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An exclusive interview with Ismail Khan; Loya Jirga is an electoral campaign; resolves nothing

At the moment Afghanistan is in a whirl of unending war and unfettered turmoil. Despite tremendous efforts, peace still is a distant dream, rather the Taliban group announced their “spring offensive”, making situation more complex ahead of peace talks to be held on 20th April between Afghan delegation and Taliban negotiation members. Some high ups already rejected participation, which shows nothing but deadlock in the reconciliation process that once again washed away a generated hope among the Afghan masses for an end to the conflict. The long-drawn-out elections is another headache, where many Afghan leaders rejected participation in forthcoming Consultative Loya Jirga for peace salted for 29th April. They termed it nothing but a clear electoral campaign by President Ashraf Ghani. Peace efforts and presidential elections going simultaneously; no clue where the peace talks would lead, albeit a plethora of flaws threaten to stymie the polls as they did 2014 presidential and 2018 parliamentary elections. Fraud, dereliction and many other delinquencies marred those polls to the maximum. Over situation in Afghanistan doesn’t seems in right direction and the Afghan masses are confused about their future.

To explore these questions, we have interviewed prominent political figure, Mohammad Ismail Khan who served in key government posts. During the interview, Mr. Khan struck us as a patriot and fervent to see a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

AT: How do you evaluate the government’s deed regarding peace process?

Khan: We were very optimistic that the meetings took place with President Ghani would put tendencies of peace process support in the agenda. On the other hand, Dr. Ghani and his team were always angry with the Moscow meeting participants and pretended that they were unhappy with the meeting. But efforts made by former president Hamid Karzai, we tried to soften the ill intention and shorten distances. In primary sessions with President Ghani, his will for supporting of the peace process was felt, but in following meetings that were expected to form the peace talks delegation, no interests from the president’s team were seen and these meetings failed to convince politicians on the number of participants in terms of number, figures and coordination between politicians and government people and the meetings ended with no results after two sessions. It seems that the programs included the peace process, were not in the interest of the government and the president did not want to accept.

AT: What do you think of the consultative Loya Jirga?

Khan: The current measure that is expected to be made by the name of Loya Jirga, will be never in the benefit of the people of Afghanistan, because they are worried that such issues would be misused as a campaign for Dr. Ghani and a political advantage from this conference and an effort for legalizing to prolong his government, while presidential candidates outlaw continuing of the government after May 22. They may take some actions that will be undoubtedly matters of concern and will further provoke instability. These are the elements that will overshadow the Loya Jirga and the president is asked to stop calling the jirga.

Meanwhile, the government and Taliban have announced offensives against each other. However, the president has to consider the peace process important so that we reach a ceasefire to run the peace process.

AT: Why has the government resorted to three different stances during the peace process? Fight against Taliban; Consultative Loya Jirga, and Presidential Elections.

Khan: The government is in desperate efforts to hide its defeats and casualties inflicted on the security forces by announcing war against Taliban. It also tries to hearten the security forces through this announcement and maintain the areas under its domination.

The government wants to gain legitimacy in the public opinions through the consultative jirga because public dissatisfaction with the government is increasing due to poverty, unemployment, brain-drain, casualties of security forces and the end of government term as well as challenges created by political leaders under the pretext of government’s illegitimacy. The government pretends that it needs people’s consultation in different dimensions, while the people downplay the jirga as a campaign gathering.

The government itself was shaped through an illegitimate and expediency election and there is no strength, stability and security of the government. So, how can it hold a transparent election and what would be the guarantee that the process would lead the country to a great catastrophe?

Elections have turned to a big tragedy in Afghanistan as the past election failed and the current government was established via a political deal which is shameful in the history of Afghanistan as two leaders were elected by a foreign diplomat. We dismiss this government as a puppet. On the other hand, parliamentary elections were another scandal as its results are not announced after six months and electoral officials went on trial and were banned from foreign travels on the charge of corruption.

AT: A big campaign is underway by the government against political leaders to sabotage the peace process. What is the reason?

Khan: The political leaders who attended the peace dialogues, are in fact the people who resisted against Taliban for 10 years without the presence of foreign states. They are the most deserving people to have basic role in the peace process. But here, the government wants to manage the peace lonely by two matters: first the main side of peace negotiations should be these politicians who fought Taliban before September 11 incident, and secondly, Taliban are not poised to hold talks with the government.

Taliban claim of controlling half of Afghanistan soil, so they will never be convinced to enter the peace process under the government umbrella. There is a mechanism that will give fruit with the participation of politicians and foreign entities with Taliban and government. The government believes that it will lose its current position in this mechanism, so it doesn’t want to make deal with this mechanism.

AT: What do you advise to the government?

Khan: All the people of Afghanistan and world inhabitants now understand that war is not the way to resolve Afghanistan’s problems. So, the government has to properly use this opportunity and abandon seeking supremacy that will hamper or hurt the peace process.

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