By Mohammed Gul SAHIBBZADA
The decision by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani to convene Consultative Loya Jirga (grand assembly) to decide on the fate of 400 remainder Taliban prisoners from the list of 5000 Taliban fighters to be released from Afghan Government prisons, which was part of the agreement signed between the US and the Taliban last year in Doha, exhibits challenges and difficulties that still exist on the way to move forward with the entire peace process in the country. Afghan Government has so far released 4600 Taliban fighters out of a total 5000. It has been said that the Taliban have almost released the entire 1000 Afghan Government prisoners, which was a reciprocal act on the part of the Taliban in Doha agreement in response to Afghan Government releasing Taliban fighters, which makes it at a ratio of 1:5.
Afghan Government insists it could not release these particular 400 Taliban fighters because of their involvement in ‘heinous’ crimes and their potential threats against the State and national security. Afghan Government says that the international community is ‘of the same opinion’. Amid this stalemate in the ‘exchange of prisoners’, the US Government ‘suggested to shift these 400 prisoners to house arrest’ status. But instead, President Ghani decided to shift the responsibility of a decision on this subject to the Loya Jirga. There are mixed reactions against the decision, but the crux of the matter is that Afghan Government is trying to mend for policy lapses and mistakes it committed during the outset of negotiation between the US and the Taliban. Despite the fact that Afghan Government was ostracized and had no part in any form or shape during the entire process of US-Taliban agreement, it did not raise objection or stood its ground to oppose the process. Any agreement that involves Afghanistan can be legitimized when it is participated, executed and implemented by the Government of Afghanistan. Afghan Government did not assert this point on the pretext to ‘at least better to have the Taliban talking to someone about peace…’. It was this blunder of exclusion of Afghan Government from the negotiation in Doha both on the part of the US Government and Afghan Government – which failed to put enough efforts to assert itself and be part of the US-Taliban meeting – which resulted in unnecessary protraction of peace process without any tangible results so far. The negative ramification of this gaffe will continue to take toll both in the battlefields and on people’s psycho, paving the way for the people of Afghanistan to believe that those in-charge of the peace process are not trustworthy, dishonest and have vested interests, which can be the harbinger of unknown and destructive scenarios in the country.
The last several months after signing of agreement between the US and the Taliban have proved that ‘sheer force’ and ‘arm-twisting’ on the part of the US Government can not work alone. Despite the presence of an ‘executed’ agreement between the US and the Taliban, front lines have been busy and people continue to die. It is sensible for the US Government to re-visit its approach toward peace and revolve all efforts around the Afghan central Government and push for an acceptable peace agreement between the Afghan Government and the Taliban where people of Afghanistan can see themselves present in the entire process. Afghan war has been lingering since last 40 years, and during these long decades, intelligence agencies of the neighboring countries have had enough time to form their mercenaries under various names – including the Taliban. Therefore, bringing peace is not a task so easy and various conflicting priorities of those countries who have invested huge resources in creation of their tools i.e. armed opposition to the Afghan Government under various names, should be eradicated. Another way of suggesting a lasting peace is that the international community, the US and the Afghan Government can reach lasting peace in phases, and these phases will take another decade, but with most of the responsibilities of running the show be vested with the Afghan Government.
The main outcomes of the Consultative Loya Jirga are believed to be revolving around a prolonged ceasefire, immediate commencement of intra-Afghan peace talks, advice to the Government to form a unified platform out of participation of all political parties, women and social / civil society activists and conditional release of the 400 Taliban fighters in question by the Afghan Government. President Ghani and the entire Afghan nation are insisting on a lasting ceasefire to pave the way for a ‘realistic peace talks’ between the Afghan Government and the Taliban.
The writer is Political & Business Analyst and CEO of Kainaat Group of Companies – KGC