Usama Malick writes about the Afghan Peace Process
There are no two opinions when it comes to Afghanistan that it has been a war-torn region for four decades ever since the beginning of Soviet Invasion in 1979.The worst came when US-led troops ousted The Taliban in 2001 by launching airstrikes where the latter had settlements and which ultimately led to the Taliban insurgency.
After facing an insulting defeat against the Taliban,losing a large number of American Military personnel’s lives and wasting more than 2 trillion dollars in the war against ‘terrorism’ in Afghanistan , the US government led by Donald Trump is now all set to withdraw its forces by November 2020. Even then the number of the Taliban who have been killed by US forces upto now is many folds higher reaching nearly 35000 in contrast to the casualties of US Military personnel in the region.
Much to the world’s consternation— after so many ifs and buts— intra-Afghan peace talks have begun which seemed unlikely until 12 September when eventually the first-ever peace talks were held in the capital of Qatar,Doha.Forming an inclusive government seems to be the most apparent incentive behind coming to the negotiating table.Nobody—including outsiders—has gained anything from this long-standing war.There have been sufferings, trials and absolute tribulations for all and sundry.
The worrisome thing is that throughout the conference Taliban leader Mullah Barader Akhund didn’t approve even a single time of truce back in Battle ground(Afghanistan) in clear words.Though he hinted that “Negotiations may have problems but we should move forward with patience”. Yet, he made demands of setting up an “Islamic” Government in Afghanistan.
Since the Taliban were hesitant to come to terms as regards the ceasefire—despite the ongoing peace-talks in Qatar—the violence has not abated in Afghanistan. Reportedly, post the initiation of peace-talks, 70 Afghan government troops have been liquidated in miscellaneous attacks carried out by the Taliban. The Taliban have claimed the responsibility for attacks by citing reasons which are hard to believe as there are discrepancies galore between the statements of both sides e.g the Taliban and the Afghan government . Afghan Defence ministry spokesperson Fawad Awan said that the Taliban had increased their raids since the start of the talks and the reason for it was to seek concessions at the negotiation table. In a tweet, US specific envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad also expressed his concern in these words “Over the last few days there has been a clear rise in violence in Afghanistan. This escalation is regrettable, as Afghans , including many civilians are losing their lives .” He asked both the sides to normalize the situation.
Women rights situation in Afghanistan is also far from desirable. The gloomy state of affairs evinces that stakes are high as far as women rights are concerned. AS the things stand, whosoever challenges the patriarchy has to pay a high price for it. For instance, an Afghani woman—Saba Sahar—performing several roles in Kabul from actress, director to a film producer was shot multiple times a few minutes after she left her house along with her bodyguards a month ago. In another instance, to deter the presence of Fawzia Koofi—a vocal person for women rights in Afghanistan and a member of the negotiating team of Afghan government—in peace talks process, was attacked last month when she was returning to Kabul, but thankfully she survived the ambush. Later she said in a statement that such cowardly tactics couldn’t stop her from raising her voice for oppressed women. She further added that “It has given me more Strength”. You can well imagine the situation of women rights under the Taliban rule in 1990s when girls were not allowed to attend schools. Will this time they be allowed if peace talks prove a success?
Nothing can change unless multitudes change their attitudes.According to a recent survey—apart from the Taliban—the local men of this disputed region also consider the existing liberties for women in Afghanistan “enough”. Whereas the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan confers on the women equal rights.They are enfranchised and free to work at public places.Despite all this, their presence in Afghan parliament is a little over 28 percent and it’s far lower when it comes to labour force; nearly 20 percent.
Nevertheless, it is quite obvious that Kabul government is still supposed to sacrifice a plethora of its demands at the altar of peace .Caving in to the demands of the Taliban,Afghan government had already begun to set free upto 400 Taliban prisoners from the month of August this year.This group of prisoners includes Muhammad Dawood—a police officer who later joined the Taliban—opened fire on two US Marines and put both of them to death in 2011 on the pretext that he thought the latter were Jews and owing to that he didn’t like their company, so killed them. During the recent peace-talks, the Taliban have invariably pushed for the release of their prisoners—especially Mr. Dawood. Resultantly. Dawood and many others were out before the talks began in Doha. Apparently, the US “rues” the release of its personnel’s killer.
On the peripheries of the Afghan-Taliban conclave, one of the members of the Afghan negotiating team said that it was disturbing to shake hands with the killers of their relations but they did that for the sake of securing the future of their posterity. One should only hope for the good but securing peace in the region seems like a Herculean task as the militant group Al-Qaeda has a say in matters regarding the policy of The Taliban .And it became evident when allegedly the top brass of The Taliban consulted the leadership of Al-Qaeda before giving a green signal to peace-talks. Yet, it seems unlikely that being less in number as compared to The Taliban, Al-Qaeda will flout any terms and conditions made by the former.
Sadly, the recent attacks by The Taliban may prove fatal to the longevity of peace-talks and if they continue their killing spree, it may thwart the chances of putting an end to the decades-old chaos in Afghanistan. To experience the positive outcomes of peace-talks, one is supposed to take the back chair and pray that further anything ill-fated does not befall the already wretched populace of this war ravaged region.