Can Doha Talks bring solution to Afghan conundrum? Shafaqna Exclusive

by Tauqeer Abbas

A crucial round of the so far stalled intra-Afghan peace talks began in the Qatari capital Doha with senior figures from the Afghan government and the Taliban sitting across the table.  In his opening remarks, the Taliban’s deputy head Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar said that peace and prosperity will prevail in Afghanistan with a “strong, centralized and independent Islamic system.”  In a clear reference to Afghanistan’s current democratic system of governance, he went on to say that “foreign” ideas and systems will not help with the country’s problems.

“We want progress, we want a good and comfortable life, but not at the cost of our Islamic values, independence, and freedom,” Baradar, one of the founding members of the Taliban movement in the 1990s, said. The head of the Taliban’s Qatar office further said these “high targets” will be achieved through mutual cooperation. The Afghan government is represented at these crucial talks with the Taliban by a top official delegation led by the chairman of the peace council, Abdullah Abdullah. Speaking in Doha, Abdullah warned that the main victims of Afghanistan’s continuing violence are its people. “It does not matter if the Afghan government uses force or the Taliban try to win through violence and war, the main losers in the current war are the people of Afghanistan.”After the consecutive defeat of two superpowers in Afghanistan, no country in the region is willing to get on the wrong side of the Taliban. The Taliban however know that while they may take over Afghanistan they cannot build a war-torn country without international assistance.

The powers the Taliban have to deal with are all agreed that Afghanistan has to be in peace with itself, pose no threat to its neighbours and provide no shelter to terrorist groups. This can happen only if there is an inclusive government in Afghanistan representing all major parties. The Doha talks are the last effort to reach a consensus.He stressed that the Afghan people are going through a difficult time and that believing in a military solution or emphasizing victory through force and violence is pointless.

The Taliban insist upon the enforcement of Sharia in the country. What constitutes Sharia is to determined by the “muftis” or scholars  in Islamic jurisprudence, so they contend The Taliban have to specifically explain whether they will abide by basic human rights and treat all ethnic and sectarian groups equally and allow women to study and work. Some of the reports about the areas under Taliban control indicate that the Taliban still follow a strict interpretation of Sharia as practised under Mullah Umar. The neighbouring countries also want the Taliban to ensure that they would neither interfere in their internal affairs nor attempt to export their narrow views or support terrorist activities.

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Making the best of a bad situation, the USA is back in the game through the recently created Pak-Afghan-Tajikistan-US Cooperation Group.  The Group aims at regional connectivity and long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan. What the Group will achieve in coming months and years besides cooperation to expand trade, building transit links, and strengthening business-to-business ties remains unclear. As far as the Pakistan government is concerned, the Group is part of its attempts to seek a long term relationship with the USA.

Pakistan’s ill-timed attempt to convene a three day Afghan Peace Conference has failed as concerned parties are rushing to Doha where vital decisions are expected. Afghanistan’s future may have little hope for peace if the negotiations do not succeed.

Shafaqna Pakistan

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