By: Ajmal Shams

Amid an increasingly worsening security situation in Afghanistan, there has been news of aggressive efforts by the government to hold direct negotiations with the Taliban. There have also been sporadic reports of the Taliban’s willingness to talk. If there is any truth in the news, it would be highly significant since it would be the first time that the insurgents would have responded in positive to the government’s continuous attempts to bring them to the negotiating table. It would be premature to say if there could be a real breakthrough since a number of questions still remain unanswered with regard to the most wanted negotiations with the Taliban if these happen at all. However, the development does deserve to be termed at least a good omen towards peacemaking. It is not clear at this point if there is really a genuine effort by the Taliban or one of their factions to strike some kind of deal with the government towards ending the hostilities or just a false diplomatic gesture in the ongoing blood game. In case the news does materialize into face to face negotiations between the government and the insurgents, it will be considered a diplomatic breakthrough on the part of the Afghan Government thus eventually paving the way for a political settlement of the insurgency. In that scenario the recently held peace jirga could also be considered as productive effort towards peacemaking.

It is questionable whether the insurgent movement has a central command and control. Is it Al Qaeda or the Taliban that holds the reigns of the insurgency? Due to practical and logistic reasons, it is more probable that the movement would have multiple commands and controls, albeit with more or less common objectives, spread over geographic regions along the rough mountainous terrain of the tribal belt on both sides of the Durand Line. While the motive of Al Qaeda’s existence in Afghanistan like anywhere else is well-understood and needs no elaboration, what brings the Taliban into the equation is debatable.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban do diverge when it comes to what they cherish and what they really stand for. While Al Qaeda is a network that has a global Arab-Islamist agenda, the goals of the Taliban seem to be more Afghanistan-specific. Al Qaeda has been involved in its militant activities worldwide against the US and its allies. It may not be wise to say that the Taliban is synonymous with Al Qaeda. There is every good reason to suggest that the link between the Taliban and Al Qaeda can be broken. However, it would require a comprehensive strategy involving some bold political and economic initiatives, both short term and long term, along with carefully planned military measures. No matter how strongly the perpetrators would try to justify their violence calling it a holy war against the infidels, the fact remains that the ongoing militancy is but a political struggle where religion is only used as an instrument be it at the cost of complete destruction of the nation that has been suffering for the last three decades. What the Taliban fail to realize is that by continuing their game of blood and violence they are only serving the vested interests of those whose only objective is to shed more blood and kill more lives due to their desperation, frustration and accumulated anger even if there are no concrete and achievable targets.  Young simple-minded individuals are deceived into believing that by sacrificing their lives their entry into paradise will be guaranteed.

Significance of an active involvement of tribes on both sides of the Durand line in peacemaking efforts cannot be overemphasized. Unfortunately neither the Afghan government nor its Pakistani counterpart has so far come up with a well thought-out plan to engage the tribal elders in seeking political solution to the insurgency that has been inflicting a heavy loss of life on both sides of the border. The recently held peace jirga, though a positive step, can best be described as “too little too late” lacking objectivity and practicality in its final declaration to seek an end to the ongoing violence. It is an established fact that the insurgents on both sides of the Durand Line could never have continued their militant activities with such ease without support and comfort afforded by the tribes along the border. It is these tribes that need to be engaged in the first place. Had these tribes been taken into confidence through a wide range of political and economic measures the insurgents would have faced a systematic isolation and the situation would have been quite different now.

Now that the situation has reached an alarming proportion with suicide bombing occurring almost on a daily basis mainly targeting police and army personnel with a substantial number of civilian victims, the Afghan government has embarked on an aggressive campaign of setting the stage for negotiating with the Taliban. Recently President Karzai has even offered to directly talk to the Taliban Supreme Leader Mulla Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar with the intent to extract some sort of positive response from the fugitive leaders, even if it is a remote possibility. This latest move by the government only depicts how desperate and helpless it stands in the face of non-stop violence perpetrated by the Taliban and the likes.

Whatever unfolds in the near future in the wake of recent developments would be critical for both the Afghan government and its Pakistani counterpart. If the road map for peace is to be laid out on realistic grounds then leaders of both the neighboring countries need to exhibit utmost political courage and make bold historic decisions in order to really hope for something viable to achieve out of any peace dialogue with the militants by the Afghan government.

The writer is President of the Afghanistan Social Democratic Party (well know as Afghan Millat National Progressive Party) - Courtesy: The News International, 10th October 2007

د ګوندمرامنامه  دګوند تاریخچه زمونږ دریځ لیکنې دا فغان ملت نومیالي دګوند مشر انځورونه خبرونه او غونډې مونږ سره اړیکې د ګوند اخبار

دافغان ملت ملي مترقي ګوند

 Afghanistan Social Democratic Party

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