Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Red Lines of Afghan Peace talks

A new round of Afghan Peace talks was kicked off on Sunday in which the attendees have been discussing Afghanistan war and peace. A comprehensive delegation of Afghanistan led by Chief Negotiator Abdul Salam Rahimi and a high ranking delegation from Taliban’s leadership team led by Abbas Satnekzai are in United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Abu Dhabi for the peace talks. The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is leading the US team in the talks that includes envoys from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan as well as the host country.  Although, there have been no face to face talks between the Afghan Government and Taliban’s Teams in the UAE yet, it is expected they start face to face talks or at least to set a time for direct talks soon.
According to the political experts, Americans try to create a ceasefire to free the two American university lecturers held captive by Taliban and want Taliban to talk face to face with the Afghan government. On the other hand, Taliban want their names off the blacklist, their prisoners freed and the foreign forces withdrawn from Afghanistan. In the meantime, the US delegation has asked Taliban to announce a six months’ ceasefire. However, the Taliban has conditioned it to be guaranteed by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Pakistan and that the US shall establish an interim government in Afghanistan, and appoints a Taliban favorite leader for the government.
Thus, Afghanistan has outstanding achievements to redress extreme gender gaps. As a result, the presence of women in civil society groups, media outlets, the Parliament, judicial system, security forces and other government institutes are the gender equality achievements that shall not be compromised in any peace deals and women’s full participation in all areas of life shall be ensured.
However, the High Peace Council of Afghanistan (HPC) has said that if the Taliban ask for a constitutional amendment to be on agenda in the peace talks, the Afghan government is prepared to take such a demand into consideration. Thus, civil society institutions, media and members of the public are worried that by doing so, gains and values which were achieved over the past 17 years in line with the provisions of the Constitution might be sacrificed. Indeed, freedom of press and freedom of speech constitute one of the key gains for Afghanistan in its strides for building a democratic society.
Article 34 of the Constitution states that freedom of expression shall be inviolable and that every Afghan citizen shall have the right to express their thoughts and ideas freely.
Further, the new constitution of Afghanistan has ensured the religious freedom, religious minority issues, and countering violent extremism. As our experience show, Taliban has no respect to freedom of religion and many Afghans including Shias have suffered a lot during the Taliban regime and thousands of Shias were killed and prosecuted by them. As such, many Afghans worry that Taliban may resume their harsh religious policies against the followers of other religions and encourage the government and the international community to address such concerns.
If Afghan government compromises such provisions of the constitution, it could be very challenging and is unacceptable for the Afghans. Because it creates concerns for journalists and those working in the society and means our backsliding to the first track. We believe that any compromise on the freedom of speech, freedom of press, and religious freedom will prevent us to convey our message to government and to the world.
However, it is for Afghanistan to take their own decisions and to ensure that peace initiative should be Afghanistan-own and Afghanistan driven. To this end, the Taliban have to endorse the Afghan Constitution before attending any peace talks; because the current constitution is the only institution that the entire nation has consensus on it and can ensure a prosperous future for the country. If the overriding principles of this constitution are compromised in the peace talks, the Afghans will witness another round of civil war sooner or later in the country.