Conflict Resolution Research in Pakistan: Scope and Challenges to the Development of the Discipline

Authors: Maria Saifuddin Effendi

Conflict Resolution Research in Pakistan: Scope and Challenges to the Development of the Discipline[1]


The emergence and development of the field of conflict resolution had taken roots dated back to 1960s in different parts of Europe and the USA. The field was introduced after a rigorous research on having an alternate mechanism through which local or international disputes and conflicts can be managed and then ultimately resolved peacefully. In Europe, the field was successfully introduced and utilized in best possible manner. Whereas, in third world countries, the development of the field is deplorably slower, in Pakistan, conflict resolution, as a field and discipline could not emerge as a popular one. With the existence of numerous intra-state issues, economic and socio-religious conflicts, the field is limitedly known and attended. Despite being taught as one of the optional/compulsory courses, conflict resolution could not be established as an avidly studied subject in Pakistan. Most of the time, students and researchers refer the discipline as an idealistic notion, which has no application in practical realm. The paper focuses on the existence of conflict resolution as a subject and field in Pakistani society. It tries to trace the scope of the field in the country. The paper also contains main challenges and impediments towards the growth of the discipline. Ways to improve the situation and less popularity of the subject will also be suggested in the paper.

Keywords: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Management, Conflict Transformation, Conflict Prevention, Crisis Management, Conflict Analysis, Conflict Assessment


Conflict Resolution (CR) is an interdisciplinary subject, originating from International Relations, Peace Studies, and Political/Diplomatic History of Europe etc. It had started emerging as a separate discipline in Europe since the 1960s with the growing threat to human security due to prevalent nuclear arms race between two power blocs i.e. the United States and the then Soviet Union. The field thoroughly established with the end of Cold War and innovative ideas to the resolution of world conflicts contributed further to the progress of peace and conflict resolution research. The discipline is in its embryonic stage in developing countries. Yet conflict resolution research faces numerous conundrums to be perceived as an independent field of study and research by the educated strata of the Third World societies.

In Pakistan, the discipline could not be considered as a separate or an independent subject to be studied or researched. Pakistani Universities offer related disciplines i.e. International Relations (I.R.), Defense and Strategic Studies (DSS), Diplomatic Studies (DS), Political Science (PS) etc. Some of the Universities offer Conflict Resolution as an optional course in one of the semesters of M.A degree Program (in I.R, DSS, D.S).

Most of the students perceive CR as part of security studies or international relations. Similarly, many research think tanks in Pakistan focus on the regional/international security paradigms of the conflicts. The research work is usually issue-oriented[i] not subject oriented. Theories of Conflict Resolution, Conflict Management (CM) and Conflict Transformation (CT) are probably less popular to be included in such issue-oriented research. The issue-oriented research entails analysis, recommendations to resolve the issues/conflicts but does not emphasize proper conceptualization, quantification and orientation of the conflict under the existing conflict resolution or management mechanism or framework.

The study is divided into three parts. The first part dwells upon the conceptualization of conflicts and Conflict Resolution. The second part relates to the existing state of Conflict Resolution as a discipline and area of research in Pakistan. The last part of this paper aims at exploring the obstacles in the field of CR for the practitioners/researchers, among the CR students and challenges that impede the process of development for the discipline. Recommendations would also be made to establish the field in Pakistani educational and professional systems.


The paper focuses on:

  1. The scope and development of the discipline of Conflict Resolution in Pakistan.
  2. Why CR could not become a lucrative industry when the land is full of conflicts?
  3. Areas that should be highlighted and concentrated for the development of CR research.

Conflict resolution: Theoretical framework

What is conflict?

The term ‘conflict’ refers to clash of interests, ideologies, values; struggle between haves and have-nots; competition over scarce resources etc. Scholars define ‘conflict’ according to various perspectives. Political scientists describe conflict as a political phenomenon that emerges when states harbor dissimilarities in systems, ideologies or values. In most of the cases, such differences prelude to latent conflict that can trigger into hot pursuit at later stage. A conflict escalates when violence becomes part of the conflict expression. Economists characterize conflict as a competition over resources between developed and developing blocs or a struggle between different economic systems.

Social conflict can be defined as issues to be emerged out of the existing socio-cultural structure. Sometimes, such issues relate to the differing ethnic or religious identities in a certain country or region. According to Schellenberg (1996:8), “social conflict is the opposition between individuals and groups on the basis of competing interests, different identities, and/or differing attitudes.” Conflict may also arise between dissimilar parties such as majority and a minority, an established government and a group of rebels, a master and his servant, an employer and her employees, a publisher and his authors (Miall, 2005:12). A conflict may emerge if the system does not include and guarantee legitimate rights of a certain portion of population under its jurisdiction.

In the words of Burton (1993:11): “conflict describes a relationship in which each party perceives the other’s goals, values, interests, or behavior as antithetical to its own. Conflict embraces, first, the relationships between parties to a dispute, their perceptions and misperceptions, their shared and separate values, and their goals and motivations, and second, the political, social, economic, and institutional environment in which the dispute takes place.” Sometimes, ethnic ideologies or value/belief system are exploited by the conflict actors to play power politics, suited best to their vested interests. Such value-based conflict can be transformed as interest-based with the inclusion of political and economic factors or due to the exploitation of values or beliefs by the political actors. According to Wallensteen (2002:15) “it is also conflict when two states are at war with one another, and where battlefield events determine their relations. The actions constitute the conflict.”

Dynamics of prevalent world orders also left an impact on the definition of conflicts. The definition varies with time and space. In the Cold War era, conflict referred to the clash between two different systems i.e. capitalism and socialism. In post-Cold War era, the definition of conflict appeared as a struggle among different economies. Conflict was also defined in terms of intrastate (ethnic, secessionist movements) issues. In post-9/11 world order, terrorism against the West can be described as the main conflict. During different world orders, the phenomenon of conflict could not be restricted to one cause or one aspect of the issue. It has always numerous immediate and underlying factors and actors that led to full-fledge confrontation at international or intra-national level.

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution yields different meanings to different people. "Conflict resolution" implies that conflict is bad—hence something that should be ended (Lederach, 1995). Conflict resolution is the mechanism through which conflict is settled by way of a permanent solution. Because it seeks to get at the source of problems, conflict resolution aims not merely to resolve the immediate social conflict, the immediate family or ethnic dispute, but also to provide insights into the generic nature of the problem and thus to contribute to the elimination of its sources and the prevention of other instances (Burton, 1993:1). In the traditional meaning of security, conflict resolution is none other than deterrence, using coercion as a technique to end the conflict, through power politics, balance of power between or among the conflict participants, pre-emptive strikes, defensive strategies to confront and resolve the conflict immediately. In the non-traditional security paradigm, conflict resolution focuses on the redressing or eradication of human security threats such as poverty, illiteracy, human trafficking, disasters, malnutrition, epidemics and poor health system.

Conflict resolution is not only a specified method for political conflicts but equals the importance for economic/industrial/commercial disputes too. For the industrial negotiator, resolution implies some settlement arrived at through bargaining, even if it involves the loss of jobs (Burton, 1993).

Burton describes the mechanism as a process of ‘analytical problem solving’ (Burton, 1993). The ‘theory’ of conflict resolution, in so far as there has been one, consists of theories about processes, about communication, perception, and interaction (Burton, 1993).The process employs different techniques to resolve the conflict. There can be different types of negotiation and mediation, coercion, arbitration, adjudication. The idea is to accommodate interests of the parties to the conflict through peaceful means. Many a times, it is difficult to accommodate the differing interests of the combatants and conflict may become intensified with violence and the employed technique may collapse. Under such circumstances, parties may invite third-actor or mediator to intervene in order to manage or avoid the exasperating crisis situation.

Related terms of conflict resolution

Conflict Management (CM) --- the mechanism through which one can manage the conflict in less violent manner. "Conflict management" correctly assumes that conflicts are long term processes that often cannot be quickly resolved, but the notion of "management" suggests that people can be directed or controlled as though they were physical objects. In addition, the notion of management suggests that the goal is the reduction or control of volatility more than dealing with the real source of the problem (Lederach, 1995).

Conflict Analysis (CA) --- a microscopic process of analyzing an intractable conflict. It is meant to give a deeper insight of the immediate and underlying causes, participating actors, stakeholders, determinants that lead to the different stages of the conflict. Conflict analysis is the systematic study of the profile, causes, actors, and dynamics of conflict.

Conflict Assessment (CA) --- a way to assess the intensity; calculate risks, costs and challenges of the conflict, and benefits or fruits of the absence, reduction of conflict and violence. In a scholarly sense, it is ‘the process of systematic collection of information about the dynamics of a conflict’ (Shmueli, 2003).

Conflict Transformation (CT) --- a mechanism through which conflict is not intended to be resolved but to be transformed from negative to positive, from destructive to constructive. Transformation also involves altering the way conflict is expressed. It may be expressed competitively, aggressively, or violently, or it may be expressed through nonviolent advocacy, conciliation, or attempted cooperation (Lederach, 2005).

Conflict Prevention (CP) --- Conflict prevention, as reflects the term, prevents combatants, states, nations and organizations from adapting violent and revengeful course of actions. The approach helps conflict actors to move down from further escalation. The approach advocates strengthening and empowering the states’ institutions that guarantee legitimate rights of the people, fair justice and more focus on rehabilitation of war sufferers, reconstruction/rebuilding of the conflict prone areas, reconciliation among conflict parties etc.

Crisis Management (CM) --- Crisis management normally entails strategic actions and decisions that are required to be employed to stop violence or war immediately.


The field of conflict resolution in Pakistan

Conflict Resolution assumes the lowest level of popularity among all the disciplines of social sciences in Pakistan. It has not been accorded as a separate discipline at the academic level. Out of many different Universities in Pakistan, there is only one university – National Defense University (NDU) Islamabad which has established ‘Department of Peace and Conflict Studies (PCS)’ and introduced M.Sc and M.Phil –Ph.D programs in PCS. It has been noticed that National University of Science and Technology (NUST) – Rawalpindi is also establishing a similar Department these days. Interestingly, both the Universities are not well-known for social sciences, yet have taken the initiative to introduce a subject which is badly needed to be researched and studied in the country. Azad Jammu and Kashmir University has started a diploma in conflict resolution and peace studies since 2006.

At an intellectual or institutional level, research has been done in the related fields of international relations, strategic and security studies, nuclear politics but not directly in conflict resolution and conflict prevention. Following section will deal with the Universities that teach CR and the research institutes that have conducted studies on CR.

Conflict resolution at academic level

National Defense University – Islamabad has been privileged to introduce Department of Peace and Conflict Studies (PCS) for the very first time in Pakistan. The department was established in August 2008, with 5 faculty members (including Dean of the faculty and Head of the Department) and 11 students of M.Sc-PCS (comprising military personnel and civilians).

During the initial period of its foundation, the Department faced enormous administrative issues to establish a proper infrastructure. Over the period of one year, the department has expanded to M.Phil-PhD level with 34 and 90 students enrolled in M.Sc and M.Phil programs respectively.

A detailed research has been done on the number of Universities that teach CR and Peace Studies as part of International Relations or Political Science:

  1. University of Punjab – Lahore: Under the faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences, there are only two departments that bear some pertinence with international relations, yet no direct relevance with the conflict resolution has been found (Official website of the University of Punjab). Department of Political Science offers Political Science, Diplomacy and Strategic Studies and International Relations.
  2. University of Karachi – Karachi: there are two Departments; Political Science and International Relations. Conflict Resolution, Crisis Management, Confidence Building Measures and Diplomacy are courses that are offered for B.A. (Hons.) and M.A. degree programs (Official Website of Karachi University). The department of I.R. has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UN University of Peace, Costa Rica to start an MS Program in Peace and Conflict Studies.
  3. Quaid-e-Azam University – Islamabad: There are two Departments; International Relations and Defense and Strategic Studies (Official Website of Quaid-i-Azam University). In DSS, Conflict Resolution is taught as one of the compulsory courses.
  4. University of Peshawar – Peshawar: University of Peshawar (Official website of University of Peshawar) shelters two Departments; Political Science and International Relations and none of them offers any subject related to peace studies or conflict resolution.
  5. Baha-uddin Zakariya University – Multan: The University has two Departments; Political Science and International Relations and Conflict Resolution and Crisis Management are taught in M.A (I.R.) Program (official website of BZU, Multan).
  6. The Islamia University of Bahawalpur – Bahawalpur: It has only one relevant Department i.e. International Relations which offers M.A. in political science and International Relations and none of the course is pertinent to peace and conflict resolution (Official Website of IUB).
  7. University of Sargodha – Sargodha: it has only one Department; International Relations and it offers M.A. in IR and Political Science. Conflict Resolution is taught in one of the semesters, required for M.A. (IR) (Official website of University of Sargodha).
  8. University of Sindh – Jamshoro: The University has two departments, political science and International Relations and conflict resolution and peace studies are taught in the 8 semesters of B.S. (IR) (Official Website of University of Sindh).
  9. University of Balochistan - Quetta: The University has two Departments; International Relations and Political Science and none of them teach conflict resolution or peace studies (Official website of UoB, Quetta).
  10. Fatima Jinnah Women University - Rawalpindi: The University has only one Department, Defense and Diplomatic Studies and International Peace and Conflict Resolution is taught in one of the semesters of graduate program (official website of FJWU).
  11. National University of Science and Technology - Rawalpindi: An advertisement for the faculty for Peace and Conflict Studies required by NUST was published in a national daily few weeks back. A proper research has not been made to confirm if the university has already established Department of Peace and Conflict Studies but it has been observed that it intends to make one soon.
  12. Azad Jammu and Kashmir University – Muzzafarabad: the University has established a Center for Peace and Conflict Studies under the Institute of Kashmir Studies – AJKU on 1stAugust 2006 (Official Website of AJK University). The center has introduced a post-graduate diploma that can lead to master’s level studies.

Out of 12 public Universities of Pakistan, only 7 offer conflict resolution and peace studies as compulsory or optional subject of M.A/M.Sc or B.A. (Hons.) programs
(now thirteen in 2017). The syllabus of CR which is taught in KU, BZU, QAU, SU and FJWU contain basic theories of CR (i.e. individual characteristic and social process theories) and a very brief mention of conflict resolving techniques/approaches (i.e. mediation, negotiations, arbitration, adjudication etc). Students are not taught the criticism on conflict emergence theories which was presented by certain western authors. For example, the thesis of Konrad Lorenz on animal instinct (which is part of individual characteristic theory) is critically evaluated and assessed by psychoanalyst Erich From in his “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness” (Fromm, 1973) but it is not included in any of the mentioned curriculum. Applied Conflict Resolution is not taught in any of the above mentioned universities.

Conflict resolution at professional level

There are a number of think tanks in Pakistan that work on different problem areas of International Relations. Some of the Institutes do include topics related to conflict and peace studies yet the notion ‘positive peace’ or ‘conflict resolution’ are not too adequately and frequently mentioned in the research subjects/arguments. The institutes are; Institute of Strategic Studies-Islamabad (ISSI), Institute of Regional Studies (IRS), Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Institute of Strategic Studies; Research and Analysis (ISSRA), Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and Program on Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at Department of International Relations, University of Karachi(PPSCR-KUIRD). Of all, only PPSCR-KUIRD is the one that purely concentrates on CR, CBMs, peace and CM.

Existing research on conflict resolution

The author has taken a careful look at the research studies conducted by three popular think tanks of Pakistan during 2001-09 (IRS, IPRI and ISSI). Most of the studies are topically done which has no room for the conceptualization of conflicts. IRS publishes a quarterly journal ‘Regional Studies’[ii]. The research which has been published in Regional Studies mainly concentrates on South Asian issues. It has also published studies on Pakistan foreign policy and issues that are related to Pakistan’s external security paradigm. Since 2001, the journal has produced only five research studies on Conflict Resolution (Hafeez, 2004; Akhtar, 2004; Yaqoob, 2004; Ilyas, 2004-05; and Akhtar, 2007), six studies on peace (Effendi, 2003-04; Zeb, 2003; Keethaponcalan, 2006; Akhtar, 2007-08; Ilyas, 2006; and Effendi, 2006), five on conflict studies (Mahmud, 2003-04; Effendi, 2004; Bhatty, 2002; and Hafeez, 2005), three on CBMs (Kalam, 2002; Ahmar, 2002-03; and Effendi, 2005), one on CM (Paukert, 2007) and one on CT (Sardar, 2008). The five articles on CR present issue oriented research, out of which only one study (Irish Model and Kashmir Conflict: Search for a New Paradigm for Peace in South Asia) was subject oriented and applied an existing model of CR to an inter-state conflict of Pakistan. Six studies on peace included no conceptual framework of peace theories and only two papers (Peace Process and the News Media: A closer look at the Agra Summit, and Pakistan-India Peace Process: Summits in Focus (1999-2005) are related tointer-state issues of Pakistan. Two studies on CBMs (The challenge of Cooperation in Pak-Bangladesh Relations, Maritime CBMs between India and Pakistan: Explorable Areas of Cooperation) are relevant for the external conflict dynamics of Pakistan. Similarly, the five research papers on conflict studies had no relevance with the conceptual background of the conflicts, nor did they cover Pakistani dimension. The only paper on CT refers to Pakistan’s conflict with India over Kashmir.

IPRI also publishes a quarterly ‘IPRI Journal’ with only two studies on CR and three on peace during the span of nine years (Khan, 2008; Ahmar, 2003; Khan, 2009; Lewis,, 2009; and Krishnasamy, 2002). ISSI brings out “Strategic Studies” and published many studies on different conflicts of international politics, some related to external dimension of Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan, US War on Terror yet none of the research comprised any proper theoretical mechanism of CR, CT, CM, CBMs and CP[iii]. In all the three research institutes, none of the journals provided any account of research on conflict prevention during 2001-09 At the intellectual level, the concept of CR, CM, CT, and CP are more related to security studies in the country.

Researchers work on different dimensions of traditional security and relate the presence and typology of the conflict with the security dynamics of the region or the country. Sometimes, conflicts are studied under the light of foreign policies or relations of the countries. During the last nine years, none of the research publications has explained the quantification, orientation of the conflict by Pakistani researchers, nor did they include existing models or mechanism of conflict resolution while proposing a solution to the contemporary conflicts. One of the dilemmas is that researchers are not encouraged or motivated enough to choose a conflict of their land. There may be myriad of reasons for not choosing Pakistan as a case study of conflict and peace mechanism. A detailed account of such reasons is given in the later sections of the study. Research think tanks and social sciences disciplines are institutionalized in western countries. Policy making process necessitate this institutionalization because in-depth study of whats, whys, whens, wheres and hows of the conflicts and issues is required to make decisions at national and international level. Nevertheless such trend has largely been shunned in Pakistani political society.

General concept of CR in Pakistan

The field of conflict resolution has been coping with the definitional and methodogical problems in Pakistan. As mentioned earlier, fewer Universities offer CR, CM and PS as optional courses under International Relations at graduate level. The curriculum that has been offered by such Universities provides basic concepts and theories of CR, CM and PS. They are not designed to include exclusive topics of ‘Applied Conflict Resolution/Practice of CR’ or updated research, latest debates and details on the changing theories/dynamics of CR as a subject/field at international level. They do not supply a good amount of knowledge on the indigenous conflicts as case study of CR, CM, CT, CP or CBMs. Similarly, at intellectual level, the research has not been done specifically on the mechanism and methods of Conflict Resolution.

A survey has been conducted among the current students of M.Sc. PCS –NDU[iv]. The students were asked different questions regarding their perceptions and understanding of conflict resolution and peace studies prior to taking admission in NDU and after qualifying the first semester of their studies in the university. Out of 34 students of M.Sc – PCS, almost 90% of the students said they had no idea what conflict resolution is all about at the time of their admission. The prime motivation behind seeking admission in PCS at NDU was related to their fascination towards an institute under the auspices of Pakistan military. Many students also belong to families of the serving or retired Pakistan armed officials. A group of students, studying in the University, are serving army officers, Members of National Assembly (MNAs) and retired diplomats and ambassadors who are sent to study conflict resolution and peace studies by their respective authorities. The most common definitions and perceptions of CR by the students are:

  1. CR is a situation in which third party intervenes to resolve a conflict.
  2. CR is related to efforts eliminating terrorism and addressing the basic reasons behind terrorism.
  3. CR is a subject which is related to International Relations
  4. There are various types of conflicts and can be solved through coercion or military means.
  5. CR is a psychology of peace, psychology of aggression.

It has been observed that the serving army officials had adopted a drastic change in their approach to deal with the conflict after the first semester of their studies. People who had fought wars with the neighboring country, who had studied war strategies and tactics to win over the enemy throughout their careers, it turned out as a pleasant surprise to see them discussing peaceful ways to resolve conflicts. After studying CR, the students are in better position to see a conflict objectively and more systematically.

Why is there a need to teach and study CR?

Despite the fact that one third of the total land is conflict ridden, disciplines such as peace studies or conflict resolution are highly discouraged at academic as well as institutional level in Pakistan. The need to teach and study Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies assumes greater importance yet it is not realized by the concerned authorities. There are various reasons to establish CR as a separate discipline in the country. They are:

  1. Pakistan is a classic example of inter-and intra-state conflicts where a conflict not only emerges but escalates and finally leads to a full-fledge confrontation at national and regional level. The conflicts tend to persist for a longer period of time despite various efforts to resolve them devoid of sustainable success. At the current state of chaos, the region is conflict sensitive yet the people are not sensitized enough to deal with conflicts, to respond to a crisis or war like situation, or to recover and rehabilitate after a devastating crisis. Due to the prevailing local and international political dynamics, Pakistan is going through a state of instability and copes with a continuous existence of multi-dimensional conflicts.
  2. The people of Pakistan experience suicide bombings, targeted killings, assassinations, abductions, drone attacks, loot and plunder in their job stations, shopping areas, universities or academic institutions, or even while staying at home or commuting/traveling from one place to another. In a country, where a crisis can erupt without any alarm, people are not too fortunate to learn about conflict or crisis management. There are no formal or even informal training centers in the country that can help people to foresee an imminent catastrophe in one of the listed or anticipated targets by the terrorists or militant organizations. People are less aware of their surroundings, suspicious individuals and of the personal security measures they need to take before a crisis situation occurs. Conflict Resolution or Peace Studies is not a subject to be studied to earn a decent and luxurious living. It has become a vital necessity for people of the conflict torn areas where any day can become the last day of a person or a bulk of population.
  3. The progress of any state or nation depends upon its youth because they hold the future and they tend to play a purposeful role in the progress of the country. Students need to study conflict resolution not only to have a better understanding of world affairs or to be informed of the local political environment but as part of their economic, ethnic or communal living too. The field of Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies is highly misconceived and misunderstood in the developing countries such as Pakistan. Most of the people/students refer it as only pertinent to academic disciplines i.e. history, political science, international relations etc. They perceive it as a part of the degree program after which a money-spinning employment is guaranteed. Conflict Resolution is not a confined field or subject. It is relevant to our day-to-day life, economic or commercial disputes in an organization or corporate world, to deal with the existing or upcoming financial crisis or collapse in the country. In some of the private Universities, Conflict Resolution or Alternate Dispute Resolution is part of the curriculum of Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program or L.L.B. Having ‘peace’ should be an ultimate dream in all spheres of life. It is therefore recommended that peace studies and conflict resolution should be made as a compulsory subject of degree programs. They should not only be taught at graduate level but the subjects should form compulsory curriculum in primary and secondary school systems too.
  4. C.R. and PS offer various concepts. They are not restricted to a single idea or fewer schools of thought. They cater models/beliefs like patience, tolerance, acceptance of the other, reconciliation, justice, peaceful co-existence, negotiations, socio-cultural and religious harmony, peacemaking, peace-building etc. Pakistan enjoys a rich multicultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic fabric. It is a heterogeneous society where the main source of conflict is largely based on the difference of language, religious sects, ideologies and ethnicity. The concepts of C.R. such as tolerance, patience and peaceful co-existence should be taught to the students who are members/participants of this rich culturally assorted society. This is the high time to learn how people from two different ideologies can co-exist peacefully with each other, how can they behave in a multicultural, multi-ethnic environment.


Impediments for conflict resolution research in Pakistan

Conflict Resolution has yet to evolve as a separate and full-fledged subject in Pakistani academic system. The subject has originated from International Relations. It has to go through many phases of development before it can emerge as a vital and concrete field of study. Challenges and obstacles can be ranged from macro to micro level. It is needed to identify the main hindrances in the development of the subject in Pakistan.

Following section of the study divides the impediments of CR development into two parts: problems that are faced at professional level and issues that hinder the educational process of students in Pakistan.

Obstacles for CR practitioners

Obstacle 1: Conflict Resolution versus I.R. and political science

The existence of war studies and strategic studies necessitated an opposing or contradictory field of study that could compete and compliment war theories or strategic thoughts. Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution emerged as separate disciplines in response to war studies in the Western world. In Pakistan, a greater sense of fear prevails among those International Relationists and Political Scientists who subscribe to the view that peace and conflict studies may invalidate the importance of realist school of thought that focuses on resolving conflicts through violent means, deterrence, coercion, negative peace etc. Whatever courses are taught in the Departments of International Relations they are situated in the security paradigm and are dominated by teachings of the realist school. This school glorifies war, balance of power scenarios and the utility rather than the futility of nuclear weapons (Ahmar and Siddiqui, 2005). With the belief of realism, conflict resolution and peace studies are highly opposed by such scholars and researchers.

Obstacle 2: Perceptional problem of CR

Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies are referred to as idealist paradigm. The concepts are misconceived as too softer to address and settle a conflict. CR has not been taken as an independent subject by researchers of Pakistan too. The first reason is related to its interdisciplinary resemblance with International Relations. And the second reason is the alleged over-optimism that peace and conflict resolution promotes through its conceptual and academic patterns.

Obstacle 3: Available expertise on CR in Pakistan

When there is a dearth of area/field experts, it is very difficult to make people realize the importance of that subject or field. The availability of qualified and skilled manpower, consisting of specialists and experts would help in discourse development, and provide the necessary link between governmental policies and the public (Malik, 2008). Freedom and independence in research is not an encouraging phenomenon in Pakistan. Researchers and academicians do not present critical analysis on the internal conflicts and domestic policies of the country. Moreover, the existing expertise in CR is also not much in quantity. In Pakistan, there are a handful of people who have obtained graduate degrees in Peace and Conflict Resolution from foreign institutions. There are less than 5 PhD scholars who are completing their specialization in Conflict Resolution abroad these days. Scarce human resource in CR research is one such factor of the non-introduction and non-acceptance of the subject in the country. The researchers of International Relations and Political Science complain that research is a thankless job, which does not provide higher salary packages than do other scientific or business related industry do to its employees. Since the field has not been established in the country, area experts tend to be settled abroad where the utilization of their education may be made in a better way in both academic and professional means.

Obstacle 4: Isolation in CR research

The handful or limited number of CR researchers in Pakistani institutes, think tanks and NGOs are not seen as too active to collaborate, communicate or exchange the available information, knowledge and expertise on CR, CP, CM, PS with area experts around the world. The social sciences research is dominated by international relations and security studies in Pakistan. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why CR researchers are seen in isolation and less motivated to bring fresh ideas, to get connected with the world outside and to exchange and debate latest trends of CR. Galtung has outlined similar problem while delineating problems of peace research in Europe in 1960s. In his words, “much oriented research in big bureaucracies or enterprises becomes stale because of isolation from other research environments, and because it is dominated by people with insufficient motivation to renew themselves (Galtung, 1975).”

Obstacle 5: Sponsorship for CR related programs

Research in CR would be beneficial for Pakistan to identify and manage its numerous conflicts. Identifying and picking up conflicts for peaceful management may not fall under the interests of state machineries. Most of the think tanks in Pakistan are funded by state ministries. State machineries are operated by leadership with vested interests. The prolonged duration of conflicts may serve long term goals of the people in power. And this is one of the main reasons why CR or peace related research has not been recognized and realized at public level. Think tanks that come under ministries have to follow specific agenda of their sponsors. The research carried out at such sponsored institutes may not reflect upon the utility of having peace and viable mechanism of conflict resolution for the society due to the (short term) policy guidelines given by sponsors.

Obstacle 6: Prevalent political trends and CR

The researchers who work in the semi-government organizations (funded by certain ministries) or NGOs (funded by organizations from developed countries) are supposed to deliberate on ‘current trends of world politics’. It is mandated to reflect upon or promote the favored stances of the sponsored governments or states over the under-researched conflict or issue. Unfortunately, most of the world and local politics revolve around negative peace trends, coercion, balance of power, deterrence etc. The researchers have therefore found a limited choice to rationalize their work for peace during different time periods of the prevalent governments as well as international arena. Most of the research is often centered on issues involving Pakistan and have an explicit or implicit emphasis on research work, which are complimentary to the accepted and established thoughts and views of the state functionaries (Ahmar and Siddiqui, 2005).

Impediments for CR students

Impediment 1: Academic counseling

The state of educational affairs is deplorable in Pakistan. Students are less privileged to access proper guidance for their studies at under-graduate and graduate level. There is no proper mechanism for academic counseling according to their aptitude, career interests and professional well-being. This is one of the initial impediments students go through while selecting the main field for their graduate studies. A similar problem arises when they intend to choose the elective subjects in social sciences. If proper guidance would be given to students by the teachers especially with regard to Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies, students would be in a better position to realize the importance of peace in their academic and professional career. According to the survey conducted at NDU, a great number of students of CR had no idea about peace studies prior taking admission in PCS.

The reason was that the educational institutes lack academic and career counseling at undergraduate and graduate level.

Impediment 2: Industry of social sciences

Existing industry of social sciences offers limited scope of earning. Graduates of International Relations and Political Science find financial opportunities in academia, civil services, media and non-government organizations. Ensuring financial security is the most motivating factor to study a subject at graduate level. In a developing country such as Pakistan, a bulk of population tries to choose a discipline of the popular and established industry from which they can earn and excel professionally. Concepts of peace, coexistence, conflict resolution, and conflict transformation, peace-building are secondary things to ponder over for those people who are struggling hard to have a decent quality living in a dismal state of affairs.

Impediment 3: Pakistan’s perspective in CR literature

Most of the available literature and theories of CR have originated from Western ideologies. No work has been done throughout 70 years of Pakistan’s independence which relates the theories and approaches of CR, CM and CP with the orientation of the intractable conflicts of Pakistani society. A Pakistani perspective on the conceptualization of internal conflicts needs to be given to the students. Albeit, theories of CR and CP are sufficient to study in the local context. Western models of PS and CR are applicable but some modifications should be made to be adjusted to indigenous conflicts of the country. An ideal conflict management method or mechanism should include all factors (political, economic, and social) that make the intervention successful in the conflict situation. There are certain conflict management models which are not culturally sensitive in the context of Pakistan. The neo-liberal concepts of human rights and women rights may not be applicable to the gender issues of Pakistan. Similarly, the process of peaceful coexistence, peace-building and peace-making interventions may not be found relevant for a politico-religious conflict such as Talibanization in Swat as the conflict actors are not equally educated or cultured. Geography, culture, language, history of the state’s political system etc are important factors to apply a conflict resolution or management model to a native conflict. The absence of innovative research on CR under Pakistani perspective prevents the students to look into the practicality and legitimacy of CR, CP, CM models in domestic conflicts.

Impediment 4: Theory and practice of CR in Pakistan

Students face a great degree of difficulty to find a link between theory and practice of CR in local context of Pakistan’s conflicts. There is a very limited or almost no research available or which is done on intra-state conflicts of Pakistan by Pakistani researchers. Of the fewer studies on conflicts in Pakistan, the literature rarely includes conceptualization of the conflicts and conflict stages according to the given paradigm/framework by renowned scholars of CR. The popular theories of CR, CM and CT such as individual characteristic theories, social process theories, protracted social conflict theory, mutually hurting stalemate model, readiness theory, pyramid model of conflict transformation and peace-building are taught in some Universities as part of curriculum of CR (in Departments of International Relations). Hence most of the students complain they do not find theoretical explanation of prevailing domestic conflicts in the research conducted by Pakistani scholars under the framework of CR models. The conflict of Swat, Baloch Nationalism, National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), Kerry Lugur Bill, sectarian violence in Pakistani society have not yet been identified or theorized under individual characteristic theories or Protracted Social Conflict model of Edward Azar (Schellenberg, 1996).

Islamic concept of CR

Theology plays a pivotal role in bringing up political and social thinking process of both urban and rural Pakistani society. The socio-cultural mindsets of Pakistani nation unconsciously seeks religious approval, concept, or system etc. One of the neglected dimensions of CR in Pakistan is the little understanding of the concept of CR in Islamic ideology. The notions such as war, jihad have been glorified as the main components of Islamic political system by religious scholars and theologists. The common sources of information regarding Islamic concepts on war, militancy, conflict etc are madressahs, Friday sermons in mosques, unauthentic researched literature on Islamic polity and state system, text books of Islamic Studies/Education, Pakistan Studies, Mughal History which are taught at primary or secondary school level. Ordinary Pakistani citizens attend elementary or high schools which teach and quote “war heroes” instead of “peace heroes”. On the contrary, peace treaties in Islamic history, peace-loving gestures and deeds of Prophets, spiritual message/ poetry by Saints in Mughal history have not been included in Pakistani education system. Graduate Students with that academic background may not be able to absorb the real concept of peace in Islam.

Conclusion and recommendations

After identifying few of the numerous impediments and challenges to the development of Peace and Conflict Resolution as discipline in Pakistan, the prospects do not seem too bright. Adequate, appropriate and persistent efforts by the concerned authorities, academicians and students need to be done in this regard. Some recommendations are made in this regard:

  1. The Departments of Peace and Conflict Resolution that have been established by few Universities or Institutes should be maintained and sustained. The experiment to introduce Peace and Conflict Resolution as a separate discipline and area of research should be given proper time to continue working for better and positive results. NUST had created an International Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies in 2005 but it is no more functional today. The University is now considering establishing a Department of Peace and Conflict Studies in near future. PCS-NDU was established a year ago. So far, it has introduced several courses on conflict prevention, conflict transformation, peace-building, peacekeeping, conflict analysis, peace education etc. Since it is the first ever department, established in the country, chances of opposition and criticism are likely to emerge from certain quarters.
  2. Job market in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies should be explored and then enlarged in the local communities and universities that teach CR in Pakistan. 3. Peace and conflict resolution should be marketed through common means of information especially media, newspapers, CR training workshops for professionals, seminars and conferences. The Departments of Peace and Conflict Studies in NDU, NUST and AJKU should come in lime light through media coverage, regional and international seminars, conferences, roundtables etc.
  3. There is an urgent need to introduce ‘peace education’ as one of the primary subjects that should be taught in early education system of Pakistan. After studying ‘peace education’ in their high schools, students will already be aware of the concepts of CR, CM, CP, PS when they would intend to join their graduate level education. Should the children be studying peace and conflict resolution at early stages of their education, there would be more awareness among the people of Pakistan. They would be in a better position to think that studying peace is not a way to make millions of bucks but it would help them to establish a harmonious relationship with their fellow beings. Peace education would make them realize the importance of the field that conflict-free area provides better opportunities of economic progress for the citizens. It would also help eliminate the stereo typical notions of ‘heroism’, glorification of war and violent means of resolving conflicts.
  4. CR and peace research is useful for government bodies. Since the country is going through a critical period, with deep-rooted and policy related conflicts, Pakistan should encourage independent and objective research in conflict resolution and conflict prevention. Such studies can particularly help its policy makers to understand why conflicts take place and how they could be prevented, managed and resolved (Ahmar and Siddiqui, 2005).
  5. Evolving contextual or Pakistani perspective in CR research does not imply the government’s favored stances, positions or policy guidelines on certain local conflicts. Conflicts are unique; they have different dimensions and typologies, they need a great variety of frameworks, methods and techniques to make conflict resolution process successful. Western models of CR, CM, and CP have been tested on world conflicts. Some of them were proved as successful, some partially successful while many rendered as failures. To adopt a more precautious approach, domestic socio-cultural context, gender sensitivity and Pakistani perspective are important to be included in the tested methods and mechanisms of CR while conducting relevant research or teaching concepts.
  6. Since social sciences are subjective in nature, students should be given freedom to see and decide the orientation of the conflict and nature of peace mechanism on their own and on the basis of scientific research findings and evidences. In this way, they would be more encouraged to adopt, evolve, bring and research on innovative and fresh ideas to CR and peace related research.
  7. Empirical method should be used in CR research by Pakistani researchers. The scope of peace or CR related research has been confined due to the absence of scientific research on internal conflicts of Pakistan. Students and relevant organizations/individuals do not find the details of conflicts in context of the subject (i.e. peace or CR). Data should be collected, processed, analyzed, and systematized into theories so as to provide a deeper understanding of the nature of conflict and the nature of peace (Galtung, 1975).
  8. Teachers and researchers of CR should be motivated enough to get updates on the subject, to be in touch with latest trends, changes in the field and to exchange information and knowledge with other area experts.
  9. Perceptional battle on conflict resolution and peace studies should be settled among the academia of International Relations and Political Science. It is important to study strategies to protect traditional security. But at the same time, it is indispensable to study how to protect human security through non-violent means. People from both contrary fields should not feel insecure as both subjects are interdependent in nature; they assume similar importance and validity.

Galtung predicted in his work on peace research that “peace as an issue is so dominated in the minds of men today that it seems reasonable to predict that peace research, after the first breakthrough, will develop very rapidly in terms of money, energy, and manpower consumed; and propositions and theories – and even applications – produced (Galtung, 1975;248).” Pakistan is likely to seethe first “breakthrough” in CR and peace research in coming years. Four Universities (NDU, NUST, KU and AJKU) have initiated and accepted CR and PS as full-fledged area of study. An institute PIPS has also been established. Sense of direction, focus on the subject needs to be given to these universities and institute. Establishing Conflict resolution and peace as a research oriented discipline is not a distant dream in Pakistani society. The two disciplines; War Studies and Conflict Resolution are interdependent on each other. Peace finds its survival in the land of conflicts. The need of hour is to realize and accept the importance of having favorable conditions and living environment for all human beings. Such conducive environment can be produced with a lesser degree of violence in the society[v].




[1] This article has already been published in Moonis Ahmar (2010). Conflict Resolution Research in South Asia. Karachi: University of Karachi. It is republished with the kind permission of the author, editor, and the publisher.


[i] Issue oriented because the researchers work on the existing conflicts and their resolution. It is a dilemma that such research does not cater theoretical orientation of the mechanism of conflict management or resolution. Such studies focus on the process of CR but theoretically yield no account of the subject i.e. different models and mechanism of CR, CM or CT.

[ii] The author has worked with a research think tank, Institute of Regional Studies, in 2002-08 and had closely observed the state of CR research in Pakistani institutes.

[iii] For details please see Strategic Studies of spring, summer, winter, autumn 2001-09

[iv] A sample of questionnaire which was circulated among the students has been attached as appendix I in the end of the paper.

[v] The author acknowledges academic assistance from her student Mr. Ali Irtiza (M.Sc-PCS-NDU) in data collection.



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About the Author

Maria Saifuddin Effendi is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, National Defence University, Islamabad, Pakistan. She can be reached at