Peace in a war-ravaged country amid an ongoing conflict is a long process. But let’s entertain our thoughts, even if for a moment, that the Taliban abide by the demands of the people and the government – a prolonged ceasefire, readiness for negotiations, and acceptance of the Afghan Constitution and the rights of its citizen, especially of women.
In return the government would recognize the Taliban as a political party; sanctions would be removed against their leaders, they would be allowed to live in Afghanistan with their families, the government would arrange for their security, and passports would be provided to them and their families. A crucial point to be noted is that the peace offered by the government is only for the Afghan Taliban, who want to stop fighting and compete for power based on the democratic grounds. It is not an offer to ISIS, Al-Qaeda or those Taliban that keep fighting and mimic what Pakistani or other foreign governments, or groups tell them.
Who want to make peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan?
Peace does not come overnight. It is a complicated process, where multilevel actors with various and conflicting interests are involved. The call for dialogue and peace with the Taliban is not only what the government of Afghanistan wants, it is also widely supported and demanded by the Afghans across the country. The desire and thirst for peace became more visible during June this year when thousands of male and female from all over the country rose their voices to support dialogue, ceasefire, and peace between the government and the Taliban.
Waves of men and women across the country welcomed the government’s peace offer to the Taliban. The peace deal/offer from the government was followed by eighteen days of one sided ceasefire from the government. The ceasefire initially started on the 27th day of Ramadhan and was to continue for eight days, but when the Taliban accepted the ceasefire for the three days of Eid-ul-Fitr, the government extended it for ten more days, which ended on 30th of June with no positive response from the Taliban this time.
When the Taliban accepted the ceasefire, even though it was for a very short time, crowds of Afghans celebrated the short moments of peace. They embraced, asked and begged the Taliban – who freely roamed the cities during the ceasefire period – to stop fighting. The mothers, sisters, wives, and children of the people who are murdered and wounded in suicide attacks and the continuous conflict in Afghanistan want peace. They came out in the streets of Helmand, Jalalabad, Kabul, and other cities chanting and demanding peace.
An old lady who had lost most of her family members in the conflict, cried and wiped her tears with her Chadar tells the story of her loss, demands peace. Another group of local women including an old one, who held a piece of paper and her cane, said that she has lost a brother, a son, and a grandson; she urged the Taliban to stop the war and demanded peace. She wants peace with the Taliban even though she had lost three close members of her family.
The Peace Convey, who marched 700km from Helmand to Kabul and met hundreds of people who shared their demand for peace, want to have peace and ceasefire with the Taliban. Helmand is one of the provinces that has suffered the most due to the continued conflict in Afghanistan.
Civilians casualties in the region are among the highest. Schools have been burned, roads and homes destroyed. Moreover, thousands have forcefully left their homes, and live in poverty in Kabul and some other relatively peaceful cities. Thirty-seven days later, the Convey reached Kabul with the slogans “Stop War”, “We Want Peace,” and “Da Zhwand Che Mo Badrang De – Jang de, Jang de” – that our life is ugly, is due to war, is due to war.
One of the founders of the Peace March, Mr. Zaheer Zindani, has lost his father, uncle, sister, eyes, and love due to the conflict in the country. He said that every time there is a suicide attack it is like doomsday and demanded peace between the conflicting parties. The President met the Peace Convey in Kabul and accepted their demands and thus the ceasefire was extended for ten more days (until 30th of June).
Ordinary Afghans, who live in Afghanistan and are physically and mentally deeply wounded because of a fearful environment and the continuous bloodshed, demand peace. Even if it is with the Taliban. Some are hesitant whether it will work or not, but the point here is the idea and prospect of peace with the Taliban or any other group who is willing to stop fighting. Afghans, who live in the country, are broken, beaten, suffocated, wounded and killed by the ongoing conflict.
At the beginning of June this year, about three thousand Ulema gathered in Kabul and issued a Fatwa (religious decree) that according to Islamic rules the insurgency in Afghanistan does not have any religious ground and that the suicide attack and the war in Afghanistan are Haram (forbidden).
They urged the Taliban to engage in peaceful negotiation with the government in order to stop this ongoing carnage. These Ulema want peace. These people (millions of them) are neither stupid nor they misunderstand the concept of justice, as some might assume – especially some of the Afghans in the West who haven’t lived in Afghanistan to practically grasp the situation on the ground.
In the eyes of the many Afghans who want peace, whoever that have murdered their family, friends or relatives are criminals be it Taliban, government, international forces, etc. Despite all their losses, they support the peace process. Because they do not want to lose the remaining family members and relatives. They do not want to add to the already existing hundreds of thousands of orphans; over ten thousand civilian casualties every year or add to the number of displaced population and refugees. They are awfully tired of the conflict and want to live a normal life. How many more should die and suffer!
Who does not want peace?
Various opinions expressed by some groups and political parties do not agree on the idea of peace with the Taliban. Of course, one is not able to name them all, below a few of them are briefly stated:
Some of The Mujahidin: they shamelessly state that the idea of peace with the Taliban should not be an option because the Taliban are war criminals and terrorists. The point is not to deny the atrocities committed by the Taliban but to hear it from notorious and criminal Mujahidin is hypocritic at the least.
It is like Hitler saying: no peace with Mussolini, because he is a war criminal! The Mujahidin find it hard to share the power with the Taliban and are afraid that their political stance would be weakened by the peace process. And of course, the Mujahidin regime was toppled by the Taliban before they were brought back to power by the U.S. and international forces in 2002 –enemies do not like each other type of scenario.
Some of the Taliban leaders: Those Taliban leaders who do not have autonomy over their decision or see their power weakened by the peace process or are single-minded and seem unable to change their view about the Afghan government, want to continue this massacre; they do not support the peace process.
Some of the Victims of War: The only genuine group that opposes the peace is some of the civilians who have lost their loved ones in the conflict and simply cannot forgive the oppressors. But if the war does not stop it will create more victims. And if it continues as it is, there is no end in sight.
Some Afghans Who Live Outside the Conflict Zone: Another peculiar group that opposes the peace process with the Taliban is some of the Afghans who have lived most of their lives in the West; having lost touch with the realities on the ground in Afghanistan, they are pissed and disappointed about THE IDEA of peacemaking with the Taliban. They reason peace with criminals is sacrificing justice.
The main question and the elephant in the room is whether justice can and should be sacrificed for peace? Before you form your answer to this question, I urge you to ponder over one more question, and few sub-questions: Who can best answer the above question?
The choices are not limited to the following but include: Are the people who live in the war/conflict zone in a better position to answer the above question; or those who live a comfortable life in the West? Are common and ordinary people who are the direct and first victims of war better to answer this question; or those who have studied some discourses in the West and judge the situation from their warm beds thousands of kilometers away from Afghanistan – sometime in an arrogant and egoistic manner – and worst of all talk on behalf of “Afghans” in general? Whose answer is more credible, those who have lost their family members, relatives, and friends due to the ongoing conflict and have their lives at stake; or those far away from the country or in a peaceful province within the country?
Should we listen to those who have committed atrocities in the country including, groups or individuals from the Mujahidin, Khalq and Parcham regimes; or the civilians who are the innocent victims of war?
Peace Process: A Painful Surgery for a Deadly Disease?
The question of peace along with justice is a complicated and sensitive one, especially during an ongoing conflict. Where do you really begin implementing justice in Afghanistan, or for that matter, in any country on the face of this earth? Start, maybe, by indicting the Taliban leaders, whose atrocities are as visible as the shining sun. Or maybe, by dragging the Mujahidin leaders to a fair and just court for their crimes committed during the civil war of the 1990s, where they mercilessly murdered over 60,000 civilians in Kabul alone; bring justice by removing their names from the list of national heroes and martyrs. Or, go further back to the notorious Khalq and Parchami regimes of the 1980s, who killed thousands of Afghans under the name of “social equality and justice”. Where do you really begin implementing justice in Afghanistan? By whom and how?
Every genuine, selfless, peace and justice loving person wants peace and justice together: gather all the criminals, hold them accountable, charge, punish, or forgive them. Then establish a peoples’ government (as if those criminals were ghosts and not people) whose main goal would be working day and night for the contentment of people, so that everybody would live happily ever after. But life is not a fairy tale. It is complicated, things do not always work the way we want them to.
We need to make tough choices. Under different names and for various causes, there is war in Afghanistan for about 40 years. People have suffered more than enough and are ready to make peace even with their enemies. If Afghans, who LIVE in Afghanistan in constant fear and suffer due to the ongoing bloodshed and who have sacrificed their loved ones, are ready to make peace with the Taliban, then be it. They want the bloodshed to stop, their kids to go to school in peace, they desire to have normal lives. Peace is made with enemies, not friends, and if it is not tried it is hard to say whether it works or not.
Those of the Mujahidin leaders that do not agree with the peace deal with the Taliban, because “they” think the Taliban are criminals are nothing but hypocrites. They are hypocrite not because Taliban aren’t criminals but because, based on the atrocities they have committed, they themselves are no less criminals than the Taliban. Some Afghans in the West or other countries, who have lost touch with realities on the ground and do not have much at stake due to the war in Afghanistan, if they do not try to understand what the people in the conflict zone want, maybe it is a good idea to shut-up. Those, who pay the price of war and are directly affected by it, should be heard and understood.
Those Taliban who mimic what the Pakistan government tells them and those who are single minded also cannot be counted on. And if the rest of the Taliban do not respond positively to the cries of the victims and millions of ordinary Afghans; the Fatwa of about three thousand religious clerks in Afghanistan and the Fatwa of the Imam of Mecca and Malaysia, who condemn suicide attacks and the ongoing war in the country; and to the willingness and efforts of the government for making-peace, then, till victory!
Mamoon Chakhansuri is a social and political analyst. He holds a master degree in development practices and has over eight years of work experience in Afghanistan, North American, and Vietnam.