Kabul– President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the Helmand Peace Caravan on Tuesday afternoon. The group of peaceful marchers demanding an end to the prolonged war in Afghanistan had travelled 700 kilometers (435 miles) in 38 days and arrived in Kabul on Monday.
The members of the caravan demanded that they will not meet the President inside the Presidential Palace.
To meet with peace activists, President Ghani met them near Ghazi Stadium of Kabul. A representative of the caravan told President they have no choice except working for peace and that can only be achieved through an Afghan-owned and led dialogue.
The representative listed demands before the president including extending a ceasefire by the government; venue for possible peaceful negotiations with the Taliban, and the formation of an inclusive government that includes Taliban.
He also mentioned that once peace is restored, the international troops should withdraw from Afghanistan. The representative of the peace caravan also called on Taliban’s leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada to give them time and listen to their demands as President Ghani did.
The caravan representative added that they will continue protesting until they are heard by both parties and peace is restored. While addressing the caravan members President Ghani stated that he’s ready to accept all demands of the caravan.
Referring to the list of the demands by the peace activist President Ghani said that he’s ready to hold negotiation with the Taliban anywhere they want. “If you want me to sit in the desert for negotiations I will sit there, if you want to sit on grass we can sit there, and if you want to sit at Kherqa-i-Sharif (Holy place in Kandahar) we will sit and negotiate there and If you want me to sit at a mosque or on a mountain, we can sit there,” he furthered.
He stated that he will go and knock on any door for the sake of peace. “Afghans are tired of wars. I can talk without setting any pre-condition with any leader of the Taliban including Mullah Haibatullah, Mullah Yaqub or any other leader that represents Taliban,” he added.
President Ghani also stated that the Afghan government is also ready to discuss the timetable of the withdrawal of foreign troops. Once peace is restored, the foreign forces would be withdrawn from the Afghanistan.
President Ghani also stressed that if “they [the Taliban] agree the Afghan government is ready to extend ceasefire to one year across the country.” The Helmand Peace Caravan also known as March for Peace has been walking from Helmand to Kabul crossing through Taliban and government-controlled areas demanding an end to the current bloodshed. The caravan has been warmly received by people from all walks of life.