PCS personality of the week: Meet Country Director Islamic Help UK

By Talal Raza

“What is Department of Peace and Conflict Studies? What do we study there? Does Peace Studies have a scope? Is it worth studying at NDU?” These are some of the questions that are often asked by the prospective candidates while they are in the process of choosing PCS.

Mindful of these questions, Peace Insight is going to introduce readers to the faculty and students of PCS to give them an insider’s view of department and its activities. For this week, the scribe interviewed one of the shining stars of PCS, Mr. Habib Ahmad.

Habib

Mr. Habib Ahmad is the Country Director of a UK-based NGO Islamic Help. As the team leader, Mr. Ahmad takes care of the development and welfare activities of the organization within Pakistan.

In the past, Mr. Habib had extensively worked on issues of peace and conflict. He had the opportunity to work as Master Trainer for United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on cross border peace building and trained the locals in tribal areas.  He also had the opportunity to work in Swat and Mansehra.

Academically, Mr. Habib holds a Master’s degree in Social work from Peshawar University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Allama Iqbal Open University. Currently, he is pursuing M Phil in Peace and Conflict Studies from National Defence University.

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What made you choose PCS?

Since 2009, I had been engaged with peace in various ways and continued to get inspiration to study this discipline academically. For instance, I had the opportunity to attend certificate course offered by International Institute of Peace Studies, Thailand and also took a diploma with Asian Muslim Association Network (AMAN). Also I had worked with United States Institute of Peace on cross border peace building and trained the trainers and academia from Pashtun community. Then I worked in areas like Swat and Mansehra for some time. Going through these experiences, I realized that this field had scope in future. When I came to Islamabad, I decided that it was time to take admission in NDU in M Phil in Peace and Conflict Studies.

What courses have you studied? How have you found M Phil program?

This is a wonderful program. The syllabus is brilliant. Teachers are great scholars. All of them are PhDs. So far, we have studied about research methodology, war theories, international law and peace education. Also in one course named “Conflict and Cooperation in South Asia”, we have studied historical conflicts in Subcontinent. Our teacher has started from 10,000 B.C. That is wonderful. We are also studying about cultural and civilizational clashes. These are practical things which are quite useful for us in the field.

Do you think PCS M Phil program is preparing students for the practical field or there is disconnect between academic program and practical knowledge?

There is always a gap between theory and practice. But it is filled by the scholars who have spent sufficient time in the field. When they come and teach in university, there is an articulation of that. You study some subjects in historical context. You have to study background. Here at PCS, our teachers are practical. Some people are very academic but NDU is giving them exposure and they are being updated on the ground realities. Also, the interaction that takes place among the class fellows coming from different segments of society is also very useful. Some are media experts; some are from army having fought wars against terrorism and some are experts in community development. I feel there is beautiful congruence of practical and theoretical knowledge here at NDU.

How are you utilizing the knowledge gained through PCS M Phil program in the field?

The courses being taught at PCS are definitely helping me in the field. I am currently giving training on conflict resolution strategies and skills to an organization. I am training people in analyzing conflict and also on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) which is an informal way of dealing with conflict. Through ADR, people would be able to resolve their conflicts at the community level away from courts. Moreover, new ideas are definitely coming to my mind while pursuing this degree. I want to work on interfaith harmony. In a course “Conflict and Cooperation in South Asia’, we studied clash of civilization which is helping me in designing workshops on interfaith harmony. Clash of civilization has given me academic framework.

People say there is no scope of Peace and Conflict. In your opinion, what is the scope of Peace and Conflict in Pakistan?

The discipline of Peace studies is not a very old discipline. It is very new in Pakistan.  In America, there is a Peace center in every city and university. Here in Pakistan, out of 124 universities, only four to five universities offer courses in peace studies according to my humble knowledge. I believe that there is a lot of scope because our religion Islam talks about peace. Our culture is very humble and hospitable. Now, who will promote indigenous knowledge? The peace institutes; the scholars trained in peace and conflict studies. The more institutes we have, the more we will be able to produce scholars and experts apt in promoting peace.

Unfortunately here in Pakistan, we have developed a culture of debate in which there is one loser and one winner. We have to promote a culture of dialogue which culminates in a win-win situation for conflicting parties. It is only possible if people understand the faith and perspective of each other.

Pakistan is going through terrorism? In peace perspective what do you think should be happening? Which direction should civil society be taking?

Long lasting peace can be achieved when people would be involved in economic activities, earn money and have skills and education. Otherwise, even when the educated people have nothing productive to do, their dialogue also converts into a debate. There are certain conflict management styles. One of which is competition. The competition style is for world cup. Everything is not winning. We need to understand and follow the idea that “I matter and you matter as well.”

Civil society should focus on the development sector and involve youth. When people of FATA region were involved, there was no issue. When people became redundant, then there emerged a lot that disturbed the peace of the society.

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