The program begin formally on 29th April 2013 with the introduction of both Organizations followed by an interactive activity “Poke the fellow” after which the “Awareness Raising and trust building session continued with the discussion on perceptions, challenges and opportunities. Ground realities from both sides and some unheard facts surfaced during these sessions which were not apparent to the other side previously; because of the lack of exposure each country gets through media.
Later a Panel discussion was held on the “Regional approaches to Peace building and reconciliation”; the guest speakers included Humera Iqbal, Research Scholar, Institute of Regional Studies (IRS), Islamabad, Abdullah Khan, Founder, Conflict Monitoring Center, Asma Khawaja, Assistant Professor, NDU and Khalil Yousfani Pakistan Customs (Represented Pakistan on Pak-Afghan Trade and Border Management issues). The discussion uncovered some harsh realities and some brutal perceptions however overall the discussion revealed that problems between two countries were still complex due to the misconceptions, lack of communication and existence of many dichotomies in Afghanistan.
The highlights of third day were a panel discussion on “Promoting Regional Peace and Stability – The Role of Youth” with Think Tanks followed by a session with representatives from Youth Programs in Pakistan. The speakers for first session included Dr. Nazir Hussain (Professor Department Of IR Quaid-e-Azam University), Amir Rana (Executive Director Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies), Asmatullah Khan Wazir (Director Research and Development Research, Advocacy and Development Organization – RAD), Mome Saleem (Research Coordinator, SDPI). The sessions ended with the key conclusion that any process dealing with the conclusion of peace and conflict in Afghanistan should be Afghan led and Afghan sustained. Apart from that it was also determined that engaging youth in dialogues was also a means of building peace between the two nations. Later on the representatives of Youth programs in Pakistan pretty much exemplified what the “think tanks” had been previously talking about regarding the Youth involvement in peace promotion initiatives.
On the fourth day Training Workshop was conducted; on “Defining Conflict and Non-Violent Conflict Resolution” conducted by Raza Shah Khan followed by a “Dialogue, Discussion and Debate” training session by Mome Saleem. Next came the a session with political representatives from different political parties of Pakistan followed by an interactive session with Media professionals uncovering bitter realities and some unknown facts; however both sessions ended up clearing a lot of misconceptions that existed between the participants. A positive vibe of trust and understanding could seen being inculcating in some participants. The day ended with a conclusive analysis that we all need to break from past enmities, wrongful perceptions, stereotypes and work towards building peace together.
On the last day came the most awaited session in which the role of civil society was discussed thoroughly. There were speakers from diverse backgrounds, namely Raziq Fahim, Executive Director, College of Youth Activism (TBC, Shad Begum, Executive Director Association for Behavior and Knowledge Transformation (ABKT), Sameena Imtiaz Executive Director Peace Education and Development Foundation (PEAD), Ammara Durrani, Country Director Search for Common Ground; who spoke about the positive role of the civil society that can be played in resolving conflict and promoting peace, mutual coexistence and harmony. The discussion session ended with the conclusion that civil society on both sides of the borders should come together and get engaged on the individual level as well on the organization level to work on promoting peace and stability in the region.
The last session was on Network Continuity, Ideas & Recommendations (Future Plan of Action) which formulated recommendations for future role of this initiative. Some of the recommendations included social media platform combined academic programs, peace building through sports, literature & arts exchange and mutually moderated website etc. The exchange program initiated goodwill amongst the civil society members and built a hope for future peace building.