By Mohammed Gul SAHIBBZADA
Recent spike in violence has sparked alarm among ordinary Afghan citizens, international community and the United Nations Organization. On 24 December 2020 a prominent women’s rights activist, Farishta Kohistan’s car was sprayed with bullets by unknown gunmen while travelling in her home province Kapisa, which killed her and her brother. On December 23, 2020, the CEO of Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan – FIFA, Yousuf Rasheed was killed. Four doctors who worked in Pul-i-Charkhi prison were killed when a bomb exploded on their car while travelling to work. On 15 December 2020, Deputy Governor of Kabul was killed when a bomb was exploded on his vehicle. Yama Siawash, a prominent TV presenter was killed on 7 November 2020 when his car was exploded by a bomb near his home. The owner of ‘Khan Steel’, the largest steel mill in Afghanistan, and also member of parliament was attacked by suicide bombers, killing nine people and injuring scores of others. In addition, during the months of November and December 2020, three incidents of rockets being fired from automobile from within the vicinity of Kabul city have killed scores of innocent citizens and injured dozens in Kabul, spreading terror and fair among ordinary citizens. Also, citizens of Kabul waken up every morning to the beat of magnetic bombs in different parts of the city, which kills and injures dozens of people. A list of prominent Afghan politicians, businessmen, rights activists and journalists who are said to be ‘future target’ for killing, and is believed to be released by Taliban, has been circulating in social media, piling up pressure and fear among the people.
More than two decades of struggle to establish and strengthen state institutions, train and educate young people in critically important fields whose services are needed to buttress ongoing efforts by the Government has brought comparable stability in the country, which provides Afghan citizens with opportunities to pursue daily routines. Target killing / murdering prominent Afghans who contribute in the efforts to stabilize the country and serve in the Government, civil society, work as journalists or are of other professions such as doctors, engineers, diplomats and mining specialists is a different tactic applied by the Taliban, ISIS and other armed groups to destabilize the country. Under the pretext of peace negotiations, armed groups including Taliban, have got plenty of space to unleash killings of innocent citizens, Government employees and security personnel, and all of this has been happening under the naked eyes of international community and the United States of America. The entire nation is fad up with so called peace process and scorns the efforts, time, resources and ‘false’ expectation generated for a ‘peace deal’ that will not be possible to achieve for generations under current, ‘false’ perception of conditions and realities on the ground. The players i.e. the USA, friendly regional countries, EU and the Government of Afghanistan should re-visit the motives behind the Taliban agreement to sit in the negotiation table in the first place. It is a strategic need to re-focus on ‘realities on the ground’ and bring about ‘structural changes’ in the format, understanding, and perceptions of issues that currently continues to feed wrong information, illusions and generate ‘false’ expectations for a peace deal that is NOT going to happen under the ongoing / present conditions, circumstances and understandings. There is a visible disconnect in perception about the Taliban demands – those which are purported in the negotiation table, and those which are pursued in battle fields and are held dear to their leadership, military commanders and their supporters and mentors (Pakistani intelligence agencies), and the gullible belief of international community and the Afghan Government who believe ‘peace can be achieved’.
To put it in a nutshell, Taliban were pressurized by Pakistan to agree to sit in the peace negotiation with the USA after she was put in the grey list by FATF ‘on terror financing grey list’, which affected the ability of Pakistan to borrow money or undertake other international financial transactions and as a result, the country was debilitated. In addition, beginning in 2018, Pakistan asked her allies, which include Russia, Uzbekistan, China and Qatar to step in and invite Taliban to their countries with a view to show to the world that ‘it is not Pakistan alone to have relations with Taliban, other countries have too’. This was a smart diplomatic move by Pakistan as the other camp i.e. the US and allies, regional countries and those countries in the Middle East who had been tacitly supporting Taliban, had green light to enter into talks with the group, which culminated into the present shape of Doha negotiation. Taliban field commanders and fighters are of the view that they have ‘defeated the supper power’ and that they will get the whole Government, there is no room for the present Government to share power with. Also, the line between Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other armed groups operating in Afghanistan is so blurred that it is difficult to segregate them based on ideology and their belief. Above all, these groups are creation of intelligence agencies and they do not operate under a fixed political agenda, which makes it very difficult to find common ground with them for a possible peace deal or settlement. Peace can not be achieved by begging for it – as it very much seems today on the part of Afghan Government and international community. There are clear paths, methods, steps and indicators to adopt and gage the progress in peace negotiations. Without knowing these ground realities and the real motives behind Taliban agenda, the ongoing efforts to reach a peace deal will only buy time for Taliban and other armed groups to continue their war agenda and efforts to destabilize the Government and create anarchy in the country. The international community and the Government of Afghanistan – in particular – should be aware of these hidden agendas and ready for timely response – both in diplomatic and military fields.