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Editorial: Laudable measures

The peace process is seemingly back on track with confidence-building steps being taken by the belligerent parties. Although the timeline of the US-Taliban peace pact has been disrupted due to the complex realities on the ground, coming to terms on the prisoner swap promise brings optimism into the picture once again. Based on the February 29th deal, the Afghan government was to release 5,000 Taliban fighters ahead of formal intra-Afghan peace talks in exchange for 1,000 Afghan government troops and civilian workers released by the insurgent group. This prisoner release mechanism was scheduled to be completed by March 10th but it was unfortunately delayed due to disputes between the sides and political instability in the country. Nevertheless, in response to Kabul government’s freeing of a total of 300 Taliban inmates since April 8th, the Taliban group reciprocated through setting free a 20-member second batch of Afghan security forces in Laghman. Judging from the number of prisoners to be released by the sides, the Taliban are supposed to set free 20 government prisoners in return for every 100 that the government does. The total number of prisoners released by the militants has been brought to 40 now. While the COVID-19 continues to take its toll on people, these goodwill gestures taken by the parties into the conflict are laudable. They should preserve these gains made so far and ultimately pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks aimed at ending the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan. Moreover, the current circumstances call for a synergized response to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic – something that could be only done when the level of violence is reduced across the country. Thus, the belligerent parties should double down on their commitments made in the peace deal and sincerely work for bringing about a long-overdue sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

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