Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, October 29th, 2020

The Vague Landscape of Peace Process

As a result of the Taliban’s active engagement in escalated insurgency and killing civilians, Afghans are worried about both the return of the Islamic Emirate and release of their prisoners. The people of Afghanistan paid heavy sacrifices to support democracy and free practices of their rights and freedoms, but it is feared that the Taliban group will slow down the process of democratization and seek to undo the decades of progressive steps.
Being involved in suicide bombings and terrorist attacks within the past two decades, the Taliban claim power within the government’s machinery and have gained legitimacy in the wake of signing peace agreement with the Trump administration and holding informal talks in neighboring countries.
It is really hard for Afghans to accept a group of terrorists, which was involved in killings and destruction, hold power within the government rather than being prosecuted for their criminal acts. However, on the other hand, their marginalization is likely to lead to further casualties and destruction. With this in mind, Afghan representatives consented to the release of Taliban’s prisoners with preconditions, which include protecting human rights and freedoms, respecting constitutional principles, and safeguarding democratic values. In other words, the Taliban should not seek to impose their warped mind on people or establish their sharia-based emirate.
The statement issued in the Loya Jirga approved the release of 400 Taliban’s prisoners with the intention of removing hurdles before the intra-Afghan dialogue, reduction in violence and bloodshed, and public interests. Afghan representatives called the Taliban to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, declare immediate and permanent ceasefire, and the released prisoners do not return to the battlefields. The statement also called on the international community to prevent the intervention of the neighboring countries and Taliban’s supporters in the issue of Afghanistan.
Being concerned about the return of the Islamic Emirate, Afghan representatives urged that the republic, the principle of democratization, and the citizens’ rights – including the rights of racial and religious minorities – should never be harmed at the negotiating table. They also reiterated maintaining the achievements gained within the last two decades as well as protection of Afghan Constitution. Members of Loya Jirga insisted on the role of women and their participation in the peace process. They also pointed out that the peace process had to be transparent and urged the inclusion of national figures, political leaders, tribal elders, religious scholars, women, youth, and civil society activists in the peace council.
The Afghan peace delegation and the Taliban negotiating team will sit face-to-face in Qatar to hold formal talks, which are likely to be highly controversial. The peace agreement signed between the Taliban and the United States in late February did not lead to peace or reduction in violence. With this in mind, the intra-Afghan dialogue should bring in peace and ceasefire and will be highly controversial since the Taliban are likely to haggle over the establishment of their sharia-based emirate and will be urged to declare ceasefire and reduce violence.
The people of Afghanistan expects the two sides not to hold the talks behind closed doors and the voice of public should not fall on deaf ears. That is to say, the concerns of Afghan people – who paid heavy sacrifices within the last two decades for the establishment and empowerment of democracy – should be addressed in the intra-Afghan dialogue.
Although a number of Afghan people voiced their concern about the release of the Taliban’s hardcore fighters, 156 of these prisoners had been sentenced to death, the majority consented the Jirga’s approval simply to back the peace process. In other words, Afghans are highly frustrated with war and violence and will support any decisions, which ensure peace and stability.
The issues pointed out in the statements of Loya Jirga are also the public demands. Afghans also urged for the protection of their fundamental rights as well as women’s rights, respect to Afghan constitution and democratic principles, and safeguarding the past achievements.
Now it is the Taliban to signal their determination for peace through declaring ceasefire. The Taliban leadership should call its rank and file to respect the humanitarian law and stop targeting civilians. They have to start intra-Afghan dialogue without any further ifs and buts.
The Taliban should respect the constitution of Afghanistan and women’s rights and do not seek to impose their ideology on the people of Afghanistan. They should note that Afghans have their preconditions and red-line to be respected. Afghans will support the peace process to ensure peace as well as their fundamental rights and freedoms. They never want to backtrack or have their rights at stake.