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challenges in intra-Afghan peace talks

The Challenges in Intra-Afghan Peace Talks

As the main parties in Afghanistan come together for peace talks in Doha, Qatar, an old and unresolved debate arises: What should be the role of Islam in Afghanistan?
The Taliban, who have fought for decades to establish an Islamic political system, signed an agreement with the United States in February calling for the withdrawal of US troops on the condition that the Taliban be present at the peace talks.
On September 12, they began intra-Afghan peace talks. Now the Taliban at home also seem to have come to the conclusion that the rise of their government in 1990 is not acceptable today. When the Taliban invaded Afghanistan in the 1990s, the group established the “Islamic Emirate” of Afghanistan, but they consulted with almost none of the country’s various political and religious groups. The result was a government style that threatened different strata and implemented the rural life of southern Afghanistan for the whole country. Imposing a very strict lifestyle on Afghans, banning women from working and studying, and ignoring the demands of the international community made the Taliban internationally controversial.
Now, by negotiating with Afghan officials and representatives of the political opposition, the “Islamic State” is the main demand of the Taliban. But the Taliban must make their ideas about the role of Islam in society and government clear.
Afghanistan now has a constitution that regulates Islamic jurisprudence more than any other law. Afghan officials consider their regime to be Islamic enough. Their emphasis in peace talks is on protecting the achievements of the past two decades, including women’s rights, freedom of expression and electoral democracy.
If peace is to be achieved through these talks, the two views on how to establish an Islamic government in Afghanistan must be reconciled.
The Taliban say the current system is overshadowed by Western military forces, which largely follow Western norms and give little role to religious officials. They see the elites of the Kabul government as secularists who want to westernize Afghan society. Instead, they see the active promotion of Islamic values and ethics in society as one of the main functions of the “true Islamic government”.
The Taliban called the non-Islamic nature of segregation in the current Afghan public sphere un-Islamic. They encourage Afghanistan’s relatively free media as “corrupt” and oppose a banking system designed under international law, calling for Islamic banking. They want more religious leaders to play a role in policy-making and legislation, and to further promote religious education.
Many Afghans fear that the Taliban will return to their heavy-handed rule in the late 1990s. But there are points from the Taliban that could influence public opinion, perhaps allowing for compromise. The Taliban, for example, now allow schools for girls in areas of high demand.
The Taliban banned technology and communications during their previous rule. They have since become fully dominant users of the Internet and mobile technology, and in some areas the group now control, when local elders requested access to their community Internet, the Taliban allowed it and they protect telecommunication towers.
The Taliban seem to understand that they need to progress beyond tolerating girls’ education. Last month, Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada appointed Maulvi Abdul Hakim, the group’s biggest cleric, as the leader of the Taliban negotiators in Doha. Maulvi Abdul Hakim has no experience in political negotiations, but the personal participation of such a prominent religious figure seems to indicate that the Taliban intend to clarify their position on the role of Islam in the government after the actual negotiations begin, and they want the fighters convince the Taliban that any agreement signed by the group’s leaders preserves Islamic values.
Finally, if we want to end the long war in Afghanistan, a new situation in Afghanistan will need the support of conservative elements in Afghan society.
(Sahar News)

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