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Editorial: Upbeat about intra-Afghan talks

Once again, people are upbeat about the launch of intra-Afghan talks in the upcoming few days, mainly because the Afghan leaders demagogically make them believe so. Sources say the stumbling block of prisoner release – whereby the government has refused to release 400 Taliban inmates with heavy crimes out of the total agreed-upon figure of 5,000 under the February’s US-Taliban peace agreement – will be resolved soon and the intra-Afghan talks may begin next week. The Afghan government is also going to convene a grand assembly possibly on August 7 to decide the fate of the 400 Taliban prisoners. On the other hand, about 317 Taliban militants – who were not part of the list provided by the Taliban – were reported to be released according to the National Security Council, taking the total number of those released insurgents to 4,914. So far, we have seen that the delay in prisoner release and no decrease in violence have been the main hurdles to the launch of intra-Afghan talks – rather than them being gestures of goodwill to facilitate the parleys. The sad reality in the current peace process dynamics is that both the warring sides are on the lookout for finding a way to show they have the upper hand while ordinary Afghans bearing the brunt of their conflicts. The Taliban show they have leverage by intensifying violence on the battlefield, and thus it compels the government and our security forces to respond back with a tit-for-tat strategy. Meanwhile, in pursuit of leverage, the government is now using the card of human rights in the prisoner release issue. It’s ironic to think that among the 4,900 Taliban prisoners released by the government, there hasn’t been a single human rights abuser or a single convict of a heavy crime. The government’s concern – as it shows regarding the 400 prisoners – doesn’t solely seem to be for the purpose of defending the rights of Afghans. It primarily seems to be about acquiring bargaining power as it wants to level the playing field and have some leverage over the insurgent group. Bringing the Constitution as a justification for President Ashraf Ghani administration’s inactions is also a lame excuse because we have seen it not being properly implemented in some areas during his tenure so far. It is hoped that the Loya Jirga (which is feared to be full of his patrons) would take a definitive decision that is in the interest of Afghan nation – a nation that is a victim of all these games played by warring sides – and that brings an end to the war by paving the ground for the all-Afghan talks.

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