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Unrest in Pakistan

To explore the reasons for the increasing violence on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.

by James Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To explore the reasons for the increasing violence on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.

Preparation and materials

  • No materials required.

Assembly

  1. Since 2001, international forces have been involved in conflict in Afghanistan. As a response to the 9/11 attacks, the United States, supported by many nations, including Great Britain and Northern Ireland, led a strike against terrorist infrastructure in the country, and the Taliban government which sheltered the terrorist groups. Although large numbers of terrorists were killed or captured, the international force has failed to bring stability and order to large parts of Afghanistan. In recent years, the Taliban and al-Qaida forces have relocated their fight to the neighbouring country of Pakistan.
  2. Pakistan has long been involved in conflict. The state spends a huge amount of its income on the military, while many millions continue to live in poverty. Many girls in particular do not receive adequate schooling, and this is especially true in the rural and mountainous areas.
  3. Pakistan’s government and military have often been accused of worrying more about their neighbour India, a major rival but also a peaceful state. Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Provinces are only nominally under government control, and tribal tradition still holds sway. An important part of this is hospitality shown to outsiders who request aid, which Taliban and al-Qaida fighters appear to be benefiting from. Anti-government forces frequently launch terrorist attacks with enormous impact: over 3,000 Pakistanis were killed through militant violence in 2009. It should be noted, however, that about half of these were militants killed by the Pakistani army or remote US drone attacks.
  4. The violence is obviously a dreadful tragedy, yet it also reveals some very difficult questions. Pakistan is a nuclear power, so any risk of militants gaining control of the country represents an international crisis. That, and the connections to Afghanistan, mean that what happens in Pakistan is the world’s problem, not just Pakistan’s. One can also see a clash between more traditional ways of life and a modern state desperately trying to secure land that it considers its own.
  5. These are difficult problems that people across the globe will have to face up to in the twenty-first century. However, the methods used by all parties in the present will not yield a satisfactory solution for all for the future, which means that the conflict will continue and more innocent people will suffer needlessly. Ultimately, a co-operative compromise that offers all parties some concessions would be the best outcome: the past has shown that learning to live with each other is the only way to end senseless violence.

Time for reflection

The violence in Pakistan poses big questions for us all.

Is it right for major powers to get involved in the politics of other countries?

Is it right for the West to pump money for weapons into countries where many struggle to survive for lack of basic resources such as food and education?

How can we influence other countries towards peace?

What is the role of the United Nations in these situations?

And, closer to home:

All religions seek peace. Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ (Matthew 5.9).

How do we work as peacemakers in our own communities?

This is a prayer based on words of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.

Hymn

‘Make me a channel of your peace’ (Hymns Old and New, 328)

Publication date: April 2010   (Vol.12 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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