The start of the intra-Afghan talks marked a historic opportunity for Afghanistan to bring an end to four decades of war and bloodshed. The people of Afghanistan have carried the burden of war for too long. They now yearn for peace. Only through an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led political process — one that respects the views of all Afghan communities, including women and ethnic and religious minorities — can the parties achieve a durable peace.
Differences and ups and downs in peace talks are common, but the negotiations shouldn’t use it as a tool to prolong the process or insist on their personal interests. Taliban has been accused for wasting the times and delaying the process, by insisting their demands in the negotiating table.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, on Thursday, met with the Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar and their chief negotiator Mawlawi Abdul Hakim in Doha amidst delay in the start of the direct negotiations between both sides of the talks.
Negotiating teams of both sides of the talks have held six meetings in contact groups level to discuss their procedural rules, but they are yet to agree on two out of 20 articles. The Taliban demand recognition of the US-Taliban agreement as the ‘mother deal’ underlying the Afghan peace negotiations, and Hanafi Figh as the sole religious legal guidelines for the talks.
But the Afghanistan negotiating team has proposed that if a religious issue arises it can be solved based on Hanafi Figh by default, however, the Shia Personal Status Law must be respected, and the choice of religious jurisprudence should be given to other minority groups as well. Meanwhile the Afghan delegation says that the terms of the US-Taliban agreement could be accepted as underlying the talks, however, the terms of the joint declaration between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, NATO and the US should also be accepted as applicable.
Now it is the time for Taliban not to make further excuses in their talks with Afghan government, as the common people counting each day and every second to witness peace and breath in a peaceful atmosphere.
Both sides of the peace talks should negotiate based on the national interest of Afghanistan and do not take any decision that harm the war-suffered Afghan nation and the achievements made so far in different areas, in particular, with respect to women’s rights and freedom of the expression.
This opportunity for peace must not be squandered. Immense sacrifices and investment by the people of Afghanistan and the country’s allies have made this moment of hope possible. Therefore, all the negotiators should demonstrate the pragmatism, restraint, and flexibility this process will require to succeed. The people of Afghanistan and the international community will be watching closely.
The Afghan government and its allies expecting the commitment from the Taliban that cut all their ties with international terrorists and militants and make sure that they never again use Afghan soil to threaten the security of the country, the region and the world. Taliban has always been accused of paving the way for other terrorists to carry out attacks on Afghan people. Therefore, their commitment is key for success of the talks. Now is the time for peace for Afghanistan and the Taliban should shun violence and make the national process a major success.