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Public hopes dwindle as peace talks disintegrate

A spate of attacks following the announced death of the Taliban's leader Mullah Omar has strained Afghan-Pakistani relations. In this context, Afghan youth are giving up on the prospect of peace and stability.
15.08.2015  |  Kabul
Protesters in Kabul highlight on Aug. 2, 2015 the violent crimes committed by the Taliban under the leadership of Mullah Muhammad Omar. (photo: Zafar Shah Rouyee)
Protesters in Kabul highlight on Aug. 2, 2015 the violent crimes committed by the Taliban under the leadership of Mullah Muhammad Omar. (photo: Zafar Shah Rouyee)

It’s been 15 years that the Afghan people are victims of ongoing fighting; they are killed by suicide attacks, mine explosions, guerrilla warfare and large-scale incursions on security forces in both rural areas and cities.

Hoping for a peace deal, Afghans are closely following the negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban representatives. For Afghanistan, the prospect of a political solution after 14 years of war and destruction is just as critical as neighbouring Iran’s nuclear deal with the West.

The first round of talks hosted by the Pakistani government July 7, as well as the ceasefire declared before the Eid holiday, stirred optimism among the public.

The Pakistani government provided the platform for the Afghan government and the Taliban to hold face-to-face talks in the presence of U.S. and Chinese representatives.

Plans were put in place by Islamabad to host the second round of talks July 31 in Pakistan, but the announcement of the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar derailed those plans. The demise of the Taliban’s spiritual leader and the subsequent internal disputes have strained Afghan-Pakistani relations. In this context, Afghan youth are giving up on the prospect of peace and stability in their country. Thousands are seeking to leave Afghanistan for good.

The number of applicants for passport has increased alarmingly, according to the Passports Directorate of Afghanistan, whose passport issuance rate has increased from 1,000 to 7,000 copies daily.

The first round of peace talks provoked a public discussion about peace: Facebook users posted images of white doves, schoolchildren wrote essays about a peaceful future. In Kabul, youth activists and civil society members painted messages of peace on city walls.

But the recent spate of bombings and suicide attacks have killed all optimism, while the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death raised fears of further bloodshed. The negotiations have been halted and postponed indefinitely.

Amid internal Taliban disputes on who should succeed Mullah Mohammad Omar, Kabul witnessed a series of fatal blasts. The Afghan government stated it had evidence of Pakistan’s involvement.

At a Kabul press conference, President Ashraf Ghani asked Pakistan to eliminate the terrorism cells on its territory. At this point, the fate of the peace talks is uncertain, but according to Ghani, Pakistan will be compelled to demonstrate its sincerity in the peace process during the coming weeks.

On Ghani’s orders, a delegation of high-ranking government officials led by Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, acting Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai and Rahmatullah Nabil, Director General of the National Directorate of Security travelled to Islamabad to discuss the recent wave of attacks in Kabul as well the future of the peace talks.

But as one arm of the Kabul government readies for a possible continuation of the peace talks, another faction led by Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum is fighting the Taliban in the northern province of Faryab. Political analysts believe that fighting had intensified because the Taliban have asked the government for a share of political power.

Afghan political analyst also voiced a distrust of Pakistan. The country has its own agenda, political analyst Farooq Bashar told Afghanistan Today. Unless that agenda is met, Pakistan will not be sincere in its efforts to facilitate a peace process.

Pakistan has three targets to achieve, Bashar added, and these targets are not in line with those of the Afghan government. Pakistan expects Afghanistan to disrupt its friendly ties with India and form a government that will play by Pakistan’s rules. Islamabad also demands that Kabul officially recognize the Durand Line and the sever its ties with Baluch separatists in Pakistan, Bashar said.

Public backlash

Meanwhile, public animosity towards Pakistan is once again on the rise. The Ulema Council of Afghanistan has issued a fatwa of Jihad against Pakistan. Several years ago, the Pakistani Ulema Council passed the same fatwa against Afghanistan.

Some female Afghan parliamentarians and civil society activists also worry that the peace process might undermine the rights of the Afghan women. Fauzia Kofi, a member of the Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga, has repeatedly defended the rights of Afghan women to work outside of the home and attend higher education institutions.

Syed Muhammad Akbar Agha, a former high-ranking official in the Taliban regime, told Afghanistan Today that the Taliban won't curtail Afghan women’s presence in the public space as long as they wear proper hijab.

“As far as my discussion with the Islamic Emirate members, they have no problem with the constitution of Afghanistan, because the first clause of the constitution states that everything will be done in the light of the Islamic teachings,” he added.



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