Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

After Public Demand for Peace, Ball is in Taliban’s Court

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After Public Demand for Peace,  Ball is in Taliban’s Court

Afghanistan’s peace process appears to reach a stalemate with the Taliban’s mala fide intention for talks. Declaration of the Taliban’s spring offensive showed their lukewarm response to ceasefire, which is a serious demand in the negotiation.
Despite being pressured by their interlocutors, the Taliban still hold out against direct negotiation with Kabul government. Although the Taliban held several rounds of talks with the US representatives and the names of their negotiating team have been removed from the UN blacklist, they still refuse to declare truce.
Afghan government convened Consultative Loya Jirga (National Assembly) to support peace process. Issuing a communique, the Jirga called on Kabul government and the Taliban to declare truce ahead of Ramazan, Muslims’ holy month of fasting. The Jirga further urged the Taliban to renounce violence and participate in the country’s rehabilitation and uplift. It asked the Taliban, international community, regional countries, and other stakeholders to respect the demands of the Jirga delegates and take practical steps to reduce violence and bloodshed.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani also called the Taliban to “respond to the voices of 31 million people” through stopping violence and playing a constructive role in the country. Addressing the Taliban’s head Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, Ghani said that he accepted the demands of Afghan people and then the ball was on Haibatullah’s court whether or not to accept. Ghani also pledged to release 175 prisoners of the Taliban in honor of holy month of Ramazan and in a gesture of goodwill. 
However, the Taliban have turned a blind eye to the public demands and continue their insurgency without signaling for ceasefire. It is self-explanatory that the Taliban have constantly spilt the blood of civilians, violated the rights of people, trampled upon Afghan Constitution and international instruments, and played a highly destructive role within more than two decades. The Taliban are not a political party but a terrorist group, which respects neither national nor international laws.
The US Special Representative for Afghanistan’s Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is back in Doha for the next round of talks with the Taliban delegates. Khalilzad tweeted that in the opening session of talks, he said to the Taliban that “it is time to put down arms, stop the violence, & embrace peace”, which, he said, was the demands of Afghan people.
In another tweet on April 25, Khalizad said that the Taliban had stated that “a ceasefire is not part of the agenda” adding that “for us, peace is the agenda”. The Taliban are likely to play a foul game and come to the table with insincere intention as they do not want to include “ceasefire” in the agenda. If there is no ceasefire, how peace will emerge?
The Taliban should understand that talks are not for talks but for peace. They have to come to the table with clear demands and bona fide intention.
Despite receiving concessions from Afghan government and their US interlocutors, such as the release of their prisoners and the removal of their leaders’ names from blacklist, the Taliban have not taken a single step forward for peace. Thus, no strides have been made in the peace talks.
The Taliban have two options ahead whether to fight or make peace. The horrible consequences of fighting is clear to all. That is, fighting will lead to mutual casualties and destruction and Afghan people would bear the brunt of the war. If the Taliban seek win-win outcome, they have to stop fighting and join the government. 
If the Taliban believe that they have fought in support of Afghan people and their activities are acceptable to the public, Afghan government will provide them a platform to participate in the election and have their own candidates. For example, the leader of Hazb-e-Islami Afghanistan Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who signed a peace agreement with Kabul government, is one of the candidates for the upcoming presidential election. The Taliban could follow the same way. But their terrorist activities, which led to heavy casualties across Afghanistan, have changed them to pariah in the country. Realizing this fact, the Taliban refuse to participate in the election.
Now as Ghani’s administration and Afghan people have been urging the Taliban to stop violence and declare ceasefire, the ball is in the Taliban’s court whether to accept the public demands or continue their deadly war. But it is clear to all warring sides that war and violence will not lead to peace. Resolving issues through negotiation and declaring peace will be the win-win situation.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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