ISLAMABAD: Mystery shrouds the much-anticipated talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban as the insurgents have once again dismissed all media reports of dialogue as part of ‘war propaganda’ against the group.
The Taliban have never officially indicated their willingness to join the intra-Afghan dialogue ever since the issue cropped up in the news in Afghanistan over the past few weeks.
Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah was the first one to officially confirm last month that talks would begin soon. However, Taliban insurgents are adamant in denying all such claims, casting further doubts on the peace process.
The Taliban have been quick in issuing a denial whenever the Afghan and foreign media talk about the process. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued yet another denial late Thursday amid indications that some of the Qatar-based Taliban negotiators had visited Pakistan for consultations. Mujahid insisted none of their leaders from the political office have been to any country.
“The Taliban have not designated anyone to contact the Kabul administration,” he said in a veiled reference to reports that Pakistan has promised President Ashraf Ghani of bringing the armed group to the negotiation table.
Support from within
The Taliban are in a fix over the peace process; some leaders support it and are urging the leadership to join intra-Afghan dialogue and put their conditions forward.
“Senior leaders were scheduled to hold another round of talks on Thursday to evolve a consensus on how to deal with the situation,” a Taliban leader who attended the meeting told The Express Tribune. He requested not to be identified as he was not allowed to speak on what he called a “sensitive issue.”
On the same page
Some Taliban leaders had suspicions that Dr Abdullah does not want the dialogue, but the Afghan Peace Council, mandated for reconciliation with the armed opponents, insists all Afghan leaders are on the same page.
Maulvi Shahzada Shahid, spokesman for the council, said all sides in Afghanistan know that the opportunity should not be missed. “There is unanimity at the national level to push the peace process forward. The most important development is that countries like China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey also want to help,” said Shahid.
He was in Islamabad this week along with Afghan minister for refugee affairs for talks with Pakistani authorities.
Shahzad, a parliamentarian from Kunar province and supporter of Dr Abdullah, refuted the impression that Dr Abdullah was not in favour of talks. “President Ashraf Ghani has a strong desire for peace talks and Dr Abdullah has a similar approach. There is no problem between the two leaders on the matter,” he said.
The media’s view
The Afghan media in general backs peace with the Taliban, but it also advising the government to keep the public’s opinion in the picture.
“The government, in particular President Ashraf Ghani, should lead the process of peace talks with the Taliban transparently. No compromise is acceptable as it would be regarded as national betrayal which could harm national interests,” Afghan newspaper Hewad said in a recent editorial.
The daily also urged the Taliban to take national interests into account before coming to the negotiation table.
However, Arman-e- Mili is critical of what it calls ‘control of power’ by President Ghani on all issues. The newspaper has emphasised that any peace talks must be pursued in consultation with political leaders and members of the Afghan parliament. “The president should not offer any concessions to the Taliban that could raise questions about the country’s constitution,” it wrote.
The privately-run ‘Weesa’ daily also warned against any compromise on constitutional principles in the talks and insisted no conditions should be attached with the process.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2015.
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