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Editorial: Breakthrough as warring sides are now negotiating sides

The much-needed and long overdue peace talks got underway eventually on Saturday. It is a critical point in time undeniably that Afghans are sitting across each other to find a political settlement to the ravaging decades-old Afghan conflict. The hopes and expectations of all Afghan masses were realized with the launch of the intra-Afghan dialogue. The peace literature and harmonious-filled remarks were unprecedented and made everyone optimistic. Thus, this optimism shouldn’t be responded with a setback and disappointment. Their hopes are now touching the sky, imagining the fact that they are going to witness peace in their lifetimes and are going to be given a chance to rebuild their country in a peaceful environment, without bloodshed, misery, or tears. Although it is a historic event, this is only one side of the coin and a partial realization of Afghans’ demands. The key and foremost request of theirs concerns a truce so that the term ‘warring sides’ is converted to ‘negotiating sides’ once and for all. It’s of immense importance that the two sides agree to a comprehensive ceasefire. An armistice that is immediate, comprehensive, unconditional and nationwide is the need of the hour. At this juncture, both sides should take confidence-building measures to bring the much-needed relief to those who have suffered for far too long and are still enduring the agony of the continuing violence. As earlier written in these columns, one cannot stress the significance of a truce, and that too ‘only truce; not a reduction in violence, something that is no longer enough. The opportunity is at hand because all the preconditions have been fulfilled. Nothing should prevent a ceasefire from being announced and observed by the sides. This streak of ground-breaking moments should be maintained with another breakthrough of putting an end to hostilities. A truce is the demand of all parties now – the Afghan government, the international community and most importantly the Afghan people. The United Kingdom (UK), European Union (EU) and NATO have all welcomed the start of the historic intra-Afghan negotiations and called it a window of opportunity for all sides to work together for the establishment of sustainable peace in Afghanistan. The desperate calls for an armistice shouldn’t go unanswered now, especially by the Taliban. A truce, when observed, would be the cornerstone for signing a peace pact in the same venue (Sheraton Hotel of Doha) that witnessed the inking of the US-Taliban peace deal in February. The hype around the peace and this turning point in history should be sustained so that Afghans heave a sigh of relief one day and recall September 12 a date that saw the launch of intra-Afghan talks and as a day that decided their fate.  

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