Afghan peace hinges on reconciliation

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NEWS & VIEWS

Mohammad Jamil

AFGHAN President Ashraf Ghani while addressing the Peace Conference on Tuesday said: “Afghanistan is suffering from undeclared war waged by Pakistan.” At the same time he issued an ultimatum to the Taliban, warning them to embrace peace or “face consequences”. Ashraf Ghani has come under mounting criticism over the bombing near Diplomatic enclave in Kabul, the deadliest in Kabul since 2001. The president made a strong plea for peace at an international conference on Afghanistan attended by around two-dozen countries. He said: “Time is running out; this is the last chance: take it or face consequences. If the Taliban did not begin negotiations soon, we would seek new sanctions against it as a sponsor of terrorism.” President Ghani must understand that the only path to peace in Afghanistan is reconciliation, and blaming other countries or hurling threats would not help.
President Ghani seems to be on the road to perdition by toeing India’s line and allowing India to use anti-Pakistan TTP elements and other groups to destabilize Pakistan. He conveniently forgets Pakistan’s contribution and cooperation to get rid of the foreign occupation when it became a front line state against former USSR. Pakistan suffered in men and material during war on terror, and also hosted millions of refugees. He is grateful to India for helping in construction of Parliament building, completion of dam in Herat province which was started in 1970s but stalled due to the civil war. In fact, what India has done for Afghanistan pales before what Pakistan has done for Afghanistan. It would not be wrong to say that former president Hamid Karzai and incumbent President Ashraf Ghani are an ungrateful lot; therefore Pakistan should not to go out of the way to help them.
They do not understand that if American and NATO allies – the best war machine in the world – failed to corral the fleeing Taliban and Al Qaeda rumps in Afghanistan and failed to decimate them, it was they who have to be in the dock, not Pakistan. If the US and NATO forces during 12 years of their stay could not train the Afghan forces to meet the Taliban challenge, how the additional 3000 to 4000 US and NATO troops could help achieve the desired objective. The insurgents responded to the conference by firing a rocket at what they claimed was NATO’s headquarters. It landed inside the Indian ambassador’s residence but no one was hurt. Anyhow, there have been protest demonstrations in Kabul; the protesters, holding a sit-in for five days near the bombing site, had demanded the resignation of President Ghani and security chiefs including national security adviser Hanif Atmar.
But Ashraf Ghani, who like Atmar is from the majority Pashtun ethnic group, firmly rejected the demand. Salahuddin Rabbani, leader of Jamiat-e-Islami and foreign affairs minister survived an attack at the funeral of one of the protesters – Salem Izadyar son of Mohammad Alam Izadyar, the first deputy chairman of the Afghan Senate when a suicide bomb tore through a row of mourners and killed seven more people. Rabbani blamed “terrorists within the system” for the funeral blasts, suggesting that it was an inside job. The government had accused Haqqani Network of carrying out Wednesday’s attack, and said the funeral was targeted by bombers trained at a religious seminary in Pakistan. On one hand they accuse Pakistan of every terror attack in Afghanistan and on the other they expect from Pakistan to help bring the Taliban on negotiating table, despite the fact that international efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table have failed.
Addressing the peace conference President Asharaf Ghani also said: “There are too many players running too many parallel tracks with too little clarity on who they are and what they represent.” Unless President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah come out with a declaration together with sterling guarantees that they are willing to hold peace talks with the Taliban without conditions, the peace would remain elusive in Afghanistan. The militants say no talks are possible until all foreign troops leave. “In the presence of invaders, peace negotiations will mean nothing,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters. After the bombing on 31 May, hundreds of protesters demanded the resignation of President Ashraf Ghani, and other government officials and functionaries. The government helped fuel public anger when police fired on the protestors killing nine. Analysts say that President Ghani wants to have negotiations but Panjsheri group led by Abdullah Abdullah try to sabotage any effort for peace.
The reality is that the Taliban control large swathes of land in Afghanistan and according to conservative estimates, they control almost 50 per cent Afghanistan territory. According Pajhwok News the Taliban collected land rents from the growers in some areas including Batikot district of eastern Nangarhar province. Having said that, it has to be mentioned that former president Hamid Karzai has caused immense damage to the cause of peace in Afghanistan because of his close relations with India. Earlier, he was almost a non-entity, but when the American and NATO invaders descended on Afghanistan toppling the Taliban, they dug out Karzai from some obscure niche and perched him on the Kabul throne. He was to be a page boy of their spy agency CIA, which the Bush administration had anointed its satrap to rule Afghanistan. He continued with Pakistan-bashing at CIA’s bidding for every wrong in Afghanistan.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.
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