Working together, Conciliation Resources and KIIR aim to enhance prospects for lasting peace in Kashmir, bringing together and training local government officials, journalists, policy influencers, youth leaders and women’s groups to help them input into processes and policies which affect their lives. KIIR also works to strengthen networks across the Line of Control, looking for ways to practically collaborate such as on preparing for and responding to natural disasters.
A typical day looks like…
Our office is based in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, but a lot of our activities are based in different parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). The implementation of our activities can be a challenge for us as it involves a lot of travelling. Travelling to different areas of AJK can take between three to eight hours and I often have to travel on weekends as I am so busy with other work Monday to Friday.
But it is worth it. My favourite part of my job is reaching out to new people in AJK and supporting them to learn more about peacebuilding and building their skills, so they can be more confident and vocal when taking part in future dialogue processes and raising awareness about the necessity of cross-Line of Control dialogue in their local communities. I originally come from the Bagh district of AJK, but in 1993 my father moved our family to the capital city Islamabad. Now when I go back and visit different areas of AJK and see that our people need our help it motivates me a lot. I really love what I am doing. In the past two years more than 2,400 people have been involved in our activities.
The issues affecting my work at the moment
COVID-19 has impacted our work severely. The lockdown started in March 2020 and lasted for 4-5 months. It was really hard to continue our peacebuilding activities across AJK. I had planned to reach out to the areas on the Line of Control for our work but COVID-19 was a big hurdle. Due to restrictions we were only allowed to travel within our own district. The other issue is the internet connectivity problems in AJK. During the lockdown we opted for virtual sessions to continue engaging audiences in Kashmir, but due to internet issues people couldn’t participate easily. Personally, I feel disappointed and dissatisfied that we were unable to achieve our goals and objectives.
The moment I’ll always remember
All the work that we do is very important to me, but I would like to share a one moment which was very special for me. On my 33rd birthday this year I received many birthday wishes and they made my day and the coming year! I never realised that what I am doing for people is so appreciated and respected all over AJK. One message that I received said, “You are our only hope Sir”. This love that I have received due to our work is my greatest achievement. I never thought that people would admire me so much.
One thing I wish I’d known when I started out
The people reading this interview can never know about the personal challenges which I face. My job can sometimes look attractive from the outside, but from financial constraints to the concerns that my parents have about what I do, no one can truly understand. No one can understand how it feels to put all this effort into peacebuilding while facing resistance even from my parents. My dad is not happy with what I am doing as I am his only son and he feels stressed while I am travelling around AJK but I am doing all this for my people. My advice to peacebuilders in AJK is that it is not easy to work as a social activist and peacebuilder but if your intention is good and you have the willpower to change the things around you, you will be successful.
If there was an extra hour in the day…
I feel very blessed when I spend time playing with my two year old son so that is what I would love to do more of if I had extra time. It is very difficult for me to leave him at home when I travel for work but I have to do it as I have a goal to do something for my people.
In five years time I hope...
Currently we are witnessing a ceasefire on the Line of Control which is a positive sign both for peacebuilders, and the people living in the region. We are hopeful that the two nuclear states of India and Pakistan will continue dialogue and agree upon a solution to the long- lasting unresolved issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
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Ever since the division of the sub-continent in 1947, the foundations were laid for the long-standing conflict in and around the regions of Jammu and Kashmir that persists today.