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Afghan Peace Negotiations Should Delve Deep into Issues That Require Resolutions to Ensure Lasting Peace

By Mohammed Gul SAHIBBZADA

Since the US and the Taliban signed an agreement early this year, prospects for end of the war and start of negotiation between the Afghan Government and the Taliban have become very vivid. According to the US envoy for Afghan peace, Ambassador Zalmai Khalilzad, the accord between the US and the Taliban was to end the war and pave the way for intra-Afghan negotiation to reach lasting peace. Though delayed substantially, intra-Afghan negotiations started in early September 2020 between delegations of the Afghan Government and the Taliban in Doha. The Afghan Government side have their own list of points to include in the agenda for talks and the Taliban have theirs, and both sides have been talking about their ‘red lines’ where they intend not to budge / compromise such as democracy, rights of women, last two decades of gains areas of state institutions and freedom of speech for Afghan Government and ‘Islamic Governing system’ for the Taliban. In the backdrop of historic records, both sides have broken their ‘redlines’ several times, and it is expected – owing to international pressure – particularly the US – negotiating parties will exhibit resilience to move forward to reach some kind of peace agreement – either by sharing power or agreeing to a mechanism.

The present Government was formed by Mohammad Ashraf Ghani by winning hardly a million votes after an election where less than ten percent of the Afghan population (thirty-four million) cast their votes, and the results were not accepted by his major competitor, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah on the basis of ‘fraud’ and ‘vote rigging’, and this saga continued until the two candidates divided major cabinet positions among themselves. Keeping in view the prevailing security situation and an entrenched insurgency, the West had to agree to this patchwork deal between the two candidates because there weren’t any other alternatives. On the other side, the Taliban are pockets of armed guerillas who are supported from other side of the Durand line who terrorize civilians both in areas under their control by implementing harsh version of so-called Sharia law, and in Government controlled areas – mainly densely populated cities – by sending in suicide bombers and car bombs – which kills and maims hundreds of innocent civilians. One can roughly reach to conclusion that the Government side is pressured by international community – especially the US – to reach a deal with the Taliban because they are paying the bills and to meet election campaign promises back home, and the Taliban sides are in control of Pakistan’s intelligence agency who have no model of Government for the country, except for their slogan that they ‘want Islamic government’ – without elaborating which types of Islamic Governments, example Indonesian style, Malaysian style or their own patronaged country i.e. Pakistan style. In addition, there is no guarantee from the Taliban side about the end of insurgency once they reach a peace deal with the Government of Afghanistan. There are already reports that the Taliban field fighters are already being diverted into potential new ‘insurgent groups’ by ISI to preserve their armed wing for possible future use in the event things don’t go in favor of Pakistani agenda during the implementation of peace agreement between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Also, there is a risk of the entire ongoing peace negotiation being cancelled by the next US Administration in the event Trump loses the elections later this year. From the look of it, people of Afghanistan do not seem to have their voices in the ongoing peace negotiations. By looking at the pressure exerted by the US and international community – including regional players – they want to put an end to this protracted, forty years of war in a year or two despite the fact that Afghanistan has become the hub for regional and international intelligence agencies’ activities – to term it at best – who continuously meddle in all aspects of the country’s moving parts. On the other hand, living conditions of ordinary Afghans are ‘deliberately’ squeezed so bad that they scream for help and are in search of a way out of this dreadful situation – this is referring to life in villages under the Taliban and prevailing poverty in the cities ‘ninety percent of Afghan population are living under two-dollar income’. Under these circumstances it is hard to believe tangible results will emanate from the ongoing peace negotiations. One of the concerns people may have about power sharing between the Afghan Government and the Taliban is that ‘the Afghan Government is not yet at peace with itself, so how come they share power with the Taliban?’. These and many other concerns that revolve around the present set ups are fads and will not lost for long. The most important task in hand – both for regional and international partners of Afghanistan – is to free the people of Afghanistan from the clings of these players. Once people are free and they have their say in national issues, things will take positive shape and peace will prevail as silent majority will speak.

Attempts are underway by the Pakistani intelligence agencies to dislodge the present Afghan Government and instead, install a ‘temporary Government’. The Taliban sides have been very vocal on this point before peace negotiation started early this month. Main motive behind bringing in temporary Government is to destabilize and disrupt functioning institutions of Afghanistan, such as ministry of defense, ministry of interior, National Directorate of Security (NDS) and to install puppet heads on sensitive institutions in order to meet ends sketched at Rawalpindi HQ by the ISI. During the Mujahideen saga in 1980s, Pakistani military had clearly issued instructions to the Mujahideen groups not to cede for any peace deal with Dr. Najeebullah Government. When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the attack on World Trade Center, and President Bush had unleashed state building plans for Afghanistan, Pakistan suggested that Afghanistan did not need army or security agencies. It wanted pockets of armies led by Mujahideen leaders and other war lords, which was clearly a recipe for anarchism and further destruction of the country. It is understood that the international community, the US and regional powers are aware of these designs and the Government of Afghanistan can see the catastrophic outcome for the entire country in the event a temporary Government is installed. These types of demands should be shunned at all costs in order to avoid all out civil war, anarchism and complete annihilation of the Afghan Government functional institutions. The world is already simmering with refugee problem and resources have never been scarce to support a collapsing country in the event destructive designs are allowed to take shape under the name of peace agreement. It is the responsibility of the friends of Afghanistan, regional countries and the United States to watch for these pitfalls and keep matters on track towards a stable and long-lasting peace.

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