemented by incumbent governments. The role for the think-tank can be less direct and not necessarily that of taking bold practical and concrete initiatives; that I believe is the role of NGOs. NGOs can facilitate the process once it has been suggested by a scholar from these think tanks. Think tanks provide intellectual power to formulate the strategies for peacebuilding options. There is need for collaboration from both sides; links between think-tanks and NGO have often been stressed and they do cooperate often to support each other on peace studies”.
IPRI has a long history of collaborating with various institutes and organisations of international repute whose focus is in peace studies and the collaboration is on a mutually beneficial level. It undertaks research, analysis and evaluations of the “important national and international politico-strategic issues and developments affecting Pakistan, South Asia, and world affairs”. IPRI produce a number of internationally recognised publications which are a major source of influence on policymakers . IPRI has established several working relations with institutes that are working on peace. As far as Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflicts (GPPAC) and its collaboration with IPRI is concerned, there was one workshop conducted on September 1, 2008 in Pakistan on “Conflict Sensitive Journalism”. In this regard Regional Centre for Security Studies (RCSS) Sri Lanka collaborated with IPRI. Other projects with GPPAC are in the pipeline.
IPRI organises various seminars on issues of national and international concern. These topics create awareness and sensitisation at a broader level. For instance, IPRI has so far organised conferences on Conflict Resolution and Regional Cooperation in South Asia in 2004; Tribal Areas of Pakistan: Challenges and Responses in 2005; Political Violence and Terrorism in South Asia in 2006; Political Role of Religious Communities in Pakistan in 2008; and on “Baluchistan – Rationalization of Centre-Province Relations” in early 2010.
Through the IPRI’s platform, Farhat has researched and presented a paper on “the involvement of Jirga system and role of community based organisations in reconstruction of Afghanistan” in the conference on “Indigenization of Afghan Reconstruction: Challenges and Opportunities”, 18-19 March 2009 in New Delhi. She also organised a two-day national conference on “Baluchistan – Rationalization of Centre-Province Relations”, 13-14 April 2010 in Islamabad. The proceedings of the conference are soon to be published as a book.
Farhat is now working as a volunteer with Community Support Programme (CSP) and contributing towards CSP projects on interfaith harmony and peace education through conducting workshops, seminar, trainings and interactive sessions. Farhat Akram in partnership with her husband has launched Pakistan’s first English-Arabic bilingual magazine “The Diplomatic Insight”. She claims that the magazine is acting as a bridge amongst the diplomatic circles to come together on one platform. Thus this project strives to promote peace, interfaith harmony, understanding and cooperation among people, groups, and nations in a strife-torn world. Presently, she is also affiliated with Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit, as a co-moderator to conduct workshops on Conflict Management and issues connected to the conflicts. Internationally, she is affiliated with Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) in Pakistan, which is an initiative of the Women Without Borders project. Farhat Akram surely has a passion for peace and is expanding her knowledge in this field through an ongoing diploma in Peace Studies from Pakistan Futuristic Institute, Islamabad.
Farhat Akram is Kashmiri and shared the following thoughts on the Kashmir dispute in relation to her passion for peacebuilding: “Kashmir happens to be my motherland. The name Kashmir is now synonymous with terror, war and torture. The worth and cost of peace cannot be better realized by anyone other than the generation who were born in land of conflict where it is a prized and scarce rather extinct commodity. The childhood memories got registered in my mind and kept on resonating throughout my youth. Truly, I have lived up with a dream to see peace in Kashmir. Once, while narrating the events, my father said that conflicts cannot end by starting another conflict but through peace and dialogue. At that time the words just kept reverberating in my mind for many years but I had no means or resources to do something concrete. That was major reason of starting my journey towards peace and taking concrete peacebuilding initiatives”.
As well as interviewing Farhat about her work, I asked her to comment on our own website, Insight on Conflict. She had both a kind comment and suggestion: “The Insight on Conflict Project is path breaking initiative which provides local peace builders a chance to be globalized and come closer in this age of fast connections and easy access to information. It has all the ingredients of connection and information. I believe that this project must enhance its scope by inviting more individuals from Pakistan to share their thoughts and experiences. One thing which I would like to suggest that there must be a section in the website where if two peacebuilders from different regions of the world have coordinated or cooperated on a peace project, then they can express their thoughts and experiences”. We will take her recommendation on board and hope in the future to be able to offer this service.