With no gain to its credit, HPC called a white elephant
FARAH CITY (Pajhwok): Residents of western Farah province view the High Peace Council (HPC) as a white elephant, with no concrete achievement to its credit. They also demand a radical change in current peace strategy so as to make it responsive to popular aspirations.
Former president Hamid Karzai had tried several times to eradicate violence and reach out to the Taliban insurgents. In order to pave the ground for formal peace negotiations, Karzai visited Pakistan more than 21 times. However, the conflict rages on to date -- and with greater ferocity.
After the inauguration of the national unity government, President Ashraf Ghani also visited China and Pakistan in an attempt to bring peace to the country. The overwhelming objective was to convince the Taliban into coming to the negotiating table.
Later, high-ranking Pakistani military officials and political leaders visited Kabul as a token of support for HPC initiatives. Subsequently, a flurry of informal meetings took place between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government and parliament.
The unofficial parleys in Norway, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) raised hopes for a formal peace dialogue. However, escalating Taliban attacks in different parts of the country seem to have dashed this optimism.
Farah residents hold different views with regard to the ongoing peace process. Civil society leader Baryalai Ghafari told Pajhwok Afghan News neither the Karzai administration nor the present government had worked sincerely for peace.
About the HPC, he said: “To keep influential political figures including Burhanuddin Rabbani busy, the US and the Karzai government constituted the panel. Apart from spending huge sums of money, the council has nothing to show in terms of progress toward reconciliation.”
Several members of the council, having a history of fighting against the Taliban, are inefficient, according to Ghafari, who insisted the panel had failed to improve its performance even under the Ashraf Ghani administration.
The government itself, not the HPC, has established contacts with Pakistan and the Taliban. Additionally, he explained, Pakistan had made no sincere efforts over the past 13 years beyond holding out promises to cooperate with the peace process.
“If Pakistan is really sincere in its commitment to promoting Afghan-led reconciliation, why doesn’t it shut down Taliban bases on its soil?” he asked, hailing the presidential resolve to give a befitting reply to those intent upon fighting.
He believed: “One solution is that the Afghan government should use force against the militants, who don’t understand any logic other than fighting.”
Asadullah Naibi, a Political Science graduate from the Kabul University, also slammed the council as an inefficient entity. He said most of HPC members lacked impartiality and hence doubts about their role in peace-making.
“Honestly speaking, all peace gestures in Afghanistan have been ostentatious and symbolic,” he commented, saying the recent conferences in Norway, Qatar and Dubai had failed to have any propitious effect on efforts for formal talks with the Taliban.
The young man thought the meetings “brought the Taliban to the limelight and enhanced their importance.” He accused China of funding big economic projects in Pakistan to force Islamabad into supporting the Taliban and thereby impeding the march of the Islamic State, also known by Arabic acronym Daesh. The Islamic States represented a huge threat to Central Asia, particularly to China, he maintained.
Naibi underlined the need for intra-Afghan talks to end the conflict. All parties to the war should sit across the negotiating table to find a solution acceptable to each side, he suggested. Foreigners should have no role in the proposed talks.
Farah Society of Arts head Mohammad Anwar Ramesh is convinced that the US held the key to peace in Afghanistan. He claimed: “Pakistan is under the influence of America and Britain, implementing Western projects in Asia to counter Russia, India and China.”
On the other hand, Russia, India and China have been in a push to interfere in Afghanistan and thereby create problems for the West. Ramesh argued the competing influences provided a happy hunting ground for terrorist outfits to step up their activities in the region.
He called the creation of HPC and organisation of conferences in Oslo, Doha, Dubai and elsewhere American-led initiatives to keep the Afghans occupied. “As long as Afghanistan doesn’t grab America by its collar, peace will elude us. The key lies with the US.”
The culturist alleged the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US had done Afghanistan no good. Instead it has further intensified the fighting, he claimed, calling for an internal solution to the issue.
Provincial council member Dadullah Qane lashed out at the Karzai government for paying mere lip-service to the campaign against narcotics, counter-corruption drive and peace process. Even the incumbent rulers had no serious plans for peace-making with its armed opponents, he added.
Pakistan and the US did not desire restoration of peace to Afghanistan, the public representative charged. However, he voiced optimism about the recent informal meetings and Taliban’s stepped-up diplomatic efforts.
At the same time, Islamabad and Washington should be pressured into backing the peace endeavour, he proposed, asking Kabul to meet the Taliban demands that were not in conflict with the Constitution.
But a female member of the council, Jamila Amina, credited Karzai for making more serious efforts than the Ghani administration to bring peace to the country. She also called for substantial changes in the council’s composition.
Only neutral individuals could effectively negotiate peace with the insurgents, she maintained, urging the removal of partial members from the panel. Ms. Amina wanted the authorities to set a clear agenda for peace parleys with the Taliban.
A student of law at a private higher education institute in Farah City, Mohammad Ibrahim Shakir, described reconciliation as the need of the hour. However, he hastened to caution: “The Afghans must not pay too heavy a price for peace.”
Shakir opined the post-Taliban system, despite its imperfections, had made good achievements like the freedom of expression, media independence, women’s education, enforcement of the basic law and the democratic order. These gains should be sacrificed at the altar of talks with the Taliban.
A36-year-old resident of Pushtrod district, Mir Hamza, said: “Being a grower, I know nothing about governance. What I do know is that security was much better during the Taliban regime.”
About the growing insecurity, the farmer said: “The Afghans are tired of war and the concomitant trail of death and destruction. We want the government and the Taliban to halt the conflict and let us enjoy a life of peace.”
Abdul Ali, hailing from Khak-i-Sofaid district, warned the negative impact of unemployment of security. He characterised joblessness as a huge impediment to peace. “Thousands of our educated youth are jobless and they may swell the ranks of Taliban and Daesh…”
Bala Baluk dweller Bin Yamin also called for the warring sides to renounce the conflict. “Over the past 13 years, we have been unable to sleep even one night with a sense of security. Our village has been the scene of fighting, day in and day out.
“If today the Taliban sneak into our area as unbidden guests, tomorrow security forces will come. Our houses have been destroyed and wheat stacks -- the result of our year-long toil and sweat -- are torched within no time.”
He observed: “The government must enforce peace at all costs -- even if it means power-sharing with the Taliban. We need peace and stability.”
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