"Were stuck", that is how one of Afghan delegates described the much-acclaimed intra-Afghan peace negotiations that kicked-off in the Qatari capital Doha on September 12
"Were stuck", that is how one of Afghan delegates described the much-acclaimed intra-Afghan peace negotiations that kicked-off in the Qatari capital Doha on September 12.
After initial direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government-led delegation in Doha, the obstacle course keeps getting more complicated. A contact group comprising Taliban and Afghan government delegates was established to set the terms and conditions before the formal talks begin with the participation of a wider group. It was an attempt to pave the way for setting the agenda of the talks aimed at reaching a lasting peace in the war-torn country.
The talks were envisioned in an agreement between the Taliban and the US signed in February.
US President Donald Trump's administration wants the Taliban and the Afghan government to strike peace deal as it wants to pull out American troops from the country after nearly 20 years – its longest overseas war. In the Doha agreement, the Taliban consolidated all of their demands within a specific framework and timeline; however, they made no promises to address the issue of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, which is a fundamental demand of the Afghan government.
Reports indicate that the ongoing delay is because of the disagreement between the two sides over other ‘key issues', including religious matters. According to one delegate, the Taliban want their war in Afghanistan to be called "jihad" and the Hanafi school of jurisprudence of Sunni Islam to be the basis for decision-making during the negotiations, while there are also demands for Sha theology to be recognized for personal-religious matters involving Shia Muslims in Afghanistan. These demands are in conflict with the Afghan government's fight for a secular democratic republic. Taliban also refused the ceasefire proposal of the Afghan government.
Frustrated with the Taliban team, the chief of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah landed in Islamabad on September 28 to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan army chief General Qamar Javed Balwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hamid. Abdullah said he asked Pakistan's powerful military to use its influence to press the Taliban to agree on ceasefire.
"It is time for the Taliban to show some practical signs of their commitment for peace... Why are they not giving the people a chance to breathe and to see that things are happening?" queried Abdullah.
Pakistan has the greatest leverage with the Taliban, whose ruling council is headquartered in Balochistan and is using the Taliban as possible leverage against India, which has been critical of any post-war government in Afghanistan that includes the Taliban.
Experts believe that Taliban is not serious about the peace talks. "Its just a ploy to buy time so that they can re-group. Having getting released of thousands of their hard core fighters, Taliban getting ready for big fights."
In a major development, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has formed an alliance with the Taliban.
Hekmatyar's Islamic fundamentalism is as medieval as that of the Taliban's. His party, Hezb-i-Islami, has been providing considerable materials and moral support to Kashmiri terrorists including Hizbul.
According to the former Pakistani diplomat Hussain Haqqani, it is no secret that Pakistan has facilitated talks between the US negotiators and the Taliban leaders and the ongoing Intra-Afghan talks.
"Pakistan will prefer that the Americans and NATO withdraw with an agreement that gives the Taliban an upper hand without Pakistan having to fight to bring the Taliban back to power," says Haqqani.
What Pakistan really wants is a pliable dispensation in Kabul that would keep its arch rival India at an arm's length and not allow it to build upon the goodwill that India's political and economic contribution and elements of its soft power have helped generate and sustain in Afghanistan over decades. A Taliban regime in Kabul would, in Pakistan's assessment, serve this purpose fully. A power-sharing agreement with the present Afghan regime, on the other hand, would continue to provide India with the linkages and the space that it needs in Afghanistan. Pakistan's end game, therefore, appears to be a forcible and complete takeover by the Taliban. While clandestinely working towards this, the Pakistani military establishment is simultaneously putting into practice its skill, honed over generations, of hoodwinking the US into believing that it was doing all that it could to ensure the success of the US-Taliban agreement.
Former National Security Adviser of Afghanistan, Rangin Dadfar Spanta warns that ongoing talks are heading toward failure. "Taliban have only one goal – not a sharing of power but a transfer of power and to answer this, it is worth understanding what Pakistan wants in Afghanistan."
Meanwhile in a survey conducted by Heart Of The Asia society, in 31 provinces out of 34 of Afghanistan, 75 per cent Afghans are in favour of a republic. Afghans have been cautiously hopeful about the peace process, but they are not willing to agree to a peace "at any cost".
"As much as we want peace, we are also demanding the protection and promotion of our rights that have come through great sacrifice over the last 18 years. Our redlines are human rights, women's rights, freedom of expression and constitution, democracy, equality, and, most importantly, educational democracy," says Tahira A. Hoora , a women rights activist and post graduate in political science from the University Of Delhi.
(Under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)