Quest for Peace Con­tin­ues

The ef­forts at es­tab­lish­ing peace in Afghanistan are still fuzzy and with­out direc­tion be­cause all stake­hold­ers are not on board.

Southasia - - Region - By Daud Khat­tak

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.

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