The Dynamics Of Change In Conflict Societies: Pakhtun Region In Perspective

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Straddled across the Pak-Afghan border, the Pakhtun region has witnessed a long history of perpetual war, violence, insecurity and displacements, which profoundly affect the socio-psychological, political and economic conditions of its people. For decades, life within Pakhtun society in the Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has been viewed through the spectrum of social and political upheavals and conflict in Afghanistan. Since 2001, the US and NATO engagement in Afghanistan has added to growing unrest in Pakhtun society.

Besides armed conflict, the region is increasingly affected by global markets, transnational movements and migrations. These developments have not only led to the introduction of new commodities, but also of diverse sets of religious and secular ideas, beliefs and world views. Globalization and its concomitant effects have contributed to mounting security problems, weakened the state’s regulatory capacity and added to legitimacy deficits. These forces of globalization have particularly affected the younger generation. The resulting complications are affecting the social and political configuration of the region. Meritocratic modes of accession to power and patrimonial rulership are being challenged by new modes of leadership, sometimes connected to warlordism, drug trafficking and religio-militant extremism. Such influences are undermining the powerbase of the traditional political elite, composed of tribal elders and religious authorities.

The Pakhtun region and its people are currently undergoing a critical phase of change. Recent transformations need to be interpreted not only in the wake of 9/11’s aftermath, but also as a result of more recent developments in the domains of governance and administration. These include, firstly,  reforms of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA); secondly, the proposed introduction of a local government system; and finally, through the recently passed and promulgated 18th Amendment, an increase of provincial autonomy within the Pakistani constitution, accompanied by a renaming of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). The latter development is seen by some as a major step towards the attainment of a Pakhtun identity for the province.

Viewing the dynamics of change within Pakhtun region, one should not mistake its inhabitants as passive victims of conflict; they have always played an active role in the society’s transformation. By drawing on rich cultural resources such as an elaborated moral code, including certain mechanisms of dispute settlement and social cooperation, the means for the resolution of conflict have been inherent in Pakhtun society throughout its history.

In order to gain a more holistic view of the dynamics of change in a society which faces on-going conflict, the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar, in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Islamabad, invites proposals for a conference on dynamics of conflict and change in Pakhtun society, to be held on June 25 and 26, 2013.

This conference follows the first international conference on dynamics of change in Pakhtun society, organized by the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar, and the Hanns Seidel Foundation in November 2011 (please find the proceedings here). This conference was meant to be the first in a series of conferences, aimed at a closer investigation of the dynamism which is associated with the Pakhtun region and society. In order to explore more deeply the critical factors and impacts of change, this second conference will cover new thematic areas relating to the recent dynamics within Pakhtun society.

These include:

Pakhtun society and social dynamics

  • Global trends and local values: emerging identity conflicts
  • Social change and gender relations
  • Youth and generational cleavages
  • Leadership and socio-political dynamics

Religion and political mobilisation

  • Integrative powers of Pakhtun values and Islam
  • Religious extremism and political destabilization
  • Religious identity and Pakhtun nationalism
  • Religious minorities and sectarianism

Effects of war and migration

  • War, literature and genre
  • Effects of conflict on local economy
  • Local patterns of dispute management
  • Migration, displacement and diaspora
  • Socioeconomic effects of remittances

Governance and devolution

  • Centre-province relations, provincial autonomy and local government
  • 18th Amendment: problems and prospects
  • Governance reforms in FATA
  • Changes in informal institutional arrangements
  • Changing political/electoral trends

The situation in the Pakhtun region cannot be studied thoroughly when treated in isolation from the broader context of Pakistan. Therefore, scholars are also invited to submit proposals for comparative studies of conflict dimensions in other areas of Pakistan and their connections to the Pakhtun region and society.

We request abstracts of no more than 500 words from academics and practitioners on either of the topics listed above, along with a short biography, to be submitted to the conference organizing committee before March 31. Abstracts should include a title, research questions, information about potential methodological and theoretical frameworks, and a summary of the main argument. After reviewing by the academic committee, the selected paper presenters will be contacted on April 17. The final date for the submission of completed papers is May 31, 2013.

The paper presenters will be provided with accommodation, food, travel costs and local transport. We intend to print the conference proceedings and may compile selected papers into an edited book, to be published later by a reputable publishing company.

The Conference will take place on the Bara Gali Summer Campus of the University of Peshawar, 95 kilometres from Islamabad (closer to Murree). We will ensure best services to our guests at Bara Gali.

For abstract submission and further information, please contact: 

Dr. Abdul Rauf
Conference Coordinator
Department of Political Science
University of Peshawar