Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 18th, 2019

Talks May Start with ‘Reconcilables’

To pave the way for a peace negotiation with Taliban, a coordination meeting was held among the representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, US and China in Islamabad on Monday January 11, 2016. The Quadrilateral Coordination Committee met to decide the road map towards a fruitful peace talk with Taliban.

For Afghanistan it is really important that a negotiated, fruitful and lasting peace should conclude years of fighting and terrorism. The people of Afghanistan have been waiting for such a conclusion but that has not come and their hopes are being shattered. Previously as well, they were given the good news about such a peace but that could never turn into reality. The important point is to see what is going to happen in this episode.

This effort seems to have some energy and optimism connected to it. Since the disappointment after Murree talks, this effort seems an opportunity to start anew. Definitely, the important factor is that the stakeholders must be fully prepared to pursue it willingly. What is going to be the outcome of the talks is difficult to say but at the moment more energy should be reserved on making everybody ready for the talks. If the stakeholders participate in the talks with unwilling intentions, it would be very difficult to expect any tangible outcome.

Afghanistan has mostly doubted the efforts by Pakistan, but it has also agreed that its honest efforts are necessary for pursuing any sort of negotiations with Taliban. Pakistan, since the Heart of Asia Conference, has given clear consent that it will coordinate the negotiations. Moreover, US and China have decided to directly monitor the process. Yesterday’s meeting was the first step in the same direction. And, if there are continuous and determined actions, there will be tangible outcomes of the process.

Yesterday’s meeting disclosed some of the important points regarding the peace process. And, separately Afghan authorities revealed to the media that Pakistan would hand the participants a list of the Taliban ready for dialogue with President Ashraf Ghani’s administration. A couple of days earlier, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah’s deputy spokesman Javid Faisal said that Pakistan’s list would identify the Taliban who were willing for peace talks.

Pakistani adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, however, said in his opening remarks during Monday’s meeting, “Threat of the use of military action against irreconcilables cannot precede the offer of talks to all the groups and their response to such offers. Distinction between reconcilables and irreconcilables and how to deal with the irreconcilables can follow once the avenues for bringing them to the talks have been exhausted.”

It is important to see how the division of ‘reconcilables’ and ‘irreconcilables’ would work. Moreover, it is imperative that the reconcilables must be the ones who are leading the insurgency in Afghanistan. Without reaching to the right persons who are practically involved in the fight, it would be very difficult to get any decisive result from the process.

Sartaj Aziz, in his opening remarks, also emphasized on a number of elements that he said would help achieve a meaningful outcome including the avoidance of setting preconditions ahead of the negotiation process.

Firstly, the primary objective of the reconciliation process is to create conditions to bring the Taliban groups to the negotiation table and offer them incentives that can persuade them to move away from using violence as tool for pursuing political goals. It is, therefore, important that pre-conditions are not attached to the start of the negotiation process. This in our view will be counterproductive.

Secondly, proper sequencing of actions and measures in the process would be significant in paving the way for direct talks with Taliban groups.

Thirdly, certain CBMs (confidence building measures) can play a key role in encouraging Taliban groups to join the negotiation process.

Fourthly, while the roadmap is important for charting the course of action, it has to be realistic and flexible. It should broadly define steps and phases, but avoid unrealistic targets and deadlines.

Finally, while positive public messaging is important, keeping in view the sensitive nature of Group’s work, it should be our endeavor to keep the work of this group out of media glare, as much as possible.

Though it can be negotiated whether the conditions for the negotiations can already be discussed; it should not be negotiated whether there should be a ceasefire or not, before the peace talks. Ceasefire is not a condition; it is a prerequisite. As soon as the parties agree to the talks, there should be a ceasefire. Peace negotiations can never succeed with continuous fighting. Fighting would take more lives, mostly of guiltless citizens, and it would also generate more hatred and complexities. Therefore, it is vital that Taliban should be made to agree for a ceasefire as soon as there is willingness to start peace negotiations.