By Zia Nezam
We must strive to achieve a peace agreement, but it must be a fair and equitable peace agreement. In the 2019 Asia Foundation national survey of 18,000 respondents, only 13 percent of Afghans said that they have a lot or a little sympathy for the Taliban, while 85% said they have no sympathy for the Taliban. Additionally, Afghanistan’s beauty and strength is its diversity, and the survey highlights that Afghans want proper representation in the government among the diverse groups of afghans including safeguards for women’s rights and human rights.
The February 29, 2020 agreement between the United States and the Taliban gives the Taliban an unexpected gift of prestige and legitimacy in the international arena. As a result, Taliban expectations are now very high. Additionally, the draft February 2021 peace agreement between the Republic and the Taliban offers the Taliban a 50 percent power-sharing agreement in future governing institutions, including almost half of the members of the Constitutional Commission and the Islamic Council. However, in a democratic system, where the Taliban do not have much popular support of the citizens, is it not practicable that the Taliban have an equal part in governance, which would be equal to all representatives of ethnic groups, political parties, civil society, and the Afghan government.
Our lack of unity within the Republic could now lead us to a national circumstance more bitter than ever. The new democratic Afghanistan, which stared in Bonn, Germany in December 2001 is young, but we have made tremendous progress in women’s rights, human rights, education, freedom of press, among many other achievements. Sure, there has been issues in this new democratic system such as disputed elections and corruption, but at this critical junction, we must unify to protect the Republic and its democratic values.
After more than 40 years of war, the exhausted but resilient Afghan people want peace, as evident the Asian Foundation survey indicating that 88% of Afghans support efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban. It is also understandable that our frustrated international coalition allies want more than ever to leave this far-from-home battlefield. They have seen the bitter power struggles, the lack of national solidarity, the questionable government actions and inactions, and the prevalent corruption that still hamper progress toward national social and political development. But the inadequacies of our elected national government should not lead us to believe Taliban leadership will bring us a better or peaceful future. Therefore, we must strive to unify in order to achieve a fair and equitable peace agreement, and not be forced into agreeing to an unjust agreement because of pressure to have peace at any cost.
I believe it is a good thing that the government and representatives of different parts of Afghanistan will meet the Taliban. Let the Taliban and the world know the real concerns of Afghan people: that educated men and women of all Afghanistan’s ethnic and religious minorities have a voice and their desire for a modern functioning democratic state must be heard and safeguarded. Our governing institutions must mirror the Afghanistan population. The world, too, will see that twenty years of elections and democratic institution building – while fighting to survive – has been less than perfect, but our messy nation building is far preferable to the horror we Afghans lived in under Taliban. In twenty years, we have seen the resurgence of education, the birth of civil societies, the empowerment of women, and the creation of political parties. Do our allies want to see their tremendous investments in Afghanistan destroyed?
Our allies are right to demand course corrections from the elected government. However, our allies will be leaving Afghanistan in an unknown and potentially dangerous future, if they cut and run rather than help force meaningful concessions from an unreformed enemy of democracy.