Quest for Peace Continues
The efforts at establishing peace in Afghanistan are still fuzzy and without direction because all stakeholders are not on board.
As the U.S. military drawdown is to begin this month with more behind the scene efforts to achieve a peace deal with the reconcilable Taliban leaders, the majority of Afghans question the reconciliation process initiated by President Hamid Karzai with the support of his foreign backers.
With several ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ in between, three key preconditions mentioned for the reconciliation of the Taliban included an end to violence, severing ties with al-Qaeda and acceptance of the existing Constitution of Afghanistan.
As for the first two, most probably the reconciling Taliban leadership would agree once they are guaranteed their safety and security inside the country. However, there will be no full-stop when it comes to the Constitution which the Taliban leadership believes was an ‘imported’ document ‘written by the foreigners.’
And what about the Afghan women who were banned from attending schools, offices and even coming out from their houses without being covered from head to toe and accompanied by their male relatives?
The Taliban’s scorn for art and music, television and cinema and freedom of expression are some other key points that need to be clarified before entering into any meaningful deal with them. The foremost question for the Afghan government and the international community is the status of women in a future Afghan setup where the Taliban leaders will be holding key positions.
Proponents of the talks theory say only moderate Taliban will be included in the government. But they need to realize that it is not the moderates holding the guns and fighting the Afghan and foreign troops. Rather, those who introduced medieval practices in the insurgency-wracked country are further exacerbating the woes of the war-weary Afghans, particularly the women who make almost 50 per cent of the total population.
In the words of Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador to Afghanistan and once considered a moderate leader, “ Taliban are Taliban, there are no moderates and no radicals.”
Another Taliban leader, who is a key character in the recent peace talks, when asked about the Taliban stance about the existing Afghan Constitution, told this writer that “the real issue is the Constitution. There will be no fight if the Taliban agree to respect the Constitution.”
Apart from ensuring their rights, the Afghan Constitution states that two seats from each province shall be reserved for women in the parliament thus making it compulsory to provide one quarter of the seats in the 249-member House for women. How can this be possible under the Taliban who banned women from work or from being seen in the markets or streets? Can the international community, in its pursuit to achieve some sort of peace with the Taliban and get out of Afghanistan, afford the negligence of women’s rights in a country where a record number of 430 women candidates participated in the run for the September 2010 parliamentary elections?
There is another aspect to the much sought-after democratic process in Afghanistan. The previous presidential and parliamentary elections, though fraught with rigging, was the single biggest achievement of the international community in the country. However, the Taliban leadership, that despises democracy as a western sys-
The Taliban must integrate into the Afghan setup once the
NATO forces leave.