Ashraf Ghani’s meaningful offer

AFTER a long time sanity seems to be returning to Kabul as President Ashraf Ghani, instead of levelling accusations, has adopted reconciliatory tone vis-à-vis Pakistan as well as Afghan Taliban. Speaking at an international conference in Kabul on Wednesday he offered Taliban recognition, as a legitimate political group, and part of a proposed political process that he said could lead to talks aimed at ending more than 16 years of war. He also declared that his government wants to make a fresh start as far as relations with Pakistan are concerned.
What Afghan President has offered can form a basis of significant and substantive peace process that could lead to restoration of durable peace and stability to war-torn Afghanistan. It is, perhaps, for the first time that no pre-conditions have been attached to talks with Taliban and the offer includes ceasefire and release of prisoners besides holding of fresh elections and a constitutional review. Earlier, both the United States and Kabul were ready for dialogue only with ‘good’ Taliban but now the offer seems to include all those who have stood up against foreign occupation of their country. At the time of withdrawal, the United States cobbled together a shaky system of governance in Afghanistan that ignored the reality of Taliban, who are mainly Pakhtoons. We have been emphasising in these columns that Taliban cannot be eliminated or ignored in any peace process or institutional mechanism to run the country. It appears that this reality has dawned upon Kabul and Washington many years later and that too because Taliban still control over 60% of Afghanistan and it is difficult to wipe them out from Afghan scene through use of force. The offer to recognise Taliban as political entity and then go for fresh elections in which Taliban too can take part has the potential to help resolve the Afghan conflict provided there is required level of sincerity on part of the United States and Ashraf Ghani government. We say so because Taliban were brought to the negotiating table by Pakistan but both Kabul and Washington backtracked from the peace process. Now again, Pakistan has expressed its full support for a politically negotiated settlement and hopefully all sides would shun their narrow self-centred approach and work together for much-needed peace, security and stability in Afghanistan that is crucial for economic development of the region.

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