An Afghan Led Reconciliation Process
Dr Raja Muhammad Khan
In its primitive history, Europe has undergone a series of wars for centuries. However, the “Thirty years war” from 1618-1648 has a unique significance. This bloody war forced the European wisdom to reconcile. They sat together and found a way-out from the continued infightings. Their reconciliation gave Europe in particular and the world in general a new concept, “The Concept of Nation State”. Since it was a European problem, therefore, the notables met at Westphalia, Germany, and concluded a treaty, which in the history known as the “Treaty of Westphalia”. As of today, the borders of Westphalia are between rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of Ruhr River. Today, European very proudly claims that, they are the one who gave world, a system where they could live in an organized manner with claims and obligations. The concept revolves around the sovereignty of the nation state, how much small or big in size it may be with respect to its contemporaries.
Historically Afghanistan has been a region of great turbulence, where wars and infightings have been the order of the day. It has been a centre of global wars and factional and ethnic fights. Like thirty years war of Europe, this great civilizational country, indeed an Asian crossroads has faced a mix of foreign invasions and infightings for more than thirty years now, in its recent history. The days, months and years may be different, but, the sufferings are similar to ‘European Thirty Years’. Today, after 364 years of Westphalia, the world is more civilized and aware, thus why cannot we find another treaty specific to this nation state, which externally can guarantee Afghanistan its sovereignty and internally, peace and stability. Why cannot the war wagers of the same civilized Europe, who claims export of the concept of a sovereignty world over, ensure sovereignty of this country and end their occupation to let Afghan have their own will and wish within their own territorial borders.
After a decade of US invasion, today, there is warmth in the process of political reconciliation in Afghanistan. Two dimensions of this process seem more prominent. One, led by United States, which has encouraged opening of a Taliban’s talking point in Doha, Qatar, where there have been many rounds of covert and overt direct talks between US officials and the representatives of Taliban leadership. No official of Afghan Government or any other Afghan faction has participated in these US led talks, thus are non-indigenous in nature. This is purely a foreign led reconciliation process. The second, a domestic reconciliation process, headed by Afghan Government. President Karazai has personally took a lead role and desired to try the domestic option. Irrespective of the option finally materialized, the ultimate aim should be; peace, stability and harmony among all groups and factions of Afghanistan. Afghans are tired from infightings and international invasions and interferences in their motherland. They want an end to all and a guaranteed safety and security from external powers. At the same time they want that their traditional and religious values and Afghan customs and culture to be respected by all. After all why should they be deprived of their basic rights, enunciated in the UN Charter of this highly civilized world?
While inviting Taliban for a direct talks and political reconciliations, Afghan President Karazia, requested a help from Pakistan. On its part, Pakistan was very quick and responsive. Prime Minister Gillani after consultations with his aids and security establishment, appealed to all Afghan factions to be part of these talks for the greater cause of Afghan peace and stability. In his appeal he said, “I would like to appeal to the Taliban leadership as well as to all other Afghan groups, including Hizb-i-Islami, to participate in an intra-Afghan process for national reconciliation and peace. It is important to create conditions conducive for a grand intra-Afghan settlement, based on national reconciliation that involves the Afghan people without any distinction.” Together with Afghans, Pakistan wishes that all Afghan factions must unite themselves to conclude a treaty for the permanent solution of their domestic issues and block the routes for any future foreign interventions and invasions.
It is still uncertain as to what would be the formal response of the Taliban to the call of President Hamid Karazai for a direct talk and political reconciliation. Nevertheless, for the permanent peace and stability in Afghanistan, the reconciliation process must be supported by neighbours and international actors, especially United States. However, the durability of the reconciliation can only be ensured once these are led by Afghan nationals rather by foreign powers. In the same context, during an address by Pakistani Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, at Chatham House, an international relations think tank in London, she said, “We will support any (peace efforts) that are Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven. This is our first and last pre-requisite. But we will not lead. We cannot lead ... We will only follow what our Afghan brothers and sisters decide is the course of action they will adopt.”
On one hand, United States is negotiating with Taliban, outside the boundaries of Afghanistan (at Qatar), whereas, on the other, it is continuing with the military offensives, resulting into killing of innocent Afghans, humiliation of Afghan dead bodies and desecrating of Holy Quran within the boundaries of same Islamic Republic. The biggest question is that how come these acts of US and NATO go side by side with a reconciliation process. Some of the recent acts of US in Afghanistan may become a great setback to the reconciliation process led by US. Through these acts US indeed is adding difficulties for it and increasing its enemies too. Through these acts, particularly after the desecration of the Holy Quran, there have been wide spread demonstrations throughout in Afghanistan, killing dozens of Afghan protestors, besides two NATO soldiers.
Before Afghan public sentiments transformed into an Afghan National Resistance Movement, United States must bring a change in the attitudes of its troops deployed in that country. As tangible measures, night raids and military offensive must be stopped forthwith. There must be restoration of respect for the Afghan masses and their traditions. Apology from President Obama and ISAF Commander in Afghanistan over the desecration of Holy Quran may not be enough. Those responsible for this act must be publically punished and the conspiracy must be investigated for the satisfaction of Afghan people. Else it would be considered as if US desires instability in Afghanistan and this negotiation with Taliban is another strategy for creating acceptability for its long-term stay there.
For a stable Afghanistan, US must bring clarity in its approach and attitude towards Afghan future. In the first instance, this super power must have a precision whether to support or otherwise, the reconciliation process among the various groups in Afghanistan. If U.S wants peace and stability in Afghanistan, it must encourage an Afghan led political reconciliation process, rather itself engaging with few Taliban, thousands of miles away from Afghan soil. An indigenous Afghan led political reconciliation process taking on board all Afghan factions including Taliban would ensure durable peace in Afghanistan. Only in the subsequent phase, other stakeholders like; U.S, Pakistan and geographically contiguous regional countries, should be consulted for future guarantees to the sovereignty of Afghanistan. However, the entire process should be Afghan owned with Afghan people at its lead role without discriminating any group or faction.