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Rising optimism for intra-Afghan peace process

Feature: Rising Optimism for Intra-Afghan Peace Process

The United States Special Representative for Reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, met Taliban representatives in Qatar, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in Islamabad and Afghan leaders in Kabul, starting from Saturday last week. The visits were meant to pave the way for the intra-Afghan peace talks that have not initiated yet despite the hopes that they would start soon after the US-Taliban agreement in February 2020. These visits have, however, raised new hopes that the process might start soon.
A major development after the above mentioned talks was the visit of Gen. Bajwa to Kabul a couple of days after Khalilzad’s visit to Islamabad. Gen Bajwa met President Ashraf Ghani and the Chief of High Council for National Reconciliation Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. The meetings were reported to be fruitful and they conveyed Pakistan’s eagerness to support intra-Afghan peace talks. Though the details of the meetings were not officially disclosed, they conveyed a very clear message that Pakistan now wants the peace process between Taliban and Afghan government must start as soon as possible. In fact, Pakistan has been providing support for such a process for several years now.
Since the US efforts started to strike a deal with Taliban, Pakistan has been playing a supportive role. And the US-Taliban deal in Qatar was possible only through Pakistan’s constructive contributions. Now, even US seems to have realized the fact that it is Pakistan that has a key role in ensuring peace in Afghanistan and paving the way for their respectful withdrawal from the region, not India. Though many see the situation in the Afghanistan in the light of a competition between Pakistan and India, there is hardly such a competition, as the geopolitical realities clearly indicate that Pakistan has a more significant role. Afghanistan shares a long border with Pakistan and has cultural and economic ties with it for centuries now. Neglecting the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan is practically not possible at all.
Pakistan also seems to consider a peaceful Afghanistan in its favor. Years of insecurity and terrorism in Afghanistan have influenced Pakistan to a large extent. Moreover, military presence of the United States in its neighborhood is always a matter of concern for Pakistan and the region as a whole. Pakistan, after many sacrifices in war against terrorism, wants to see it conclude as soon as possible. That is the reason it has been providing support for the peace process. Moreover, Gen. Bajwa’s meeting with Abdullah during his visit to Kabul also gives the message that Pakistan favors the formation of High Council for National Reconciliation and wants to see it lead the intra-Afghan talks. It is, however, imperative that Abdullah must be given the authorities promised to him as per the political agreement between him and President Ghani. President Ghani has, however, appeared reluctant to pursue the steps that could lead towards speedy start of intra-Afghan talks.
As has been observed, President Ghani has not shown eagerness in releasing Taliban prisoners though he accepted the US-Taliban deal that asked for release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The process of release of Taliban prisoners has been very slow and faced setbacks because of President Ghani’s control on National Security Council (NSC). NSC has intentionally created hurdles in the way to the process of prisoners release, and there has been a conflict between the council and Taliban on the number and affiliation of released prisoners. Taliban have claimed that many of the prisoners released do not belong to the groups; rather, they are criminals or members of other groups like Daesh that President Ghani wants to be released.
For Afghanistan government, specially for Arg, it is vital to realize the fact that Taliban are now an important stakeholder in Afghanistan, and they must be integrated in the system in order to have a peaceful country. Without involving Taliban in a fruitful negotiation for the future of the country, it is impossible for President Ghani to chant the slogan of peace and ensure that it is actually achieved. Recent ceasefire during the Eid clearly showed that if opportunities are provided for an effective negotiations with Taliban, peace may be achieved and people may have security and prosperity in the country. Years of war with Taliban have clearly shown that war is no more an option for Afghan government and the people.
(Sahar News)

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