By Mohammed Gul SAHIBBZADA
Most of the hurdles that had impeded progress in the ongoing peace process were cleared when Consultative Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) voted / endorsed to release the 400 notorious Taliban prisoners, which the Government and some of its international partners hesitated to release because of their ‘involvement in heinous crimes’. Afghan Government welcomed the decision of the Consultative Loya Jirga and immediately ordered the release of these 400 prisoners. Though there have been mixed reactions following the release of Taliban prisoners, the decision made by Consultative Loya Jirga exhibited that majority of the people of Afghanistan wants peace. But there are pitfalls and snares on the path that should lead the country and the people of Afghanistan to reach a stable and lasting peace.
The scourge of more than four decades of war in the country predominantly begets poverty, malfunction of the entire government organizations, breakdown of a functioning civil society, economic activities and business organizations, ripping apart educational and literacy programs and complete absence of a strategy that should effectively devise pathways for the Government to design / implement policies and projects for the welfare of the people and the country. More importantly, with the defense and security forces busy in the ongoing war, countries with vested interests in the region would find it much easier to take advantage of prevailing situation and embark on destructive meddling to suit their so-called interests.
In light of direct involvement of the United States of America, NATO member and regional countries in ongoing peace process, the people of Afghanistan are optimistic for the outcome of the peace process, especially now that ostensibly ‘substantial’ progress is made. But the real challenges will surface after the peace deal is signed between Afghan Government and the Taliban. Social grievances inflicted on families due to last forty years of ongoing war among various sections of Afghan society requires a big deal of good governance and management to resolve. In addition, ‘Spoilers’, ‘sabotages’ and mercenaries working for countries with vested interests will continue to make problems. Integration of the Taliban fighters in Government organizations and in society requires professional skills, which the Government and international community should start to sketch effective plans and policies. It will be most challenging to integrate two armies i.e. Afghan National Army and the Taliban fighters, into one, under a single command. Families who have lost their loved ones to suicide bombers, fighting in the frontlines, air bombardment and roadside bombs will try to settle scores with the opposite sides, and there are possibilities of eruption of violence. The Government of Afghanistan, leaders of the Taliban and international community should taka heed of these possible social pitfalls after a peace deal is signed and implementation is underway.
To address these concerns, the Government leaders should undertake huge program of public awareness by utilizing the existing social mechanism including Mosques (Masjids), schools, universities, public shuras (councils) at grassroot levels such as villages, districts and cities. Television and radios can also be effective tools for spreading awareness. Countries where similar scenarios have taken shape in the past, such as Sri Lanka and Colombia, can offer effective help by sharing their expertise and providing training and skills to the Government of Afghanistan in handling this transition from war to peace. Political parties, influential personalities, council leaders and Imams of Masjids should pave the way for keep peace and welcoming the opposite sides to integrate into normal life. Though there is no guarantee for a definite result out of the ongoing peace process, in the event a peace deal is signed between the Government and the Taliban, both sides should get prepared to manage a ‘larger than life’ task of integrating the opposite sides of the last forty years of war in a single platform.