Afghan peace process

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Marvi Sirmed

AF­TER a much-hyped se­ries of high-level meet­ings of Quadri­lat­eral Co­or­di­na­tion Group (QCG), Afghan Tal­iban came with an ex­pected re­jec­tion of peace talks last Satur­day. The Mur­ree Process was busted in the wake of Mul­lah Omar's death re­ports last year. The peace agenda was sub­se­quently taken up by the quad­ran­gu­lar of Pak­istan, Afghanistan, USA and China. It is rather sur­pris­ing that de­spite hav­ing an in­sti­tu­tional mem­ory of more than six years of the process of peace talks, QCG failed to dis­cuss any­thing but the roadmap of talks. The out­right ab­sence or at least non­ap­pear­ance of sub­stan­tive dis­cus­sions on the frame­work of peace talks in­di­cates the level of se­ri­ous­ness by all sides.

Traces of the peace process could be seen as early as 2006-7 ger­mi­nat­ing in posh ho­tels of hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions like Mal­dives, mid­wifed by Ger­many and oth­ers. Down to 2010, ev­ery­one had started talk­ing of the Mal­dives process, then Lon­don process and fi­nally the Qatar process. The main pre­con­di­tions set by Tal­iban have al­ways been same as of their re­cent jibe to the peace talks. Com­plete with­drawal of for­eign troops, re­moval of Tal­iban lead­ers' names from in­ter­na­tional black­lists and re­lease of key Tal­iban de­tainees.

Be­fore the fourth QCG in Kabul, Pak­istan's Army Chief briefly met with the Emir of Qatar and would have, in all prob­a­bil­ity, made sure to urge the lat­ter to con­vince the Qatar group - the ones not so friendly with Pak­istan and her Tal­iban point man, Mul­lah Akhter Man­sour - to be part of the process. Some­one, some­where seems to have missed work­ing at home prior to this glo­be­trot­ting. The fac­tions at home got dis­grun­tled af­ter Pak­istan's Ad­vi­sor to the Prime Min­is­ter on For­eign Affairs, un­cov­ered their res­i­den­tial sites when he can­didly ad­mit­ted hous­ing Tal­iban lead­er­ship in Pak­istan and boasted 'some in­flu­ence' on them.

More than a slip of tongue, it was clearly a care­fully thought in­ti­ma­tion. Us­ing the in­ter­na­tional me­dia, Pak­istan had suc­cess­fully trans­mit­ted the mes­sage to Tal­iban lead­er­ship for be­ing care­ful in re­fus­ing to abide by Pak­istan's terms for the frame­work of peace talks. With­out any se­cond thoughts, Tal­iban re­sponded by al­to­gether re­ject­ing the en­tire process, re­sort­ing once again to their old posi- tion of the pre­con­di­tions.

All eyes would once again be on Pak­istan for try­ing its magic for re­sump­tion of peace process. An of­f­cam­era round of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Tal­iban lead­er­ship re­sid­ing some­where in vast swathes of Pak­istan's land from Kur­ram to Quetta, seems quite likely. Putting all eggs in one bas­ket, how­ever, is the last thing Pak­istan should opt for at this point. Akhter Man­sour is lead­ing, don't for­get, an ever-shrink­ing base of Tal­iban cadres. There are other ac­tors within Tal­iban and some deep­en­ing fis­sures therein that need to be fac­tored in while pur­su­ing any given strate­gic op­tion.

Other ac­tors in or out­side QCG must also re­view their own con­tri­bu­tion to the prob­lem. In Afghanistan co­nun­drum, there are hardly any clean hands. While it is im­por­tant, from the per­spec­tive of sec­u­lar and pro­gres­sive sec­tions of Pak­istani civil so­ci­ety to keep call­ing out any­thing that goes fowl on the part of Pak­istan's own es­tab­lish­ment, it is also im­por­tant to not let that cloud our judg­ment about the games be­ing played by ev­ery­one else.

Ever since the Bonn Agree­ment, the world com­mu­nity while claim­ing to be act­ing against Is­lamists and mil­i­tants has been su­per­vis­ing anti-women and anti-mi­nori­ties men oc­cu­py­ing key govern­ment po­si­tions. For most of the men who they have been co­a­lesc­ing with, were from the Muj era de­void of any sec­u­lar, pro­gres­sive cre­den­tials. Just when the world was ask­ing Pak­istan to leash the Haqqa­nis and the Tal­iban, they were them­selves reach­ing out to the lat­ter with olive branch in hands.

Ev­ery­one start­ing from Us­tad Rab­bani to Sayyaf to Hek­mat­yar and even Dos­tum has ei­ther been part of the Ad­min­is­tra­tions or in touch with them for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion through last fif­teen years. Many of them used to be with Tal­iban just a lit­tle while ago. Won­der how would a pro­gres­sive (of any colour), could ever ac­cept them as le­git­i­mate con­tender of power, that too on the charred bod­ies of women and mi­nori­ties. Need­less to men­tion that women, the pri­mary stake­hold­ers of peace process, have been kept out­side any peace process so far. High Peace Coun­cil it­self is not known to be women friendly in any man­ner. Any peace process, ex­clud­ing women, lest we for­get, would be ab­so­lutely farce and de­void of any cred­i­bil­ity. Re­frain.

On the other hand, Afghanistan it­self doesn't of­fer much en­cour­ag­ing pic­ture of en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for any po­si­tion of ad­van­tage at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble. A weak govern­ment born out of a fraud­u­lent elec­tions, hav­ing lit­tle ca­pa­bil­ity to even ap­point a full house of Cab­i­net, lack­ing any ca­pac­ity of en­sur­ing day-to-day gov­er­nance for the peo­ple let alone much more com­pli­cated is­sues of se­cu­rity, is strug­gling to over­come fis­sures within. It should be clear by now that the Ghani-Ab­dul­lah un­nat­u­ral al­liance is not work­ing.

Frag­mented, un­mo­ti­vated and poorly paid troops with­out lead­er­ship is an­other key is­sue that Afghanistan and her Western al­lies must ur­gently heed. Adopt­ing an ISIS-like strat­egy, Tal­iban are con­sol­i­dat­ing them­selves in the out­skirts and ru­ral Afghanistan in or­der to build their fief­doms and bases. With for­eign troops al­ready into the tail end of the draw­down and in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion else­where in the world, Afghanistan is suf­fer­ing and bleed­ing ev­ery mo­ment at the hands of those fight­ing on be­half of the cen­tral lead­er­ship re­sid­ing in our land. In all this mess, ev­ery­one seems to be miss­ing what Tal­iban would bring if granted space in the polity.

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