Afghan people yearn for peace. They want their government and international community to bring peace to their country. Afghan government has come to the conclusion that peace can be brought only by negotiating and reconciling with the insurgent groups that have been fighting the government and international forces over the last ten years and causing a lot of deaths, destructions and disruptions in the country.
Political parties and groups as well as Afghan people and civil society have put their weight behind the idea to reconcile with the Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami and other militant groups that continue to use violence to challenge the formation and development of a democratic government. But there have been growing criticisms of the way Afghan government is trying to talk to the armed opposition.
Political alliances believe that the reconciliation process is not inclusive and the wider public in the country are not informed of and consulted about it. On Thursday, March 01, 2012, the United Nations top diplomat in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, stated that the ongoing reconciliation and peace process should be inclusive.
His remarks appear to be made in response to the growing concerns among opposition parties and coalitions that president Karzai is not pursuing a clear policy and a transparent process in the reconciliation with the Taliban. The UN Secretary General Special Representative said," We are ready to be a part of the project and support it as much as we can. What's important is that all Afghans and opposition groups should take part in the process."
Jan Kubis also said that "What will be happening will be closely monitored by the UN." The National Front of Afghanistan- a coalition of some strongest political parties and the main loyal opposition group in the country-has called for monitoring role for the UN in the peace process in Afghanistan.
In the meanwhile, civil society organizations are also worried about the ongoing flawed reconciliation efforts. Since the endeavors are not public and known to all, they fear that such efforts may lead to compromise on human rights and women's achievements in the country. Taliban militants are following an extremist line of interpretation of Islamic teachings and Sharia law. During their rule, they confined Afghan women to home. Therefore, the insurgents dislike the growing and more active presence of women in the society. Due to the relative freedom, women have been able to make considerable achievements in political, social, economic and cultural areas.
If the Taliban return to power, they will definitely be pushed back to the corners of home as experiences of Taliban regime show. There have been no indications on the part of the Taliban militants to show that there is a change in their view of women's role in the society. Also, there is no indication on the part of the militants to suggest that the Taliban are no more for denying women's rights to education and to access healthcare.
Recently, there have been incidents of foreign soldiers getting killed by their Afghan counterparts. This particularly became an issue after an unintentional burning of copies of Holy Quran by some American soldiers at Bagram air field. This has led to a crisis of trust between international forces and their Afghan colleagues.
There appears to be a growing call for early withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan. Even on Wednesday last week, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that US President Barack Obama is in the process of transitioning out of Afghanistan in an appropriate manner and in keeping with decisions that have to be made about helping Afghans defend themselves. Clinton told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing: "I think the underlying premise is certainly one that can be debated among Americans of good faith.
I believe that we were justified in going to Afghanistan." This shows that there are even new questions being raised about the rightness of Afghan mission. The Taliban militants have been attempting to use this situation to their advantage. After the Quran burning incident at Bagram Air Base, Taliban militants have been making attempts to reassert their view of how Afghanistan should look like.
They claimed responsibility for the death of two American officers inside the Ministry of Interior in the capital, Kabul. The Taliban militants also asserted responsibility for a car bomb explosion at the Jalalabad air that killed about nine people. Although the Taliban insurgents' claim of responsibility is open to question, the rationale they stated to justify the motive for carrying out these deadly acts was to revenge for the burning of holy Quran.
There were several other violent protests that left many deaths and injuries. What comes out of the acts and the stated rationale behind them is a hardline ideology of violent nature. If such an ideology returns and becomes dominant in Afghanistan, it will once again turn into a violent and an isolated nation.
Unfortunately, a violent view was expressed by some politicians as well. For instance a senator from southern Zabul province, Mohammad Hassan Hotak, told a senate session this week, "Don't call for peaceful protests.
My demand is that protests should go on for a month. We should show infidels that we can defend our religion." He suggested that violence was needed to show outrage against the disrespect to the holy Quran. These remarks and calls for revenges have been or are made while the US forces, commanders and officials have said that the reported desecration has been unintentional and inadvertent.
They apologized to Afghan government, officials and people. This comes while Taliban militants have increased their violent attacks to showcase that they are winning the war and have upper hand or vantage point in the ongoing peace talks with Afghan government and international community, particularly the US.
The Taliban may try to impose their violent ideology but they will be resisted. Afghan people do not want to return to those dark days when they were deprived of freedom, and women were deprived of education and confined to home. In addition, they cannot afford to remain out of touch and contact with international community.
In the meanwhile, Afghan government must include all ethnic groups in any peace deal with the Taliban, particularly those who have been the main victims of Taliban's atrocious acts over almost the last two decades. In fact, inclusiveness both in reconciliation and power structures is a precondition for the multi-ethnic society of Afghanistan to achieve a permanent peace.