Afghan diplomacy for peace is at stake

Two weeks ago, the intra-Afghan negation kicked off in Qatar to restore peace in Afghanistan. Intra-Afghan diplomacy is an opportunity to end the four-decade-long war in Afghanistan. However, the long, and complex war needs more time for diplomacy to work. For successful diplomacy, the continuation of diplomacy is required. The US and Taliban agreement took almost 18 months and frequent diplomacy which ultimately resulted in an agreement. The failure of diplomacy is when the parties to the conflict stop meeting. The Taliban and the Afghan side of the negotiations have a lot more in commonalities than the Taliban and the United States. Differences in the ideologies of the Afghan negotiating teams and agendas may prolong the negotiations, but the result would be some sort of settlement that would be acceptable by both parties. The real issue lies in how much the Taliban show flexibility in sticking to their demand of strick Wahabi shariah law, misogyny, and hatred against minority Shiites in Afghanistan. The Taliban have to learn from their past regime which was rejected by the civilized world. The Taliban should display less emphasis on religious dogmas and come up with a fresh mindset, acknowledging the rights of minorities in particular Shias, and the rights of women to their basic human rights. The international community’s support of democracy, women, and minority rights during the inauguration of intra-Afghan negotiation is a commitment that rejuvenates Afghan democracy and its achievements.
It has been two weeks that the Taliban and the Islamic Republic’s side of the negotiators have been holding gatherings to set rules and regulations for carrying out intra-Afghan negotiations. As of now, contact groups on both negotiating sides have held more than 10 gatherings, but no progress has been made so far. According to media sources, the Taliban have demanded that all the negotiations be dealt with under the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, and in light of the US and the Taliban agreement provisions. This demand of the Taliban not only violates the rights of Minority Shias but also reveals the persistence of the Taliban on their version of the strict Sharia system. Afghanistan’s current constitution under the provision of “Shia law” acknowledged the rights of minority Shia to perform their practices, and the penal courts shall apply by the rule of the Jaffari school of jurisprudence. Although setting the rule and regulation for carrying negotiation was considered much easier than actual negotiations to discuss the main agendas of the conflicting parties. Abdul Hafeez Mansoor, a member of the Islamic Republic-led negotiating team in his recent interview with a private Afghan news channel stated that Talian has not shown any flexibility on religious minorities such as Shias and the rights of women. Mr. Mansoor further stated that the Taliban and Daesh are followers of the same ideology. In my article published in the Financial Daily paper on June 22, I analyzed that the Taliban likewise ISIS and al-Qaida are following traditionalist Salafi belief in which they do not respect the views of others, and whoever opposes them should be killed.
Meanwhile, the Taliban parallel to the intra-Afghan negotiation has intensified their attacks on the Afghan security forces, in which dozens of civilians are also killed every day. According to the Afghan media, since the Taliban, and the United State’s agreement this February, the Taliban has carried out over 7000 attacks against the Afghan security forces and civilians. Perhaps the Taliban are doing this as a tactic to have more influence on the table of discussion. The Islamic Republic negotiating team has been pushing for a ceasefire which will not only enhance trust but would also show the goodwill gesture of the Taliban for ending the war in Afghanistan. Zulma Khalilzad, US envoy for the Afghan peace in his recent discussion with United States Institute for Peace USIP, informed that the Taliban will not accept the demand for a “ceasefire” until they reach a political settlement. The United States is currently monitoring the peace negotiation process in Qatar, and such comments only embolden the terrorist Taliban for continuing their terrorist activities. The United States should push the Taliban to accept a ceasefire so the Afghan casualties are put to an end. History has shown that both fighting and negotiation at the same time have proven time-consuming. Negotiations are protracted, which has far negative consequences of taking civilians toll on the ground.
On September 12 the day of the official inauguration of the negotiations between the Taliban, and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan team, more than 70 international diplomates participated, vowed the commitment to back the Afghan democracy, the rights of religious minorities, and women’s rights to education, work, and the participation in the political process. Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, in his speech, encouraged the negotiators to respect Afghanistan’s rich diversity, including women and ethnic and religious minorities. He said that while the choice of Afghanistan’s political system is theirs to make, the U.S. has found that democracy and rotation of political power work best. The International community’s support of the democratic process in Afghanistan is wide back up for the Afghan side of the negotiators. The Taliban has to acknowledge that with violence they cannot win the war, and by respecting the views and rights of minorities and women can accommodate them in the new democratic Afghan society.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Peace Council for National Reconciliation is in Pakistan for an official trip to further leverage Pakistan’s military and civilian establishment support for taming the Taliban joining the peace process. Abdullah’s visit is crucial at this juncture of time when the Taliban and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan side of negotiators have had deadlock on setting criteria for the negotiations. The International community’s support of the democratic regime has further encouraged the Pakistani establishment to review its “realpolitik” strategy, and to replace it with more bilateral and regional economic cooperation. In a recent article published in the Washington Post, Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, said that “We realized Pakistan will not know real peace until our Afghan brothers and sisters are at peace” This indicates the acknowledgment of the Pakistani officials that peace in Afghanistan is connected to peace in Pakistan and the region. The pragmatic steps of change in the strategy of Pakistan concerning peace in Afghanistan will appear in how the Taliban show improvement in their strict demand of a Sharia system that is unfortunately not in conformity to the basic democrati,c and humanistic values of the civilized world.

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