Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 15th, 2021

Sectarian Violence Will Trigger Public Reaction Against Militants

Violation of human rights is widely practiced in Afghanistan, especially with the engagement of the Taliban fighters in killings of civilians. The Afghan government urges for reduction in violence but the Taliban rank and file continue trampling on human rights of non-combatants and killing women and children.
Afghan first vice president Amrullah Saleh said that the IS-affiliated Taliban have warned that they would engage in killing Shiites if their prisoners were executed. He added that the Taliban’s threat would not affect the government’s decision and called on the country’s judicial system to prosecute the militant captives openly. Taliban’s involvement in triggering sectarian violence is not surprising since they killed scores of Shiites during their regime. Although they carry out indiscriminate attacks, the IS fighters and their affiliates were reportedly involved in attacks on ethnic minorities and shrines.
It should be self-evident that religious radicals hold ethnocentric mindset and seek to kill individuals on the grounds of their race, color and creed. The radicals claim they are right and others are wrong, only they were born in right ethnic groups, and they are superior. Their ideology is discriminatory and ethnocentric, which put the fundamental rights and freedoms of people at stake.
Saleh’s disclosure of the IS-affiliated Taliban’ recent statements about killing an ethnic minority group has prompted a strong reaction from the Shiites saying that it will generate fear in public air. Mohammad Mohaqqiq, a heavyweight political figure, said that the narrative of killing Shiites disclosed by a high-ranking official will generate fear.
It comes as Saleh said earlier that the Taliban fighters, released from the government’s jail, returned to the battlefields and organize devastating attacks. It indicates that the Taliban do not honor their pledge with the government as they said their released fighters will not return to the battlefields. In other words, despite the ongoing talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban leadership, the Taliban demand concessions without honoring their deal as they reportedly maintain their ties with al-Qaeda, despite their pledges to cut their ties with other terrorist groups, send their released fighters to the battlefields and declare ceasefire.  
Based on a survey conducted by the Institute of War and Peace Studies (IWPS), 75.8 percent of the respondents demand that ceasefire should be a top priority for the Afghan government in the peace talks ongoing in Qatari capital Doha. The survey also shows that 63.63 percent of the respondents refused that the Taliban’s leadership and comprehensive changes in the defense and security sector.
Afghan officials and ordinary people constantly called on the Taliban to stop killing soldiers and civilians and declare ceasefire. However, their calls fell on the deaf ears of the Taliban fighters, who intensified their attacks. Worst, the recent systematic killings of journalists are highly worrisome. Officials believe that the Taliban are behind the ongoing systematic killings but the Taliban do not claim responsibility most probably because to avoid national and international pressure. In short, the Taliban continue violating the rights and freedoms of Afghan people and are largely involved in violating the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) without being pressured by the United States, their allies, and the international community.
If the Taliban hold out against declaring ceasefire and reducing violence, the international community and the United States, along with their allies, have to put pressure on their leadership and make them respect the rights of civilians as well as their peace agreement signed with the Donald Trump administration.
The Taliban and other militant fighters should respect the rights of all citizens, including those of the ethnic minorities. Targeting ethnic minorities will generate strong reaction and fill people with hatred against the militants in general and the Taliban in particular. Hence, it will compound the challenges rather than decrease them.
Furthermore, high-ranking officials have to speak responsibly and predict the consequences of their words. Their statements should not generate fear and do not rob people of their peace of mind.
It is the government’s responsibility to ensure the protection of individuals’ rights and liberties regardless of their racial, religious, and sectarian differences. The Afghan government should safeguard the fundamental rights of all citizens and take preventive measures to dismantle the plans of the terrorist groups. If the militants do not stop killing civilians, including ethnic minorities, the peace process is likely to be disrupted and may even reach deadlock. Therefore, violence and civilians casualties need to be stopped or reduced and the Taliban must stop playing a foul game at the peace table.