With the date of completion of the withdrawal process reaching nearer, the concerns for the Afghan socio-political circumstances in post-2014 scenario are also gaining strength. The greatest of the concerns is that Afghanistan may enter the scenario with the basic issues unresolved. The reconciliation process that was initiated to introduce political solution for the conflict with Taliban has not been able to gain any achievement. The High Peace Council (HPC) that was established to shoulder the responsibility of the process, itself, fell victim to the aggressive attitude of Taliban as a couple of its leaders were assassinated by them. In fact, the approach through which the process is being treated is not very mature and needs a lot more vigilance and understanding.
In a very recent move, HPC, Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), had a meeting on Wednesday, June 27, in Kyoto city of Japan, to make commitments and discussions regarding the peace process. The meeting is considered as the continuation of a gathering that was organized last week in Paris – capital of France, among the members of HPC, National United Front, HIA and Taliban. An Afghan official is reported to have said about the meeting, "This is the first close international conference of its kind between the Afghan government, Hizb-e-Islami and Taliban." Moreover, the government officials have claimed that the meeting is going to play a role in paving the way for peace negotiations, which, at the moment, is too early to conclude.
Taliban and HIA have been considered as the most determined opposing forces that have been pursuing their interests against the government and the Western allies through militancy. Reconciliation with them is really important so as to establish the prospects of peace and tranquility in the country. However, many would doubt that because of the nature of the Taliban militant networks in the country, they are properly represented in the process.
The participants of the meeting included HIA head of political affairs Dr. GhairatBaheer, fromer Taliban Planning Minister Qari Din Mohammad, ex-Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zayeef and representative of HPC, MasoomStanikzai. With the mentioned names, it is difficult to conclude that Taliban would consider the process conclusive as far as their representation is concerned. It is difficult to guarantee that the different factions of Taliban would respect the process and consider its decisions compulsory for them. It is important that the process should be made more participatory with the involvement of all the factions who are really at war with the government and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
From the very inception of peace process with Taliban there have been doubts and concerns and they seem to be multiplying with each passing day. In fact, the Afghan government has not been able to gain the confidence of Taliban and neither of the Western allies regarding the process.
The Taliban, on various occasions have neglected the peace process just because they claim that the current government is a 'puppet government' and does not have the capacity to make decisions on its own.There were efforts by US to start a process with Taliban in Qatar and in the very beginning of the process the Afghan government was not involved in the way it had to be involved in it. Though afterwards, the Afghan government was involved, the process could not proceed and faced a deadlock as Taliban could not agree the set conditions. The efforts showed that US and NATO were interested in starting negotiations led by them.
The reconciliation process launched by the government or HPC has not been all inclusive and participatory, which has made many stakeholders worry about the process. The opposition political parties and coalitions from the very inception of the process highlighted their concerns and started calling the process secret and unable to deal with the challenges of time. They demanded that the peace process should be made more transparent and should involve the parties that have been anti-Taliban and deserve to be a party in the process.
They even claimed that as Afghan President has already called Taliban as 'brothers', they do not need to have negotiations with them as they have no conflict; instead the process should be carried out with participation of the opposition political parties and coalitions that have ideological conflicts with Taliban.
It is important to note thatmismanagement, ambiguities and distrust for the reconciliation process will give more advantages to Taliban and they can have a stronger position from where they can negotiate and can have more of their conditions accepted by the US and Afghan authorities.
Though there have been certain conditions set for Taliban to accept before talks can be started with them, it is not yet verified that they have accepted those conditions. The conditions involve the basic demands that Taliban must respect the constitution of Afghanistan; they must give up violence and respect the human rights, most importantly the rights of women.
However, it is difficult to be presumed that Taliban would respect those conditions eagerly. Moreover, the growing distrust among the parties on the other side of the process has made Taliban take advantage of the situation and they have already started dictating their own conditions.Taliban have said that they would not pursue the condition of ceasefire unless all the Taliban prisoners are released from Guantanamo and Western forces leave the country.
The peace process is going nowhere but it is interesting to note that Afghan authorities have already started making optimistic conclusions. In fact, they have kept on giving the indications that Taliban are ready to talk even when they have kept their aggressive policies continue in various forms. In fact, the US and Afghan authorities want to give an impression that they are reaching to concrete conclusions in the war against terrorism and want to display some examples that they are pursuing the reconciliation process to establish lasting peace in the country.
However, such efforts can only prove to be eye wish, while the real conflicts will keep on haunting the Afghan socio-political scenario with conflicts and differences and may pave the way for another civil war in the country. Therefore, the need of time is to make honest and dedicated efforts to solve the issues. Only, a true and determined effort that is aimed at making the process participatory, clear and accountable can solve the basic issues in Afghanistan and can guarantee a lasting peace in the country.