An Exclusive Interview with Omar Zakhilwal
Dr. Omar Zakhilwal, who held key posts in the previous and current governments, said the national unity government has failed to take the nation on board regarding the peace negotiations. He also accuses the government of trying to monopolize the peace efforts.
Zakhilwal, who served as the minister of finance and ambassador to Pakistan, is optimistic about the end-result of ongoing reconciliation efforts given that the nation is taken into confidence by the unity government.
The Afghanistan Times Daily has interviewed Dr. Zakhilwal to share his opinions over the peace process, opportunities and challenges with the readers. Following is the excerpt of his interview:
“We have good chances to bring peace though there are some challenges, obviously. Challenges equally intensifies with the increase of chances and opportunities,” said the former ambassador.
He told that this comes as the Americans are in Afghanistan to hold serious negotiations with the Taliban over the peace process, and the Taliban are also ready to talk to the political leaders inside and outside the government system which is considered as a unique opportunity. Showing optimistic, the ex-minister for finance said, “We will be optimistic to these opportunities when we properly use them considering our management.”
Our peace process should be intra-Afghan and this will happen when there is an Afghan management, national consensus, unity and solidarity among the people. When we take peace measures, the final goal needs to be clear, otherwise, we will face problems and challenges, said Zakhilwal
The peace process should be managed by the persons who represent a united and great stance as well as people’s wills and desires. These persons should enjoy public trust, because the peace will not justify the loss of other points like freedom and democracy, despite all of its importance.
If there is not a proper management, peace will turn into doubt and distrust between people and government, insider and outsider politicians which is itself a challenge. A space of trust needs to be made because it is the first condition of peace. And the persons who sit behind negotiating table, should represent all the wills of people from different classes, men, women, elders and youth so we get access to a united stance. Peace doesn’t mean that a small circle signs an agreement, but it should be supported politically by people, because this is the people who pay the cost of peace, and our representatives should go ahead towards peace agreement with such recognition. Indeed, peace is priority to many things, but that doesn’t mean to any cost.
The peace process has been facing threats from outside the country, from regional states. They either fear or seek their interests in war in Afghanistan. This challenge needs to be managed from inside the country because we cannot change interests of other countries, but we can bring changes to their calculations. It means that if they seek their interests in the war in Afghanistan, the war should no more continue ensuring their interests, and only Afghans can change the calculations. If we fail to bring a change in the regional states’ calculations over our internal affairs, we will not have the right of complaint.
We need to prove that we are not a burden on the shoulders of any country over our peace process, and that we can manage the process. We don’t need foreign directors and even mediators in this regard.
We will be optimistic to the peace process when the involved and effective parties agree on continued peace meetings considering the current situation in the country. Only and only we Afghans will be able to gain peace through intra-Afghan talks and this was almost displayed in the Moscow meeting.
Peace is not only a hope. Peace means security, basic and political freedoms as well as economic opportunities and a space free of any prejudice and discrimination in which every Afghan enjoys the rights of citizenship.
What is government’s intention regarding peace?
The peace intention emerges from interpretations by different people. The government’s management of peace has several flaws that have appeared from intention in management or is based on its management failures. We would have witnessed eye-catching progresses today if the government could have managed the peace process, while today we are seeing increasing war, killing and bloodshed. This shows that the government carries out its operative management for peace process. Such management may be fruitful in the war, but in peace it is definitely something else. There are dozens of flaws in government’s peace management and has obviously failed. A revise is needed in the management and the government has to welcome opposition opinions from politicians, socials organizations and people men, women and the youth.
Is government’s role a challenge for peace process?
The government has a basic role because it represents a system that is backed by all the people, the system belongs to people and government post is a people’s trust. So, if they don’t represent the people, they mean to misuse public trust that would make people to go to other options such as the Moscow meeting. The government could have mobilized people with a united national stance before the politicians’ initiative, and it was not expected to play the role of opposition. Making a national consensus is the basic job of government but it failed to do it.
Government officials should not waste energy to monopolize or sabotage the opportunities of peace. If the government honestly manages peace process, all the people will side it, because peace will not be individualized but it will take a national concept.
But what the government displays with its actions, means that peace is individual and political. Surely, there are opinion touches in politics, but the touches have no place in peace. Peace should not be victimized by small campaign and political goals, peace should not be a tool for gaining or maintaining political power, it should not be used as political and campaign slogans and should not turn into a project for a few people’s political goals. If it is so, we will side the people against such misuses. There are many other legitimate ways to gain the power.
Does the government have time to involve the peace process, considering the end of its term and limited management?
We hope that the government use its stance based on people’s representation to run peace efforts. Otherwise, people will judge. The government has still time and can use this to repair its management flaws in observing people’s viewpoints and make a national consensus. The government is very little for a public concept. It needs to attract trust of political figures, entities, tribal elders, youth and women. Otherwise, it will face public pressures.
How important will the Loya Jirga be and can it include the government to peace process?
The aims of the Consultative Loya Jirga are not yet clear. It may be a political campaign or a reaction to the Moscow meeting. It may also aim to make a national consensus and coordinate with the great national process. We hope it aims to join the great national process.