Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, January 18th, 2021

Conflicting Demands and Lack of Consensus Likely to Hamper Peace Talks

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he ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha, Qatar’s capital, encounters hurdles from the start. Head of the Taliban negotiators Mawlavi Abdul Hakim Haqqani had not traveled to Doha, which signifies Taliban’s insincere intention. The conflicting demands and priorities of the negotiating sides, the interference of US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, and diverse views between political figures are challenging the talks.
President Ashraf Ghani reiterates preservation of the republic system as well as the role of regional and global stakeholders in the peace talks. He believes that global consensus has been formed over democratic values and national unity.
Former UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Kai Eide has said the Afghan peace process is complicated and that irregularities still exist inside Afghanistan. Pointing to the escalation of violence and targeted killings, Eide says the Taliban failed to meet their commitments, an indication that the group does not want peace. According to him, the harsh remarks by First Vice President Amrullah Saleh will be harmful to peace talks, and the Afghan government has an unclear stance.
Generally speaking, there are diverse views and orientations regarding the ongoing dialogue. The political structure of the post-peace Afghanistan is a highly contentious issue and there is no agreement, not even between Afghan politicians, about it. It is believed that the Taliban have reached a conclusion that forming “Emirate system” is not acceptable to the people of Afghanistan, but they are also unwilling to accept “republic system”. With this in mind, rumors say that the two sides are likely to agree over “Islamic system” without the prefix of “republic” or “emirate”.
Afghan people, however, fear the phrase “Emirate system”, which unleashes memories of the war and violence and discriminatory rules rife during the Taliban regime (2006-2001).
Overall, Afghans want preservation of the Constitution’s framework and principles – including human rights and women’s rights and freedoms, segregation of powers, and civil rights – as well as democratic gains made within the last couple of decades, as people and their representatives have reiterated on multiple occasions.
Since the peace process is fragile, officials and political pundits and the Taliban leaders have to refrain from harsh rhetoric and tone down their remarks. Furthermore, it is important for the Taliban to note that only declaring truce will be conducive to a peace agreement. In short, if irreconcilable remarks harm the peace process, escalated violence will dismantle the process and derail the talks.  
The Taliban have to show their genuine intention, if they have, through honoring their commitments, declaring ceasefire – which is the demand of each Afghan as well as international community and regional and global stakeholders – and bringing Abdul Hakim to the table. Playing foul game or seeking leverage via escalated violence or stonewalling the talks will be counterproductive. Neither of the side should try to harm the process.
Meanwhile, Zalmay Khalilzad, whose team marginalized Kabul administration from the US-Taliban talks, has to play a constructive role and should not seek to impose a system on Afghanistan. After signing a peace agreement with the Taliban, which led to the release of the Taliban fighters but without ensuring peace and stability in the country, Khalilzad turned into a notorious figure among the people of Afghanistan. If he is seeking to support the process, he has to pressure the Taliban to stop killing Afghan soldiers and civilians and declare a permanent ceasefire.
It is self-explanatory that formation of national and international consensus is highly significant. Nonetheless, disagreement and conflicting views are deeply felt within and between Afghan officials and political figures. A politician should not pursue his self-interests and factional share in the future administration, if he represents the nation and tries for the achievement of national interests.
The government’s recent initiative to step up attempts for achieving regional and global consensus is crucial. Afghanistan’s allies and neighboring countries, including Pakistan, Iran, India, and China, have to involve in the peace process constructively so that it bears the desired result.
Overall, the Taliban have to stop playing a foul game and prove their genuine intention through honoring their deal, fulfilling the public demands – which are declaration of ceasefire and preservation of constitutional principles and framework as well as past democratic achievements and an inclusive and comprehensive post-deal system with every ethnic and racial and religious group on board– and guaranteeing peace and stability. Afghan officials and political figures should form a national consensus and pursue national interests. Regional and global stakeholders need to put their weight behind the process and use their leverage on the Taliban leadership so that the negotiating sides reach an agreement acceptable to the parties and the public.