PROFESSOR ALI SUKHANVER
IfAfghanistanis a problem there is no other solution to this problem but negotiations with Taliban. Without taking Taliban into confidence, the desire for peace and prosperity inAfghanistanwould always remain an unfulfilled dream. Since very after the American intrusion inAfghanistan,Pakistanhas always been advocating the same solution but unluckily none of theUSauthorities ever tried to pay heed to this logical pleading. Now as the dates of American retreat from the Afghan lands are coming closer, theUShi-ups are showing their inclination towards the solution presented byPakistanin the very beginning. It was somewhere in the mid of last June when Afghan President Hamid Karzai first time officially confirmed a direct contact between the Taliban and theUSauthorities. The Telegraph reports Mr.Karzai’s statement, “Foreign militaries, especially theUnited States of America, are going ahead with these negotiations to find a political settlement to the decade-long war. Peace talks have started with the Taliban and it is going well.” God knows better what would be the out come of these peace talks because the Taliban see Karzai’s government as ‘a powerless puppet regime, backed by an occupying army’. Most of the Taliban leaders rank Karzai as a worthless roll of tissue-paper and they are never willing to give any importance to what Karzai says and what he vows. In the opinion of these leaders things could take a positive change only if America keeps Indian-patronized and American-supported Karzai out of the peace process and the Taliban leaders are directly approached. “Only the White House can determine the presence of foreign forces or permanent American bases, as well as the fate of Taliban prisoners inGuantanamoBay”, says one of the Taliban leaders.
On the other hand the American authorities have their own reservations regarding the peace talks with the Taliban without involvement of the Karzai government. They are afraid of the repetition of Mullah Muhammad Mansur type of episode. This person claimed that he was among one of the most influential Taliban leaders but in fact he was an impostor who befooled theUSauthorities with his serious talks and quietly walked away with a large sum of money. Later on the western media tried to put a balm on the innocent ignorance and stupidity of theUSdiplomats engaged in the peace talks with Mullah Muhammad Mansur by propagating that he was an ISI agent. The Sunday Telegraph says: “There is some sense that the Taliban are thinking about talks but there are no serious load-bearing negotiations. No Taliban team has yet come up with a set of demands, or a list of confidence-building measures, or a timetable for negotiations.”
Taking Taliban into confidence with reference to the peace efforts inAfghanistanis not a new-born idea.Pakistanhas always been suggesting toUSAto engage in political dialogue with Taliban and especially the majority Pushtoons during the ongoing war on terrorism. UnfortunatelyUSAignoredPakistan’s advice during early and middle phases of the so-called war on terror The US indifference toPakistan’s advice added to the gravity and complexity of the situation on one hand and on the other hand sabotaged Pakistani peace efforts with local Taliban.
Now at the end of the day ultimatelyUSAis doing whatPakistanhad been suggesting since day one, i.e., engaging Taliban in political dialogue. Some of theUSpolicy makers have also been supportingPakistan’s stance in this regard but nothing serious could be done to materialize this logical pleading. Moreover the Taliban leaders have always rejected any kind of peace-talks so long as foreign troops remain inAfghanistan. As a result of this unwillingness on the part of theUSauthorities as well as that of the Taliban leaders, the situation inAfghanistanis getting worse and worse. According to the data collected by the UN sources, violence inAfghanistanis reaching the worst possible climax. May had been the bloodiest month on record for Afghan civilians taking lives of more than 368 citizens and leaving more than 600 wounded and injured. According to various media reports Taliban are not willing to be a part of any type of peace talks unless they are diplomatically recognized by the international world and allowed to open an embassy-style office in a Gulf state, where they could meet foreign delegations. They demand to be formally defined as a ‘legitimate official alternative to theKabuladministration’.
Other than ignoring the importance of peace-talks with the Taliban, theUSauthorities are committing another mistake by keepingPakistanout of the peace process inAfghanistanand by assigning a leading role toIndiain the region.USleaders must be well aware of the fact that such a role given toIndiawould prove injurious to the security interests ofPakistanand would add more tension to the already tense situation. Consequently US interests in the region would also be negatively affected.Pakistanis the only force which can play the most effective role in bridging the distances between the Taliban and theUSforces inAfghanistan. A safe and honourable exit fromAfghanistancould never be possible for theUSforces without a strong support ofPakistan. Though the Durand line is separatingAfghanistanandPakistanbut the people living along this partition line have centuries old ever-strengthening relations based on common religious and cultural background. That is whyPakistanhas always desired and struggled for peace and prosperity ofAfghanistan. If theUSpolicy makers are sincere in their desire for peace inAfghanistanthey will have to act uponPakistan’s suggestion and talk to the ‘actual and original’ Taliban leaders. Moreover it must also be kept in mind that no peace process orUSexit strategy inAfghanistancould be successfully completed unlessPakistan’s help is sought for in this respect.
The writer is a Pakistan based analyst on defence and strategic affairs