Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, September 21st, 2020

Peace Talks and Public Concerns

With the removal of obstacles to peace talks and return of the Taliban’s negotiating team to Qatar from Pakistan, the intra-Afghan dialogue is said to start soon. Both Afghan state and nation will focus on reduction of violence and ceasefire. But the Taliban militants have intensified their attacks despite the arrangements for talks as well as signing peace agreement with the United States.
Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan also reiterated the declaration of ceasefire in the talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban outfit. Lyons stressed that peace, human rights, and humanitarian situations were crucial issues to be discussed in the talks.
US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad also departed to Qatar saying that he would travel in the region to advance ongoing US efforts to promote the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations. He is cited as saying, “The Afghan people are ready for a sustainable reduction in violence and political settlement that will end the war.”
Afghans are apprehensive about the chauvinistic approach of Khalilzad in the peace talks as he gave much legitimacy to the Taliban group and gave concessions to the Taliban without ensuring peace and stability in the country. A number of political analysts believe that the US-Taliban agreement was not a peace accord since it did not lead to peace in Afghanistan rather it was a withdrawal agreement. If the intra-Afghan dialogue does not bear the desired result, Khalilzad’s role would be recorded as a villain not a hero. Khlilzad turned a blind eye to the Taliban’s terrorist activities after the US and the Taliban signed deal as in any terrorist attacks, with much possibility of the Taliban’s involvement, he always diverted the public attention through attributing the attacks to enemies of peace process.
It is said that the Taliban have brought changes to its negotiating team. As of now, Muwlavi Abdul Hakim will lead the team not Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai. Hakim is close to the late Mullah Akhtar Mansour, former Mullah Omar’s successor, and a Durani Pashtun from Icehaqzai tribe. He was about to succeed Mansour and selected as the Taliban’s “Emir-ul-Mumineen”. He is also likely to be more committed to the Taliban’s ideology than Stanikzai is.
Afghans are concerned since the Taliban are averse to democracy and are determined to impose their version of theocratic dispensation. Afghans have their red-line, which includes protecting the rights and liberties of women, safeguarding democratic achievements, and supporting the current democratic constitution.
In the first phase, the Taliban have to agree to declaration of ceasefire and a power-sharing formula and integration into the political system. In the second phase, they should work to gain political power through the process of ballot.
Afghans have paid heavy sacrifices for achieving democratic gains and will continue their support to democracy at the cost of heavier sacrifices. With this in mind, the Taliban will not be able to sell their radical mindset.
Political pundits and Afghans believe that the deal did not only not extract enough concessions from the Taliban but also gave the group a greater legitimacy.
Afghan politicians and ordinary people doubt the Taliban to honor their commitment and respect the gains achieved within almost two decades, including democratic principles, democratic constitution, and women’s rights and freedoms.
Afghan people desperately deserve a negotiated peace after all those sacrifices. Regional and global actors have to put their weight behind the talks and broker intra-Afghan dialogue.
It seems that reaching a framework agreement or a political settlement will be a highly challenging issue. Consensus will not be easy on issues such as provisional power sharing, the Afghan constitution and human rights, and equally contentious matters relating to demobilization of Taliban forces and their reintegration.
In the current sensitive time, global powers and regional stakeholders have to engage constructively in the Afghan peace process and de-escalation of tension between the Taliban and the US. If global powers and regional actors remain unconcerned to the escalating tension, the instability and challenges will snowball across the region and all states will be affected adversely in one way or another.
The people of Afghanistan will back the peace talks if they ensure their human rights, freedoms as well as constitutional principles and democratic achievements gained within the last two decades. Afghans demands and concerns have to be heard and they should be give the platform to participate in social and political decision making. In short, the negotiating sides have to discuss issues with consideration to the public demands and there should be no imposition of will and idea on people.