Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has offered the Taliban recognition as a legitimate political group on Wednesday as part of a political process that could lead to talks aimed at ending more than 16 years of war reported Tolo news.
The peace offer was made at the start of an international conference created as a platform for peace talks that add to a series of gestures from Afghanistan and its western-backed government and the Taliban, implying a willingness to engage in dialogue.
Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners. He also said he would be ready to accept a review of the constitution as part of a pact with the Taliban, who have so far refused to accept direct talks with the government in Kabul.
The president’s comments represented a significant shift, who in the past has regularly called the Taliban ‘terrorists’ and ‘rebels’ although he has also offered to talk with parts of the movement that accepted peace.
A detailed document outlining the Afghan government’s offer to the Taliban was released on Wednesday morning after President Ghani officially opened the Kabul Process meeting.
Ghani’s framework for talks shows a willingness to negotiate with the Taliban high command and states that Afghan stakeholders from across society, in consultation with government and the High Peace Council (HPC), have reached a consensus on the desire for peace.
“We are making this offer without preconditions in order to lead to a peace agreement,” Ghani said in opening remarks to the conference attended by officials from around 25 countries involved in the Kabul Process.
The document also states that women have been active in public discussions to safeguard their constitutionally guaranteed rights and representatives of the Ulema, civil society, community leaders, entrepreneurs, farmers and laborers, professionals, political parties, students and teachers, and other social groups have highlighted the need for peace from their distinct perspectives.
“Afghans have a sense of urgency, stemming from four decades of suffering and more recently, unrestricted warfare on citizens,” the document reads.
It also refers to the horrific acts of terror in Kabul on May 31, 2017 and January 27, 2018 stating these are part of a string of attacks carried out against the people.
The document states that the US-brokered National Unity Government (NUG) is responding to this consensus and urgency by developing a vision of peace, and a process and programme to realise it.
“Realisation of this vision requires compassion, conviction, and courage in dealing with the Taliban.
“We must have the compassion to understand the perspective of the combatant. We must have the conviction to act on Allah’s commandment to seek common ground, both as Afghans and Muslims.
“We must have the courage to listen to grievances, analyse the root causes and drivers of conflict, and hear a diversity of proposals for reconciliation. The Kabul Process conference will transform our agreement on a just and lasting peace into a feasible process, resulting in a credible outcome,” the document reads.
The document states that patterns have emerged recently in the course of the war which has increased the probability of peace. In addition, the document refers to the peace agreement reached last year between government and Hizb-e-Islami and said it served as a “successful example of how peace-making is possible.”
The scheduled parliamentary elections in 2018 and the presidential elections in 2019 are crucial to further solidifying the Afghan people’s trust in democratic processes as a means to establishing a mandate to govern.
On a regional level, the document stated that government is successfully demonstrating to Afghanistan’s neighbours, the economic and peaceful advantages of a stable Afghanistan and that the global Islamic community is coming together in an intense dialogue to counter the use of interpretations of religious texts as justification of unrestricted war.
The document stated “the Taliban show awareness of these contextual shifts and seem to be engaged in a debate on the implications of acts of violence for their future.”
The National Unity Government (NUG) also “seeks a genuine and lasting peace with the reconcilable Taliban,” read the document adding that government believes in the common equality of all Afghans and the peoples’ right to live in peace and dignity, including those Taliban who are willing to denounce violence.
Afghan President Ghani offers recognising Taliban as 'legitimate' political group
“We are making this offer without preconditions in order to lead to a peace agreement in which: 1) constitutional rights and obligations of all citizens (especially women) are ensured, 2) the constitution is accepted, or amendments proposed through the constitutional provision, 3) defense and security forces and civil service function according to law, 4) and no armed groups with ties to transnational terrorist networks and transnational criminal organisations, or with state/non-state actors seeking influence in Afghanistan, are allowed,” it read.
The document mapped out suggestions on the building blocks for peace-making:
A political process: ceasefire, recognition as political party, transitional confidence-building arrangements, and inclusive, credible, free and fair elections;
A legal framework: constitutional review, justice and resolution of grievances, enabling laws or decrees, prisoner release and removal from sanctions lists;
Reorganisation of the state: rule of law and reform, balanced spatial development, reintegration of refugees and internally displaced populations;
Security: for the population, as well as for those being reconciled – who are reintegrating;
Economic/social development: inclusive and sustained growth, equitable access to land and public assets, fighting corruption, national job creation programmes, reintegration of refugees, and ex-combatants;
International community support and partnership: diplomatic financial support, status of foreign fighters and removal from sanctions;
Implementation modalities, specifying urgent, short and medium-term benchmarks and monitoring and verification mechanisms and arrangements.
The document also stated that “the Taliban are expected to give input to the peace-making process, the goal of which is to draw the Taliban, as an organisation, to peace talks. The government does not pre-judge as to who will opt for peace, as the process will result in self-identification of those rejecting peace as irreconcilables.”
In addition, the NUG has agreed to the opening of a Taliban office, the issuance of passports and freedom of travel, helping to remove sanctions (against Taliban leaders), arranging media access, and relocating families.
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The document states that the High Peace Council (HPC), supported by a professional government support team, will nominate a negotiation team, including women and civil society members. Kabul is the preferred venue, but other options include Muslim countries not engaged in the conflict, a UN facility, or a third party country.
In mapping out the road forward, the document also notes suggestions for the international community in terms of where their support is needed.
The areas are as follows:
Coordinated international diplomatic support for the peace offer to the Taliban;
A regional initiative to align various efforts by countries or regional organisations with the Kabul Process and support the peace offer to the Taliban;
An intense dialogue led by the global Islamic community to counter the use of interpretations of religious texts as justification of unrestricted war;
A concerted global effort to persuade Pakistan of the advantages of a stable Afghanistan, to engage in a comprehensive state to state dialogue with Afghanistan and to support the peace offer to the Taliban;
To support the implementation of the peace agreement, especially the reintegration of refugees and ex-combatants;
To support peace-building initiatives in Afghanistan through supporting transit, trade, and investment, the reform and anti-corruption strategy of the government, and the forthcoming 2018 parliamentary and 2019 presidential elections.
The document states the NUG “firmly believes that a stable Pakistan connected through Afghanistan to Central Asia is in our national interest. We renew our offer of a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan, including a plan for the return of Afghan refugees in Pakistan within a period of 18-24 months.”
Referring to the start of work on the long-awaited Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, government points out that this is one example of a positive development in the region, which exemplifies how regions are the key units of development.
In conclusion, the document states that “to act on the lessons learned from past peace agreements means focusing on the implementation of peace agreements through peace-building and reform, and identifying and managing risks before they can threaten the peace-making process.
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“Transparency, is, therefore key to effective communication. By necessity, peace agreements have to be negotiated by small teams. Approval of peace agreements, however, requires a clearly delineated process of consultation in a multi-stakeholder Afghan society. Women, who fear loss of their rights and gains, must be particularly engaged and kept informed.
“Implementation is the heart of peace building. Important issues include: reintegration of refugees and ex-combatants; regional support; and security, economic and social development reforms. Transparency and efficiency is again the key to building and maintaining trust through a process of communication and consultation.
“By owning our problems, knowing our strengths, and believing in the prospects of our country as a land bridge and Asian roundabout, we have been able to make a genuine peace offer to the Taliban and renewed our call to engage with Pakistan.”