Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

Talks for Talks or Ending Conflict?

The casualties of non-combatants have increased amid the break in the intra-Afghan dialogue and Afghans are likely to lose all their trust in the Taliban, who hold talks with the Afghan government without showing goodwill to the peace process. Afghan officials believe that the Taliban are behind the recent serial killings.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, made a trip to Islamabad in September urging Pakistan to put its weight behind the talks.
Recently, the Taliban Political Commission had a three-day visit to Islamabad, headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The delegation had meetings with Pakistani foreign minister and prime minister, and the two sides reportedly discussed peace process. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Imran Khan made a phone call to Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on December 16 and assured him of Pakistan’s support for the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. Khan is cited as assuring Ghani that Pakistan would help Afghanistan bring down the level of violence, leading to ceasefire. Pakistani officials also promised Abdullah to support the dialogue.
Despite all, the Taliban have agreed neither to declare ceasefire nor stop killing non-combatants. Within the passage of time, the level of national mistrust in the Taliban is likely to increase. On the one hand, the Taliban seek to pose peaceful feature through sitting around the negotiating table, and on the other hand, they target civilians to gain leverage at the talks.
But many Pakistani media hold defensive tone when talking about the Taliban and say “the spoiler” not the Taliban are behind the increased violence. I came across many commentaries on Pakistani media which hold defensive approach and use legal terminologies while speaking about the Taliban group. Meanwhile, Pakistani muftis and clerics are not willing to issue fatwa against the Taliban’s ongoing jihad or condemn their acts of killings and bloodshed. Media have to maintain their neutrality and reporters and political analysts should stop justifying the Taliban’s acts of violence. Acting as the mouthpiece of the Taliban will put the reputation and credibility of Pakistani media under serious question.
Meanwhile, if Pakistani authorities seek to support the intra-Afghan dialogue, they have to press the Taliban leadership to reduce violence and stop killing civilians so as to show goodwill to the peace process. It is self-explanatory that Islamabad has strong leverage on the Taliban leadership and is able to push them not to sabotage the peace process through increasing the level of violence.
Adopting a resolution earlier, the UN condemned the high rate of continued violence. The resolution said “this is contributing to an unacceptable number of casualties” and called for an immediate cessation of violence and strongly encouraged the Afghan government and the Taliban to pursue confidence-building measures and to reduce violence.
Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, Adela Raz, said the goal of the government, Afghanistan’s neighbors and the General Assembly “is to incorporate the Taliban as a political party. It is our utmost aim to see the Taliban as a constructive political party in the country, without the relationship with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, working for prosperity and peace in Afghanistan.”
If the Taliban really seek to hold negotiations with the intention of putting an end to the decades of conflict, they have to stop killing Afghan people and cut their ties with international terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.
Reduction in violence is a precondition for peace. On the contrary, if the Taliban continue their violence against Afghan civilians, the talks are likely to reach deadlock. Taliban political leaders have to order their military commanders and fighters to stop spilling the blood of Afghan people.
Meanwhile, Pakistan needs to push the Taliban to reach an agreement and urge Pakistani clerics to issue fatwa against jihad in Afghanistan, which will be a big step forward to peace.
If global and regional stakeholders, including Pakistan, play their role in the peace process, talks will move faster.
Overall, three issues need to be taken into consideration for the fruitful peace talks. First, the Taliban have to cut their ties with international terrorist groups and stop their serial killings. They have to show their goodwill to the talks through reducing violence, which will lead to comprehensive national ceasefire. Second, regional and global stakeholders in general and Pakistan in particular had better pressure the Taliban to honor the talks and sit around the peace table with genuine intention. They should stop playing a foul game. Third, the negotiating sides have to reach agreement over ceasefire and reduction in violence or else Afghans will lose their hope in the process.