Talking peace in Afghanistan

Published: August 5, 2011
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The writer is a retired army officer who served in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa khalid.munir@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a retired army officer who served in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa [email protected]

Finally the stage has been set for the long-awaited Afghan peace talks. Preliminary work has been completed and now the modalities of how these talks will be held are being worked out. Pakistan will be part of these talks despite worsening relations between the US and Pakistan, which suggest that either Pakistan is being denied a major role in the talks or that the Americans are increasing pressure to force us to toe their line during the talks. In the past, Nato did try to talk to the Taliban without involving Islamabad, an attempt which was thwarted by Pakistan. During a visit to Kabul in March 2011 with a delegation of the Senate of Pakistan, I got the impression that it has been realised that no peace talks can be successful without Pakistan’s consent.

The three-day visit included meetings with the Afghan Peace Council. From these talks it was obvious that serious efforts are underway to bring peace to Afghanistan by engaging the Taliban in negotiations, though from what I could gather of the plan, it has many snags in it.

Afghanistan High Peace Council chairman Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani said that the Afghan Taliban held by Pakistan should be released. America will release some of the Taliban leaders it has as captives. Simultaneously, the United Nations will be asked to ease sanctions on certain Taliban leaders, which has already been done. These released leaders will be taken to another country which, in my understanding, is Turkey. Information available suggests that a Taliban office has already been established there.

A closer look at the developments of the past few weeks puts all the pieces together. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari visited Iran. On the eve of his visit to Iran, the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan called on him. Prior to going to Iran, President Zardari visited Kabul, apparently to condole the death of President Karzai’s brother. Now he is in Saudi Arabia, probably to discuss his Iran visit.

On the other hand, if we look at the ground situation, it is still volatile. In july, Nato handed over parts of Helmand to Afghan forces. This is a test case with Isaf forces present to oversee it. The real problem will be in Pashtun dominated areas from where Taliban draw their strength. The killing of Karzai’s brother and his close adviser must have sent shudders across pro-government elements. Does this suggest that the Taliban are also divided on the issue of talks with Karzai government?

The Pashtun, non-Pashtun divide was clearly visible amongst the Afghans at the top level. This divide if not sorted out will have grave consequences for Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.

The major issues at hand are how to include the Taliban in the government and making them accept the constitution of Afghanistan. They are likely to demand major changes in the constitution. As they do not have representation in the parliament due to boycott of elections, how will existing parliament members respond to their demands?

Secondly, leaving out certain hard-core Taliban will result in a division of the Taliban. They will still fight and the problems will remain unsolved.

For Pakistan, it is time to take stock of its own position and take decisions accordingly, because the US may leave Afghanistan as announced, and we will face the after-effects of the fallout. A united stable Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan. The failure of these talks or escalation of hostilities among Afghans factions may ultimately result in a division of Afghanistan on ethnic lines. A Pashtun Afghanistan on our borders will be a disaster.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Max
    Aug 5, 2011 - 10:43PM

    Liked your conclusion. We had been dragged and love to be dragged in others ‘wars/conflicts. It is time to think of our past misdeeds and learn lessons from it. Sixty-four years are long enough for Alice to wander in the woods.

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  • Ayub Khattak
    Aug 5, 2011 - 11:45PM

    Afghanistan issue is under the microscope & there is a chance of it getting settled when the Afghanistan Taliban get power in Afghanistan. The Afghan Talib is fighting for FREEDOM. All was well in Afghanistan before 9/11 and will return to the same conditions once the Talib is in power and no one can change that.
    The west must realize that the Afghans are living in the 18th century at best and cannot have the same standards as the west who live in the 21st Century. It will take maybe another 50-100 years for them to enter the 21st century. For Pakistan the more worrying thing is the Pakistani Talib who are all criminals and our law enforcing agencies dont have time for them. In Pakistan the law must be implemented and people must be punished else it will be like the wild west of USA 300 years ago.
    Till the Pakistani Taliban have not been dealt with there will be no peace in Pakistan and that is what i am worried about.

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  • Someone
    Aug 6, 2011 - 1:02AM

    The thing is, Afghanistan never really has been stable. Afghans like to mess around. Just check their history, its filled with tribal feuds, clashes and battles. Most Afghans are hypocrites when it comes to recognising Pakistan; most do not acknowlegde the Durand Line and ridiculously call Khyber pakhtunkhwa, balochistan etc. a part of Afghanistan. Yet, whenever some terrorist or terrorism incident is nabbed back to FATA, Peshawar, Khyber etc. then all these areas suddenly (and conveniently) become part of Pakistan,

    With the Afghan mentality, you can never have peace in neighborhood. The only way is to disengage from Afghanistan completely. Send all refugees back, seal the borders and prevent trade, Pretend as if we dont share a border. By distancing ourselves from the mess of that country, we can focus on our own domestic issues. Let Afghanistan worry about itself; actually, make it more dependant on India so that India can get its’ taste of refugees and Taliban too. Since India is so interested in Afghans, and since Afghans in a love affair with India, I say that instead of Turkey, the Taliban office should be opened in Mumbai instead. :)

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  • faraz
    Aug 6, 2011 - 1:34AM

    I think Afghanistan would be partitioned along ethnic lines resulting in a non-pushtoon North and pushtoon South. The Islamic emirate of Taliban in Southern Afghanistan could trigger a secessionist movement in FATA.

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Aug 6, 2011 - 2:37AM

    Am I sick of hearing this or what?

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  • Wazir
    Aug 6, 2011 - 11:47AM

    Mr Khalid! more or less,what you say, is the the policy line and argument of the deep state that Pakistan must be a party to the dialogue which clearly manifests Pakistan at the back of the militants.Then Taliban have already been experienced as a failure and in the days when the field was almost free for them as even American backed them and with occasional resistance from Iran, Russia and CARs…..they were not accepted even inside Afghanistan except the initial emotionalism attached with there movement which promised the distressed Afghans peace and hope. However with the passage of time the movement degenerated into a gang group which killed and massacred thousands of helpless and innocent Afghans in the Mazar Sharif in 1997 (See Ahmad Rasheed book Taliban Chapter 5…Titled “The Massacre in the North”). And then as Ahmad Rasheed says “The Taliban have to date given no indication as to how and when they would est up a more permanent and representative government,whether they would have a constitution or not and how political power would be divided….” and that ” The Taliban are willing to negotiate with the opposition.but on the one condition that no polotical parties take part in the discussion”. General Elections as they believed “are in compatible incompatible with shariah and therefore,we reject them.”(A Taliban commander Quoted on Page102).By 1997 internal revolts against Taliban started appearing… which previously were oppressed…. as a result of “the worsening economic situation and political alienation in Taliban controlled areas…..” Many Pakistan writers argue that Taliban were resisted by Non-Pashtuns on ethnic basis which has been the history of Afghanistan which is a wrong reading of history(another debate) and then then they don’t consider the fact that Taliban being dominated by the Kahdhari Durrani pashtuns were also resisted by Ghilzai Pashtuns as the latter were alienated and bypassed while dealing with afghanistan in evary walk of life. There is much more to say to for which i would recommend you the book and do read it.Such A Taliban endorsement first inside Afghanistan And then their acceptance by the whole big world is more than a utopia (China Has a problem with militants…see….Spring in the Middle East is a clear no to any dictatorial,extremist and terrorist force). So keeping Taliban still as the best option….which is the favorite mantra of deep state… is more useless than a spent force so think over other options. Fragmentation of Afghanistan and Pashtuns Afghanistan is really a haunting idea which needs our becoming conscious against. In our hand is the defense of this state but it needs wisdom and above all unity and unity is impossible with out giving the true sense of confidence to the people.

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  • Aug 6, 2011 - 1:11PM

    Right ignoring Pukhtuns would be a complete disaster. Their region in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, tribal areas, Balochistan and Afghanistan always remained battlefields. I don’t know their massacre would continue for how long. In fact they are victim of the Great Game.

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  • BruteForce
    Aug 6, 2011 - 6:10PM

    Talk or no talk, the Americans are getting out in 2014. If the talks aren’t successful, then Pakistan will be blamed. That is a very bad thing to happen to Pakistan. Sanctions for Pakistan after 2014? I certainly think so.

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  • mazen
    Aug 6, 2011 - 6:30PM

    I used to say Afghanistan a quagmire, whosoever go in Afghanistan stuck there for long and never return as a champion. In the early half of twentieth century, British tried to conquer this land but had to face defeat, the insurmountable Soviet union, the then superpower along with US, invaded Afghanistan lost this war after ten years of fight, thanks to the resoluteness of Afghan mujahdin. And now the world sole superpower named America is on the brink to defeat in this long, hectic war. Afghanis always dragged into the wars without their consent. Now in this complex arena where stakes of the regional forces are high with this last resort known to be as peace talks with taliban. There are numerous theories pertaining to this peace process initiated by America, which suggest to bring taliban on table to negotiate peace with them. Many well renowned intellectuals are of the opinion that talibans are waiting for the foreign boots to leave this ground, which ultimately paved way for taliban to once again impose their own writ in Afghanistan. Someone reiterated that afghan military is enough worthy of tackling taliban, which in my opinion very naive opinion. Now what would be possible outcomes after the completion of transition phase. Americas economy is under going through a difficult phase, with 9.1% unimplemented rate, America couldn’t provide with the necessary funds needed to sustain this fragile army. This remain to be seen, but in my opinion, in the future Americas economy will further aggravate and with this no funds for Afghanistan to sustain. The law and order and well the situation of peace in the south and east of Afghanistan is grim. The possible outcome would be the prevalence of civil war after the extinction of foreign boots. And to prevent this inevitable scenario, regional stakeholders have to do something to avert this possible outcome. Pakistan has to realise the sensitivity of this issue and act accordingly with unswerving commitment otherwise things will get worse.

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  • Khalid Munir
    Aug 6, 2011 - 6:44PM

    Mr. Wazir
    I just narrated the events according to my perception and put my analysis for readers. Every one doesnt have to agree. I do not know ahmad rashid you have reffered to. is he an Afghan?

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  • Mirza Naseer Ahmad
    Aug 6, 2011 - 8:19PM

    In between the lines you have said a lot. In the garb of Talking peace in Afghanistan you have outlined the upcoming conflict where in Pakistan will get a lot of rubbing as if we are not in thick soup already.
    Please do write the real complications that await us in terms of the replacement of America with India in Afghanistan.

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  • M. Akbar
    Aug 7, 2011 - 1:48PM

    A good analysis of the situation and future prospects in Afghanistan. As recommended Pakistan should try to mold things its way and make best use of the situation.

    M. Akbar

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