Peshawar Trip #5: The CM Secretariat and Pak-Afghan Peace Conference 2018

On my *5th trip* into Peshawar, it was another two day trip that began this past Thursday, and returning Friday night. (Will post about the previous trips to Peshawar a little later, as I don’t want to get further behind in my fieldwork blog posts.) I had one interview the first day located at the CM Secretariat, and others canceled. So I had a late lunch at the PC in Peshawar and then asked the Concierge about some possible attractions to consider visiting for some “cultural immersion.” I decided to go to one of his suggestions called the “Qissa Khawani” Bazaar….

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I have learned that a beautiful way to immerse with Pashtuns is to simply sit and enjoy some Kahva with them.  The Concierge suggested to visit Qissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar because historically it was where Pakhtuns would gather in shops and tell stories (qissas) and drink kava together. I found a cute little Kava shop where I watched them make the kava and serve. Once it became obvious I was an outsider, several men and boys gathered around me. They sat me down in there little cafe and treated me with some delicious Peshawari Kava and some biscuits. They each watched me take a sip to see my reaction. 

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It was difficult to find someone who was willing to take this photo for me but I wanted to capture it . They refused to let me pay, saying that I was their guest and this is the Pakhtun way, I was even giving them a tip and they refused to take it and some were offended by it. Later I was told by one of my informants that very few foreigners go here. It was obvious . I enjoyed the rush in the bazaar too. I came there for some Kava and Qissas, i got my Kava but they wouldnt share any Qissas, so instead I have my own story that I will tell myself….:)

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The next day, I attended the 2018 “Pak-Afghan Peace Conference,” hosted by the Bacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation at the University of Peshawar, Pakistan University Teachers Association Hall. It was a great experience to attend my first conference in Peshawar, and that was spoken largely in Urdu and Pashto! In the remarks before the first panel, the Director and Host of the Baacha Khan Foundation asked the Audience if there is anyone who doesn’t speak Pashto. I made the mistake of raising my hand in this instance. I was the only one! I accidentally entered a “spotlight” then throughout the conference. 

Only a few people spoke in English and most in Urdu and Pashto. I could make out some words that were used in conjuction with the Pashtu, and I had a general sense of the context and what they were saying.

Similar to a panel where a speaker said he wants to speak in Urdu instead of English at the Annual SDPI Sustainable Development conference earlier this month, one panelist informed the audience he is going to speak in Pashto and more than half the room gave a huge applause for that! It shows to how much language matters to people in every context. I have learned how much it does matter in a variety of different contexts here in Pakistan.

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The turnout to this conference was quite great. There were several students in various departments, some people from the Awami National Party, many students and faculty from relevant departments at the University of Peshawar, many from the Bacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation, as well as their cosponsor PEGHAM (Peace Education Gender, Health, Advocacy Movement) and many that were active in the Pashtun Tahafaz Movement (PTM) attended as well.

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Many younger students also came from the Bacha Khan school also attended, and I had a chance to engage a little in between sessions with these bright young people. I also met some of the amazing panelists there, only two women panelists, and took photos with the amazing passionate keynote speaker, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Ex-Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who was happy he spoke in Urdu and not Pashto after meeting me! 

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The conference itself was quite interesting from the English and Urdu that I could make out. Alongside discussions of the “people to people” contact and what that means in the context of peace, economic and political relations between AFG and Pakistan, the Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity, the exchange of ideas across the border, etc, there was also a lot of discussion about the commonalities between Pakistan and Afghanistan that require a regional convergence and corroboration in policy, a lot of what has inspired my interest in studying both countries in the context of development policy networks. What most interested me was the observations about Pakhtuns. There was a lot of commentary about the Pakhtun dynamics between the two countries, and how the Pakhtun’s existence has been “scripted” by the “other”, and even the understanding of themselves has been “scripted” by the “outsider”, which sometimes prevents a sense of ownership on their historical relevance, significance, and prominent critical role in the narrative of peace in the region..More thoughts about this later…

Much appreciation for the invitation from Dr. Sarfaraz, Director at the Area Study Centre of University of Peshawar.

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On the way back to Islamabad, after the conference, I enjoyed delicious chapli Kabaab and Kahva last night in Taru Jabba, known and mashoor for their chapli kababs, just outside of Peshawar.

Admittedly, It took a lot of strength to come here by myself, and among another men dominated place in the evening, but I had my driver, join me. Yet again, I was an alien-like presence at the moment, but was welcomed.

AND…..After this fifth trip into Peshawar, KP, drinking Kahva and eating Chapli kababs, as well as conducting some interviews and attending a Pakistan and Afghanistan Peace Conference at the University of Peshawar (no rank in importance ), I ended the week from Pakhtunkhwa by attending my first Pakhtun wedding ceremony on Saturday and Sunday in Rawalpindi. It was a beautiful experience, as i noted in a much earlier post, I attended their Nikkah (marriage ceremony) back in October. It was just a quick ceremony in the immediate family.  They didn’t even know who I was but treated me like a family member. The ceremony both days showed the same welcoming, the celebration was so lovely, the music, the food, the kahva, the pictures, the dancing and everything, and I was delighted to be invited to share their joyful moment. It was a nice little contribution to my cultural immersion with the Pakhtun people in the North.

I hope to finalize my time with the Pakhtuns this coming week or two before I move to Karachi/Sindh for the final month of fieldwork!

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