Societies are most susceptible to the loss of cultural heritage during times of war. The cultural norms and political background; both of which are an integral part of any society, are deeply entwined. Disruption in either one has a direct impact on the other. During the last decade, the social and economic fabric of Pakistan has been deeply scarred by the so called “War Against Terror” which has given rise to the militancy and extremist elements in the country. A sense of fear and unrest prevails, especially in the severely affected areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). D.I. Khan is one such district where the life of the common man has been gravely affected owing to its geographical proximity to the tribal agencies and FR areas. The ripple effect of the extremist activities has reached out and engulfed the previously famous cultural hub of D.I. Khan. Exploitation of religious beliefs and practices at the hands of the militant and extremist groups has resulted in a general lack of acceptance towards all forms of art and music, which according to these self appointed religious authorities, are condemned and considered haram in Islam. As a result, quite a few local artists have had to relocate to other more peaceful districts in order to promote their art and craft. Suicide attacks, sectarian killings, and bombing in public and religious centers have been escalating over the years. Militant attacks targeting District Police Officer (DPO) D.I. Khan, Police Station Daraban, DSP City and DSP Kulachi in only the last four to five months are just a few examples of the ever increasing volatile security situation in the district.
The civil society in D.I. Khan is struggling to bring, the much needed, peace to the region by engaging the prominent religious, social and political leaders of the community. SPO, a leading proponent of participatory development has ventured into numerous programs for alleviating good governance, improving social justice and promoting peace and harmony in the area. Over the years, SPO has organized numerous awareness raising events, in collaboration with its partner entities, for nurturing and promoting its cause for a socially just and tolerant society. Building on these efforts, SPO D.I. Khan in collaboration with Daman Civil Society Network (DCSN) arranged a three- day arts exhibition, titled “Art for Peace” to promote the local art and craft in which five prominent calligraphers and painters from D.I Khan, namely Ajab Khan, Dr. Muhammad Sharif, Mr. Farooq Sial, Resham Gul and Mr. Tanvir Khan showcased their art work. The exhibition aimed to bring together people from all walks of life to a common platform in order to foster an environment of peace and harmony. The over whelming turnout with a strong female participation (over 400 community members, including 50 women participated in the event) speaks volumes of the success of the event.
The chief guest for the event was Dr. Mansoor Akbar Kundi, Vice Chancellor Gomal University who expressed great pleasure at the success of the event and said that such events will nurture a society that is tolerant towards each other irrespective of their age, gender, race, caste, creed or religious affiliation. Other prominent participants included Chief Executive SPO Naseer Memon, Station Commander Pak Army Brigadier Zahid Jamil Ahmad, Deputy Inspector General (D.I.G) Police, Regional Chief; National Bank Mr. Jaffery, District Social Welfare Officer Mr. Shahzaman Khan, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) D.I. Khan Head Mr. Noman Latif, Assistant Director Anti Corruption Mr. Shafiullah Gandapur, various heads of NGOs, representatives from print and electronic media, trade union, literary society, local women councilors, representatives from women lawyers fraternity and other key stakeholders from the community. Efforts of SPO in conducting this momentous event were greatly appreciated by the community members who emphasized that in these volatile times, the need for such cultural events was extremely important for peace building. The fact that the citizens of D.I. Khan, especially women, came to this event despite the high security situation, shows their willingness to finally break through this deeply rooted culture of silence. Recognizing the importance of such events, Dr. Mansoor Akbar Kundi, Vice Chancellor Gomal University declared that a similar exhibition will be held at Gomal University, to encourage youth of D.I. Khan to participate in such peace building endeavors in order to make them more socially responsible citizens.