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Featuring a series of interactive workshops and dialogue on the ways to counter violent extremism, a conference, ‘An Initiative for the Victims and Survivors of Political Violence in Pakistan,’ concluded at the Forman Christian College University (FCCU).

The event was organised by the Grief Directory and the Centre for Public Policy and Governance (CPPG) of the university.

The event began with a three-day course, ‘Working with Sufferers, Victims and Survivors of Terrorism of Political Violence in Pakistan’ to bring together a small group of health professionals interested in learning more about supporting victims of political conflict with the emphasis on applying lessons from other societies to the situation in Pakistan.

The course was conducted by Professor Marie Breen Smith from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, US, and the Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, who is also the founder and editor of the journal, Critical Studies on Terrorism. She established the first database of deaths in the conflict in the Northern Ireland and founded the Institute for Conflict Research.

The presentations were interactive, with emphasis on applying the material provided by Ms Marie to the situation in Pakistan.

The topics in the course included defining victims and establishing their needs, the impact of language used in Pakistan, how to design and establish support systems and services for victims and, justice, truth, reconciliation and the media in society.

A daylong research workshop, titled ‘Researching the Impact of Political Violence in Pakistan’ was held on the fourth day of the conference, allowed researchers to learn more about the human consequences of armed conflicts and the challenges of conducting research in violent contexts. The course examined methodological challenges and approaches, ethical issues and risk management.

On the final day, a policy dialogue titled, ‘Envisioning a Compassionate Society, Responding to Sufferers & Survivors of Political Violence in Pakistan’ was held to focus on the situation of those affected by violent extremism, led by Professor Marie. The sufferers and survivors of violence, Shazia Khan, social activist from Hazara community, and Dr Fatima Ali Haider, founder of the Grief Directory, shared their stories.

The conference concluded with a meaningful discussion among the participants to evaluate the current challenges and opportunities identified in the programme and set up a network of people who wish to participate and support the development of research on the needs of victims and the establishment of services for victims in Pakistan.

During the final session of the conference, sharing his views, Dr Saeed Shafqat, director of CPPG, said the dialogue must continue and individuals must continue to be responsible citizens.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2017