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Taliban do not represent Pashtoons: Bushra Gohar

By Mansoor Faizy

KABUL: A female Pashtoon politician says that the Taliban “are not the representatives of Pashtoons” According to her Taliban are an anti Pashtoon project with the purpose of destroying the Pashtoon identity, culture, lives and livelihoods on both sides of the Durand Line.

In an interview with Afghanistan Times at the sidelines of Herat Security Dialogue-VIII, organized by the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS), Bushra Gohar, Former Pakistan Member of Parliament, has talked about stalled peace process that is expected to resume in near future. She said there is need to define what we mean by peace.  

Peace will only be possible in Afghanistan when it is Afghan-led and owned process, she said, adding what we saw in Doha, and what has been initiated by the US, in my opinion is not a peace process as it has kept the main stakeholders out.”

The Afghan government and the Pashtoons on both sides of the Durand Line were kept out of the process, she said, adding that the Trump administration has decided to lead the process and talk with the proxies not with the main sponsors of the Taliban terror groups.

“The US led process is a flawed process in my opinion. It will never work unless there is an ownership by the main stakeholders -the Afghans and the elected Afghan government,” she added.

It was a power negotiation process, she referred to talks between US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban negotiators.

President Trump appointed Khalilzad as his envoy for Afghan peace, who held nine rounds of talks with Taliban. After almost one year of talks, President Trump called it dead after a Taliban bomber killed 12 innocent Afghans and one American soldier in downtown of Kabul. However, it seems the US has no other alternative, but to pick up where it left off, concluding an agreement that sets the stage for an intra-Afghan peace process.

But, Bushra Gohar says the process lacked transparency from beginning, “we don’t know what has been agreed upon & why it was called off.”

“The main propose I see behind it is to delegitimize the Afghan government, the Constitution and the people of Afghanistan. And this should not be accepted. The process has to start with the people who have suffered in the war,” she said.

According to her, talks with Taliban Proxies will not be useful rather it would be advisable for the US to talk directly with their sponsors. 

On a question about allocating safe zones to the Taliban, She said the idea was bizarre &  in contradiction with the Afghan Constitution.  adding “you can’t have parallel setups – it would put sovereignty of Afghanistan to question.”

“Why lands should be given to Taliban who don’t represent the local Pashtoon citizens. It doesn’t make scenes. I think this idea is also coming from outside.  US & Taliban sponsors are trying to impose the Taliban on the people of Afghanistan.”

She said if Taliban want to rule the country, they can do so by renouncing violence, accept the constitution & contest elections. “If they win they will represent their constituents – there is a Constitutional process to be followed.”

She said that Afghanistan is not a cake that its pieces can to be distribute around on outsiders whims.

US has always been short sighted, she said, adding the US has been in the region for its own interests. “There was a time when Bonn Conference occurred, if US wanted it could easily have started an inclusive peace process including the Taliban representatives.

In my opinion US won’t withdraw entirely from Afghanistan.  There might be some reduction in its military presence.”

To be honest the Afghan security forces and the people of Afghanistan are fighting the war on the frontlines, she said. “They will continue to defend their homeland.”       

In regards to Afghan election conducted on 28th September, she said outsiders wanted Afghan election not to be held until the completion of the power sharing negotiations with Taliban Proxies to create room for Taliban in the power corridors.  Demands for an interim setup were heard.

“I am very happy that the people rejected these calls & went to election and voted at huge personal risks. The election was also held in all provinces of Afghanistan, so the myth often talked about that Taliban control Afghanistan was broken. Elections were largely peaceful. It confirms the Afghan’s support for the democratic process.”

Afghans have come a long way.  They are thinking about long-term development plans despite being at war for decades they are ready to determine their own future. And if external interferences are stopped & they are allowed a fair opportunity to work on these plans, Afghanistan will soon be a peaceful & developed country.” she added.

However, she called on Afghan leadership to not wait for outsiders, and initiate an inclusive intra Afghan dialogue for peace and stability.

Regarding Pakistan’s role in the peace process, she said imposing Taliban proxies who have had blood of innocent Afghans on their hands is not the way towards building peace & good neighbourly relationships.

“How can one forget the victims on both sides of the Durand Line — their lives have been destroyed, they have seen death, destruction & displacements in the past decades because of the suicidal policies.  How can there be a peace process without taking the main stakeholders in peace — the victims on board.

In regards to Kabul and Islamabad’s tense relations, she said Pakistan has to change her policies towards Afghanistan to strengthen bilateral relations. 

If Pakistan continues to hold a handful of Taliban tightly at the cost of relations with the people of Afghanistan we will only see deterioration of trust & relationship between the two sovereign States. 

She said that India and Pakistan have long standing issues they must deal with bilaterally.  Afghanistan should not be used for settling their bilateral disputes. “In my opinion people of Pakistan have also suffered immensely as a result of these wrong polices which must be changed.”

Moreover, she talked about PTM, an indigenous movement started by Pashtoon youth who have suffered and are direct victims of the long proxy war.

“They wanted to tell the world that Pashtoons want peace, they are not extremists, they are not terrorists, and they can’t be represented by these terrorists.”

PTM have internationalized the voices of the Pashtoons —told the world about the oppression, violence & challenges faced by the Pashtoons living in Pakistan, adding, it got support from all oppressed nations.  What established political leaders have not achieved in decades, PTM has  done so in a very short period.  “They have shown a beautiful face of the Pashtoons who are peaceful & non violent.”

“They, PTM have challenged the narrative of the Pakistan state which has always presented Pashtoons as violent, always ready to take up arms & fight. PTM has shown to the world that the Pashtuns are tired of war, they are victims not terrorists – They want good life of their their children, They want them to go to school, they want peace, justice & right over their own resources.  They want to live peacefully on their land – the land where Bacha Khan fought the British non-violently. So it is always insulting for us when we are told that the Taliban Proxies, who have mainly attacked & destroyed our lives represent us.”

Not only Pashtoons, but the PTM is also supported by oppressed nations Sindhis, Baloch, even by many Punjabis.

Bushra Gohar’s Party membership of Awami National Party was suspended for her support to PTM.

“When I landed in Islamabad last year after wrapping up 7th round of Herat Security Dialogue, my party membership was suspended.”

According to her, the reason for her Party’s action were not clear to her yet.  She had asked for the reasons in her response to the Party’s show cause notice but instead was issued a suspension notice. However, her support for the PTM non violent movement could a key reason for Party’s action against her.

She said one of the reasons could be the pressure from Rawalpindi on the Party leadership because of her support to PTM.  Asfandyar Wali Khan, the leader of the party had said in a public interview that our support to the PTM was against the party policies.

In my opinion ANP should have resisted Pindi’s pressures & extended support to PTM.

The Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) held its “Herat Security Dialogue-VIII” from 18-19 October, in which diplomats, representatives from various countries and institutions, civil society and media outlets members were invited.

AISS is arranging security dialogue every year, where Bushra Gohar was invited and she discussed issues related to Afghan peace, and atrocities against the Pashtoons on both sides of the Durand Line.

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