Pakistan

Qatar, Islamabad, Chantilly, Ashgabad: Taleban Talks Season Again? (amended)


There has again been movement in the positions marking the landscape of ‘reconciliation’ or, more precisely, of contacts and possible negotiations with the Taleban seem to be moving again. A track II meeting, labelled as ‘intra-Afghan’ talks, was held in France and, before that, the so-called ‘HPC roadmap’ leaked, indicating a more active role of the Afghan government, mainly through the High Peace Council, in conjunction with Pakistani involvement. Media and western diplomats, meanwhile have been insisting that Pakistan has given up its destructive, pro-Taleban position. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig tries to make sense of it all and concludes that much of it still is ‘talks about talks’, combined with wishful thinking designed to make the US/NATO withdrawal 2014 more palatable – basically, he says, it is too early, still, to open the Champagne bottles. (With input by Said Reza Kazemi, Borhan Osman and Gran Hewad.)

It seems to be talks season in Afghanistan again. But at a closer look, the different initiatives point into different directions. The channels appear not tuned into each other, indeed to be contradictory. But it is also important to note that the different meetings represent different levels of talks.

The meeting in Chantilly, France on 20 and 21 December, organised by a French think tank, the Paris-based Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique with support of France’s government,(1) were described as ‘intra-Afghan consultations’. The meeting was attended by current and former Taleban, members of the High Peace Council (HPC) and other pro-government figures as well as leaders of the ‘political opposition’, some female parliamentarians (apparently to include a women’s element) and a former human rights commissioner. It brought together a wide range of people with political clout; many were representatives of those main political groups that would need to be involved in order to make peace (with the exception of civil society which would need broader representation). These were no negotiations, so no concrete results on a ‘peaceful solution’ were achieved, nor had they been expected. But this did not mean that the meeting failed to be interesting or worthwhile.

First, it provided another chance this year to hear the official Taleban position(2) on a range of issues, the lack of which had repeatedly been described as a major obstacle for entering into substantial negotiations. It was already the second time this year, the first being the appearance of the former Taleban minister Qari Din Muhammad at an academic conference in Kyoto, Japan in June. Even before Kyoto, there had been another meeting in Paris which included a number of the Chantilly participants, among the leaders of the political opposition, the insurgent wing of Hezb-e Islami, some ‘reconciled’ Taleban, pro-government figures as well as a former commissioner of the AIHRC but no representatives of the insurgent Taleban (read our blog on this here).

Second, it also was the first time that key Taleban members (members of their negotiating team, in this case) and key leaders of the ‘political opposition’ have met publicly; the latter being the main groupings of the former ‘Northern Alliance’ (officially United Front) – the National Coalition of Afghanistan, a party led by former foreign minister Dr Abdullah, and the National Front of Afghanistan, a coalition of three former mujahedin parties (parts of Jamiat-e Islami, Hezb-e Wahdat/Mohaqeq and Jombesh.(more general information here). (There have been claims of such contacts, including by late HPC chief Burhanuddin Rabbani, as early as in April 2008, see here.) Such meetings help both sides to get acquainted with each other and their respective positions, if not to develop some first mutual confidence. Representatives of the National Coalition and the Rights and Justice Party (RJP), at least, have attempted to sound positive about the Chantilly meeting. The RJP’s Hanif Atmar pointed out ‘things we had in common: [a]ll stressed on peace and a political solution’.

The third outcome of Chantilly is that it might have led to the Afghan government giving up its rejection of the Qatar channel, or at least considering it. So far, it had done so because this channel had been established for direct US-Taleban contacts that excluded it; these contacts broke down in March this year but for different reasons. The government’s statements had been contradictory, however. On the one hand, Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassul has attempted to spread doubts about the credibility of the Taleban delegates in Chantilly. When called to the Afghan Senate from which concerns over the meeting had emanated,(3) he said that ‘It is yet not clear which group the two Taleban members [Delawar and Na’im] were representing’. In the same presentation, however, Rassul informed that the government is finalising an agreement with Qatar making the still un-opened Taleban office in the Gulf state the only channel between it and the Taleban. According to an Afghan media report, the minister said that ‘We are working to codify the agreement with Qatar and it is almost finalized. This will be the only place outside of Afghanistan to hold talks.’ And Delawar and Na’im, the bona fides of which he has been questioning, are members of the very Taleban negotiating team that is already based in Qatar. While the first statement might have been designed to calm down the senators’ concerns, the latter one contradicts the apparent preference of President Karzai for Saudi Arabia as the main venue for talks, as laid down in the so-called ‘HPC roadmap’ (more about this further below).

According to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, the United States also very much ‘would like to see a resumption of what’s known as the “Doha process” […]. This would involve an exchange of detainees and the opening of a Taleban office in Doha, Qatar, which would be a locus for broader political discussions [ie including Kabul]. It is hoped this process might lead to an eventual cease-fire in Afghanistan’. The Taleban, of course, have rejected so far to talk to President Hamed Karzai before all foreign troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Fourth, Chantilly has given the Taleban more of its desired recognition as a party to the conflict. The have made this very clear in their statement at the conference which was apparently also handed out to the participants and later sent out by email by their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed in which they stated that the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” is ‘an established fact on the ground’ (de dzmeke per sar yau mosallam haqiqat)(4) and, reportedly, that the meeting showed that it ‘has a political representation in the world and our invitation to this conference is a good example of our political existence’. In the distributed statement the Taleban even claim that their Emirate is ‘the existing regime’ (bar hal nezam) of Afghanistan, pointing to functioning courts and educational institutions as a proof.

Fifth, according to an opinion piece on ToloNews by Omar Samad,(5) the meeting also ‘agreed […] to form a commission to engage non-governmental groups in intra-Afghan dialogue’. According to Atmar, a follow-up meeting will be held in Paris in one month’s time.

Let’s look at the Taleban statement first, not least because much of the media reporting about it has tended to confuse rather than clarify the picture. (It is also the only full statement available from Chantilly, see the English version, from the Taleban’s website, attached at the end of this blog.) In an article titled ‘Taliban Hint at Softer Line in Talks With Afghan Leaders’, the New York Times, for example, reported that ‘senior insurgent leaders’ had indicated to Afghan government officials before the Chantilly talks that they ‘are willing to govern alongside other Afghan factions and even to adopt the current American-financed army as their own’, that it appeared in Chantilly that the Taleban ‘are backing off a demand that they negotiate solely with the United States’ and that this is ‘the furthest that the Taliban’s senior leadership has gone to express in some official way that the group would be willing to operate as a mainstream Afghan political faction’. The German news agency dpa’s Kabul correspondent even reported that the Taleban representatives ‘have pledged to accept a multiparty political system and respect women’s rights in future post-war governments’. This is bending the Taleban statement a bit too far and seems to reflect some wishful thinking from western capitals motivated perhaps by their desire to leave Afghanistan as quickly as possible; particularly in Washington. According to think tankers based there AAN has talked to, much of the government is in ‘mission liquidation’ mood – therefore tends to talk up every little step forward into a major breakthrough.

What degree of moderation the Taleban statement – which is not much different from the one presented in Kyoto – reflects is still open to interpretation, even after reading its text. Some phrases seem to indicate some modification on key issues. For example, on women’s rights, the Taleban state that they are ‘committed to those rights given to women by the holy religion of Islam’, including for ‘education and work’. This, in essence, is not different from what has been practiced, and sometimes only promised, during the IEA regime. In contrast to the often repeated and simplified version of their 1996-2001 rule, the Taleban had not completely banned girls’ education and women employment then. In their reading, the former was ‘suspended’ because of the lack of security and funds and was promised to be reinstated after ‘peace’ would have been restored, while only men and women working at the same workplaces had been stopped; women doctors were actually publicly asked to continue working, although only for female patients; in reality of course, this amounted to a ban in most cases.

As the first point in their statement, the Taleban demand amendments of the current constitution which they label as ‘produced in the shadow of the occupants’ B-52 warplanes’. A new constitution must, in their view, ‘not contain a single article or paragraph that is against the Islamic principles, national interest and Afghan traditions’. It does not use the word sharia, however.

When talking about the future political system in Afghanistan, the statement says that the Taleban are in favour of a ‘political balance’, the ‘participation of all Afghan sides’ (arkhuna) in the ‘future Islamic government’ of the country and ‘does not think about [establishing a] monopoly of power’. This still falls short of a commitment to a multi-party democracy. When it says that ‘every citizen’s personal, civil and political rights will be organised through the [new or amended] constitution’, this is also no full commitment to the internationally codified human rights. (In another paragraph, though, it is stated that the constitution ‘will be committed (zhman) to human rights’, without any limitation, also.)

The Taleban’s ambiguous wording on these subjects is causes by the fact that it has to play to two audiences: their own followers and fighters need to be assured that a future Afghanistan will be nothing but ‘Islamic’ while their potential international and part of their Afghan negotiating partners need to be assured that there is room for moderation and compromise.

On other issues the Taleban are much more outspoken. This is indicative of how fundamentally they are opposed to the Afghan government under President Hamed Kazai, its agenda for peace talks and the on-going ‘transition’ process.

The Taleban call the ‘Kabul administration’ ‘powerless and illegitimate’, accuse it of trying to make them ‘surrender under the name of peace’ and lambast it for undermining the peace process by preventing them from officially opening their Qatar office as well as for flip-flopping on the issue of talks in general: ‘Sometimes they say we are talking with the Islamic Emirate, sometimes they say we make peace with Pakistan’. (It has transpired that ‘political opposition’ participants criticised the Afghan government for the same thing in Chantilly.) This does not sound as if they would consider the Karzai government a partner in negotiations. They also reiterated in Chantilly that ‘[t]he occupation must be ended as a first step’, ie before any negotiations; reportedly, this includes foreign advisors, too.(6) Finally, the Taleban demanded that the government in Kabul refrain from ‘signing illegal treaties’, a hint at the US-Afghan strategic agreements.

They call the 2014 elections ‘not a useful process’ since ‘the electoral plan has been conceived during the aggression and will be implemented during the occupation’. They also refer to the ‘massive fraud’ during the previous elections, stating that it has brought ‘much shame’ over ‘the puppet regime and its western backers’. This is neither a statement supporting (clean) elections as a means to determine the country’s future nor one rejecting elections in general. What is clear though is that this is hardly a commitment ‘to operate as a mainstream Afghan political faction’.

When the Taleban say that the current costs for Afghanistan’s security forces are ‘many times higher than the country’s revenue’ and that ‘taking loans’ to pay for them would bury it ‘under a heavy burden of interest’, this might be an interesting nuance of an Islamic third-worldism, but does not mean at all that the Taleban will accept the currently overblown ANP and ANA structure. (They suggest instead ‘that all Afghans should take part in the defence of the country’ whatever this means in practice; maybe, it is a reference to the pre-1973 system when the tribes at the frontier where exempted from conscription but were obliged to raise lashkars when there was an external threat.)

Ambiguous, too, are the official reactions of the Afghan government to follow-up meetings to Chantilly and, more generally, where and how further track II meeting and talks with the Taleban should be conducted. On 24 December 2012, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Janan Musazai welcomed not only the Paris talks but also the coming UN-sponsored Ashgabat talks that are planned to take place in Turkmenistan’s capital sometime in the first two months of 2013. UNAMA had proposed earlier this year to start an ‘inter-Afghan track two dialogue, trying to engage and provide platform for Afghan people, representatives of different groups, civil society, political parties and also those that are fighting the Government, a platform on which they can discuss their future’.(7) Although Musazai stated that all parties to Afghanistan’s conflict have come to believe in a political solution, he reiterated Afghan government’s ‘conditions and principles’ for talks as including ‘full respect to the Constitution of Afghanistan, safeguarding of the achievements of the previous ten years, respect to the rights of the country’s citizens including women and children, cutting of ties to international terrorism and renunciation of violence against the people of Afghanistan’ (see also a report of the BBC Persian service here).

On the same day, 24 December 2012, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs repudiated its own spokesperson. In a statement, the Ministry said ‘any intra-Afghan consultative meetings related to the Afghan peace process must take place in agreement with the government of Afghanistan and inside Afghanistan’ and that ‘direct official negotiations between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban may take place outside the country through official processes, including the establishing… of a Taliban Movement Office in Qatar’ (read the Ministry’s statement here and an Afghan media report here). One day later, on 25 December 2012, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Zalmay Rassul, Musazai’s boss, told the Meshrano Jirga, the upper house, that the Afghan government thinks that there is no need to any other country hosting ‘intra-Afghan talks’, a hint particularly at Turkmenistan but also at the reportedly agreed follow-up meeting in France (see again the BBC Persian service here). Again on the same day, presidential spokesperson Aimal Faizy said that the Afghan is opposed to the Turkmenistan meeting, that its agenda was ‘hidden’ and driven by foreign intelligence services, that parties had been invited in a divisive matter and that it was not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan (Mandegar, 25 December 2012). These confusing statements are not only another proof that the Afghan government still lacks a unified policy on ‘talks’, they even indicate that it is particularly concerned about a possible UN role in this process.

The Chantilly meeting has almost overshadowed another development that might prove to be at least equally important for any future political process: the so-called ‘HPC roadmap’ (officially ‘Peace Process Roadmap to 2015’) that had been leaked into the media (see the first report here and the full paper, a version dated ‘November 2012’, here). According to McClatchy, the newspaper group that published the first report about the paper before Christmas, ‘it was drafted by Karzai and his inner circle over the past six months in coordination with Pakistan, according to a person familiar with the document who requested anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity’. According to AAN’s information, on the Afghan side a group in the Afghan National Security Council (reportedly not involving its chairman) has been responsible. The paper has been described as a ‘framework’ document, meaning that details might change further.

The roadmap envisions, among other points, a series of ‘confidence building measures’ implemented in the first half of 2013. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the US are to ‘explore and agree terms for initiating direct peace talks between the HPC/Government of Afghanistan with Taleban and other Afghan armed groups with a focus on Saudi Arabia as a venue’. (This seems to be completely out of sync with, and even contradictory to the Qatar process and the above-mentioned statement by the Afghan government that it is finalising an agreement on the Qatar process – not to mention the clear preference of the Taleban for Qatar, as reiterated in Chantilly.) These talks are to take place, according to this plan, as early as in the second half of 2013, ‘preferably through one consistent and coherent channel’ [sic!]. It is envisaged that they lead to a cease-fire and to an ‘understanding’ on ‘the withdrawal of international forces’ as well as to ‘modalities for the inclusion of Taleban and other armed opposition leaders in the power structures of the state’ in the same period. The latter point had been read by some international media as ceding ‘control of the south and the east of Afghanistan’ to the Taleban (see for example here) but ideas about such a ‘geographical split’ have been sharply rejected in the past both by the Afghan government – that of course wants to maintain the country’s territorial integrity and is absolutely allergic about anything ‘federalist’ – and by the Taleban – who say that they do not only fight for the Pashtuns or the ‘South’. Finally, it is assumed in the roadmap that, in 2015, the ‘Taleban, Hezb-e Islami and other armed groups will have given up armed opposition, transformed from military entities into political groups, and are actively participating in the country’s political and constitutional process, including national elections’.

This ‘sounds too good to be true’, writes Julian Borger in the Guardian. Indeed, the roadmap is more an over-ambitious wish list than a serious plan. As the exchanges in Chantilly showed, no indications exist that its bold aims can realistically be achieved in such a short timeframe. Apart from this, the roadmap also has been described as a possible ‘dead end for human rights’ in post-2014 Afghanistan.

But as Borger adds, the plan ‘does include at least one essential element of realism. It acknowledges the centrality of striking a deal with Pakistan, something that Kabul has not always been ready to concede’. Columnists have been unanimous here: if implemented, the roadmap would put Pakistan into the lead on any ‘Taleban talks’ and reduce the role of the US (see here, for example). Moreover, many media, western diplomats and the HPC have interpreted Pakistan’s alleged buy-in into this plan as a sign that it, finally, has started to become more constructive on Afghan matters (read for example here and here).(8)

In the case of the HPC, this assessment is not surprising. Its young new chairman, Salahuddin Rabbani, urgently needs a success to show that he can fill the shoes of his assassinated father who had held this position before him; Rabbani junior is also facing the envy of older HPC members who believe that they should have received this position. Western governments tend to wishful thinking in their urge to close down the Afghanistan mission. But even Ahmed Rashid – not known as an apologist for Pakistan’s establishment – speaks of a ‘dramatic shift by Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence’.

If one looks more on the known facts, Pakistan has not delivered much to Afghanistan so far. After all, in the case of its much-celebrated releases of ‘leading’ Taleban, more than six weeks after this was announced nobody still seems to be sure who has been released, how many and where they are staying. (See our earlier blog on this here; Ahmed Rashid, though, writes that ‘by December the ISI had freed 19 of them and promised to free all the rest, including the Taleban No 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar; he also says that ‚[t]he ISI had spent the year jailing up to 100 Taleban leaders and fighters for daring to talk to the Kabul regime, the Americans or the UN’.) Names published of Taleban possibly released have remained speculations and not been officially confirmed by anyone, including Pakistan. Family members – like those of former Taleban justice minister Mulla Nuruddin Turabi – deny that he has been released. (Amendment 31 Dec 2012/1 Jan 2013: Just as we uploaded this blog, the BBC reports that a ‘Pakistani official’ had confirmed that Turabi had been released now. The Los Angeles Times also mentions the release of former Taleban Helmand and Baghlan governor Abdul Bari and former Taleban communications minister Allahdad Tabib.) Apparently, only telephone contact has been established; but that can be done even from a detention or holding facility. Even high-ranking HPC members – those immediately below its chairman – profess no knowledge about them. Mawlawi Attaullah Ludin, the HPC deputy head, confirmed to AAN that ‘the Taleban prisoners who are said to be released by Pakistan [our emphasis] are not part of a list containing [the names of] almost 70 Taleban prisoners that the HPC has asked Pakistan’s authorities to release. They are prisoners Pakistan wants to release’, he added.

It seems that the HPC has been satisfied with promises and apparently has even not asked for any guarantees (that the released do not join the insurgency, for example) and even for the basic facts, the names of the released. It looks as if it is satisfied with being given what appears like a key role, after years of criticism about being ineffective, practically marginal and anything but a peace council. As long as Pakistan does not disclose details on what it has already done and follows up with fulfilling its promises, things continue to look as if it has scored an easy victory over an inexperienced counterpart, and gained much credibility, including in the international arena, for not very much so far.

One of the big questions is whether Pakistan really wants an agreement between the current Afghan government and the Taleban; after all, it has experienced how the Taleban – when in power until 2001 – did not listen to its positions. It cannot be expected that this changes, whether the Taleban come back to power in Kabul in a coalition or on their own. If that is true, the roadmap and the Islamabad channel might be an attempt to split the Afghan Taleban and get that faction to the negotiating table (and possibly into government) that is forced to listen to the ISI – those who have been in jail in Pakistan and whose families living there can be utilised as hostages. At the same time, it is trying to sideline the ‘more independent’ faction, including former chief negotiator Tayeb Agha and others who left for the Gulf along with their families because they want to escape Pakistan’s influence (and apparently had to vow never to return) and Agha Jan Motassem, another former Taleban chief negotiator, who was gunned down in Karachi, barely survived and is in Turkey now. A sign that the mainstream Taleban themselves – those led by the Quetta shura and running the Qatar office – are against such a key role for Pakistan is reflected by their rejection of an international conference of Islamic religious scholars that is to take place in January in Kabul and is a key element of the HPC roadmap. In the sharpest words they call it ‘a conspiracy of the United States and asks Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, The Dar al-Uloom Deoband of India, Al-Azhar University and other religious schools as well as religious scholars of other countries to boycott the conference’ (report by Afghan Islamic Press, 27 December 2012, source: BBC Monitoring).

In this light, with the Taleban basically rejecting it, the ‘roadmap’ is not worth much in practical terms. It is more of a trial balloon floated to see how far Pakistan and Kabul (which just have gone through extended periods of tense relations with Washington) can go with an administration that does not want anything more urgent than leave Afghanistan and is ready to outsource the ‘Taleban issue’. That would allow the US to concentrate on the case of Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier captured by the insurgents in Afghanistan in June 2009 and the only one held by them, in its own Qatar talks (notwithstanding that some in the US administration still would prefer to keep trainers and access to bases in Afghanistan). This hands an extremely valuable card particularly to Pakistan that can be played in the future. The big question is: why does Kabul seem to accept this, given all the bilateral problems with its eastern neighbour, like cross-border shelling or its hosting of insurgent infrastructure?

(1) The Afghan news agency ToloNews  provided the following, unconfirmed list of (Afghan) participants; it also needs to be added that all participants were invited in a personal capacity:

‘for the Taleban’:
former Taleban ambassador to Pakistan Mulla Abdulsalam Za’if, ‘Taleban envoy in Qatar Tayeb Agha, former Taleban negotiator with the Northern Alliance Shahabuddin Delawar and Na’im Wardak’
Comment: Za’if is one of the ‘reconciled’ Taleban based in Afghanistan, from this group, however, he and former Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkel are the only ones who refused to join the HPC. The Taleban have repeatedly stated that Za’if is not representing their movement officially.
Tayeb Agha’s name has not appeared in any of the media reports about the meeting, and AAN sources have confirmed this; there also have been (unconfirmed) reports that he might have stepped down from his position as the ‘official’ Taleban chief negotiator in Qatar.
Delawar’s and Na’im’s names have earlier been reported as part of the Taleban’s negotiating team in Qatar.
On one picture released from the Chantilly meeting, Amin Mojaddedi, who was the first leader of Khuddam ul-Furqan, a Taleban subgroup (more on the group in our paper here), after the collapse of the Taleban regime and had revived the group in Pakistan as a ‘moderate Taleban party’ in early 2001, was visible.

for Hezb-e Islami (its insurgent wing, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar):
Hekmatyar’s son-in-law Ghairat Bahir
Comment: This group has been in on-and-off contacts with the government in Kabul. The latter has rejected Hezb’s proposal of creating a new Afghan ‘interim government’ in the lead-up to any negotiations (which would alter the process for the upcoming 2014 presidential and 2015 parliamentary elections on which the GoA insists) as a ‘daydream’ (Mandegar, 24 December 2012, source: AAN media monitoring).

‘for the government’:
Former IDLG chief and now advisor minister Jailani Popal, former Senator and leader of the former mujahedin faction NIFA Sayed Hamed Gilani and Hekmat Karzai, head of the Kabul-based think tank Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies Afghanistan (CAPS)
Comment: Gailani and Karzai currently do not occupy official government positions.

‘for the High Peace Council’:
Abdul Hakim Mujahed (incorrectly called Hakimullah in the report), Massum Stanekzai and Haji Azizullah Din Muhammad
Comment: The three represent three different facets of the HPC. Mujahed is another of the ‘reconciled’ Taleban and their former ambassador to the UN; Haji Din Muhammad is the leader of the former mujahedin party Hezb-e Islami (Khales) – do not confuse with Hezb/Hekmatyar, they split in the late 1970s already -, was Kabul province governor and Karzai’s election campaign manager in 2009. Stanakzai is not a member of the HPC, but heads its secretariat.

For the ‘political opposition’:
former parliament speaker Muhammad Yunos Qanuni, Homayun Shah Asefi, a member of the Afghan royal family, and Nur-ul-Haq Ulumi, a former PDPA official and General who has driven a ‘reconciliation’ programme with the Afghan mujahedin in Kandahar in the late 1980s, represent the National Coalition. Ahmad Zia Massud (Jamiat), Haji Muhammad Mohaqeq (Hezb-e Wahdat) and Faizullah Zaki (Jombesh) represent the National Front coalition. Former Interior Minister Muhammad Hanif Atmar represented the Rights and Justice Party.

‘from parliament’:
two female MPs, Farkhonda Zahra Naderi, the daughter of Baghlan Ismalili leader and MP Sayyed Mansur Naderi and Nilofar Ibrahimi, a women activist from Badakhshan province
Comment: The Los Angeles Times quoted the former Taleb Abdul Hakim Mujahed that there was joking between the two female parliamentarians among the participants and the Taleban representatives about the ‘excellent progress’ made by the group on women’s rights, given their willingness to sit at the same table.

from civil society:
Nader Nadery, former commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission

(2) Although track II meetings are based on the principle that individuals are invited, not ‘representatives’ of certain groups, and their statements must not necessarily reflect their party’s official position, this is not the case here. On their website, the Taleban label the statement given in Chantilly by their two representatives as ‘Text of speech enunciated by Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan at research conference in France’.

(3) There was also criticism from the Wolesi Jirga. ‘The High Peace Council representatives should have reacted strongly to Taliban demands’ to change the constitution’ MP Shukria Barekzai said. MP Latif Pedram demanded that the role of parliament in the peace process be strengthened.

(4) All translations from the Pashto original by the author, if not indicated otherwise.

(5) Samad had been Dr Abdullah’s spokesman at the foreign ministry in Kabul from 2001 to 2004 and now is with the United States Institute for Peace in Washington DC. He is known to be close to the ‘political opposition’.

(6) Coincidentally, the US-based Navy Times reported on 18 December that in the current debate about US troop levels in Afghanistan beyond 2014, a third option — a complete withdrawal leaving no troops — is also a potential outcome, as U.S. decision-makers consider legal protections for American forces, domestic budget pressures and mounting threats elsewhere, some experts say’. The other options discussed are ‘more than 30,000 or fewer than 10,000’, the former apparently favoured by the pentagon, the latter by the White House, according to AAN information.

(7) The idea of holding intra-Afghan talks in Turkmenistan was first raised by the country’s president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov who was speaking in a Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, in 2010. ‘Turkmenistan is ready to offer its political space for UN-sponsored inter-Afghan peace talks, as well as to provide the necessary conditions for this process’, Berdimuhamedov said. There have been frequent bilateral Afghanistan-Turkmenistan and international contacts since then with regard to the organisation of intra-Afghan peace talks in Ashgabat. For instance, Berdimuhamedov has met and talked to UN special envoy for Afghanistan Jan Kubis, the US Afghanistan-Pakistan ambassador Marc Grossman and Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) Afghanistan representative Abu Humayumo Mohammad Muniruzzaman; a Turkmen delegation headed by first deputy foreign minister Vepa Khadzhiev came to Kabul and talked to his colleague Jawed Ludin (see a EurasiaNet background report here). The Ashgabat talks are supposed to be organised by UNAMA and the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, established in 2007 that covers Central Asia on behalf of the UN system.

(8) ‘Pakistan has gone an extra mile to help the Afghan government in its peace efforts’, a columnist in the Pakistani daily The Nation  writes. This can be easily dismissed because it is known that articles on issues deemed of important for the country’s national security are often imposed even on the otherwise independent media by the Pakistani military.

 

Annex

Text of speech enunciated by Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan at research conference in France

Monday, 10 Safar 1434
Monday, 24 December 2012 08:16

The full text of speech enunciated by two representatives from Political Office of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mawlawi Shahbuddin Dilawar and Doctor Muhammad Naeem, at research conference in Chantilly of France convened from 20-21/12/2012:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful – All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and may His peace and blessing be upon the noblest of prophets and messengers, his family and companions.

We foremost thank Foundation for Strategic Research as well as its Director, Camille Grand, for taking practical steps, on basis of humanitarian sympathy, towards peace and tranquility for the Afghan nation and especially for affording an opportunity to the Islamic Emirate to express its viewpoint. We also thank all other parties that have strived for this cause.

Balance of political power in the future government of Afghanistan

In the future Islamic government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the balance of power or participation in government of by all Afghan parties must be implemented in the constitution upon below specifications:

1 – Codification of Constitution
Every power and system of government in the current world needs a complete and clear constitution to organize and coordinate its internal and foreign affairs in order to pave the way for advancement and prosperity of its citizens and so that every person properly grasps their role in the confines of law. Constitution is integral for every government because, without it, the affairs of development of its nation and country will face disorder and numerous obstacles. The personal, civil and political rights of all citizens of Afghanistan shall be regulated through the Constitution; rights shall be given to all brother ethnicities without discrimination; will make clear relations between the government and people; will shed light on balance of government three structured powers; will determine government’s type, administration and powers; in sum, will gain acceptance from the Afghan nation and the world regarding the internal and foreign policy of Afghanistan.

Therefore the Islamic Emirate, for the welfare, prosperity and advancement of its proud nation, considers such a constitution necessary which is framed on the principles of nobel Islam, national interests, historical achievements and social justice; abides by Human Rights and national values; guarantees the country’s sovereignty and rights of all its citizens and shall not contain any articles and clauses opposing Islamic principles, national interests and Afghan mores. With the blessing of constitution, way shall be paved for political power balance and all Afghan parties to participate in the upcoming government.
We clearly state the stipulations of the constitution shall be written by Afghan scholars in a free atmosphere and will then be presented to the nation for approval. The current constitution of Afghanistan is illegitimate because it is written under the shadows of B-52 aircrafts.

2 – 2014 elections
We believe that the 2014 elections are not beneficial for solving the Afghan quandary because these elections are planned under invasion and will take place during ongoing occupation therefore the results shall be no different than the previous elections. All observed that the 2004 and 2009 elections did not lessen but increased problems for the Afghans. So called National Assembly elections were also held twice however it failed to solve the nation’s problems but contrarily, increased them many folds. All this because elections laws, organizations and officials involved were created at the fancy and requests of foreigners while the demands and needs of the Afghans were not attended. The said elections did not only not solve the Afghan quandary but also brought shame to the western backers of the stooge regime; fraud was rampant, ballots went missing, vow ceremony faced dilemmas and holdups and the opening ceremony of national assembly faced several months delay.

3 – Islamic Emirate
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is an Islamic reality on the face of the planet, is the legitimate government of our beloved country, has every operational administration and has notable achievements in several areas. People in the majority parts of the country turn towards its courts, political activities in shape of a Political Office is known to everyone an example of which is our presence here and education is also forging ahead in many parts of the country with the Emirate’s help. America with the help of over forty (40) countries have invaded our country. The Islamic Emirate has carried out sacred Jihad against the occupation for over eleven years and has put forward notable sacrifices for the independence of its country and defense of its religion and honor. The Islamic Emirate had brought security to over 95% of the country before the invasion; had collected illegal weapons; had stopped narcotics; had secured borders of the beloved country; had provided education, work and open trade for the nation in complete security. We can even proudly state that in the previous reign of Islamic Emirate, we achieved things which the western world is unable to do even with its entire military and economic means.

It has repeatedly been expounded in the messages of Amir ul Mumineen that we are not looking to monopolize power. We want an all Afghan inclusive government. He has time and again urged his opposition for help in expelling the occupation. That he respects his political rivals, expounds on realization and understanding and asks for help from them in defense of our nation and honor, this clearly displays his goodwill and political insight.

Sovereignty of Afghanistan

Allah Almighty has created humans free and independence is a part of their nature. No human society can make advancements in economics, politics, culture and science without independence or have control over its resources, talents and fruits of their work. Love with independence is naturally sown in the blood and body of the Afghans. History has shown that the Afghans have sacrificed their lives and everything dear for independence. All battles fought in the past decades against invasions have been for independence. No economic, military or political power has scared them in attaining their goal and neither has the lack of means, men and hard conditions been a hurdle.

If we want to once again pave the way for the country’s natural development and dignity then the independence of Afghanistan must be restored and occupation ended so that the Afghans can make decisions in the best interests of its power and people for the benefit of its nation.

It is also a reality that every nation, after attaining independence, has a need to maintain its borders, security and sovereignty and this need can only be accomplished through police and army faithful to its people, religion and nation. Therefore it is incumbent that our security apparatus be trained on religious principles and national spirit; is cleansed from prejudice on lingual, ethnical and regional basis and is bound to serving its people and securing its sovereignty. If it is not as such then such an army in not fit for maintaining its national and Islamic goals and neither can it be called a national army. Instead of working for national interests, it will be used against its religion, country and people. Hence, as much as Afghanistan needs an army, its reforming and proper training is also that much vital.

Afghanistan is an underdeveloped nation economically. It cannot maintain a highly paid army in the long term due to its expenses being several times higher than the country’s GDP. In such a condition, the government will be forced to abide by terms and sometimes unreasonable demands of lending nations, bringing the whole nation under the burden of interest and pushing them towards economic disaster. Due to this, it will be better for all Afghans to fulfill their obligation in securing the country.

It is also a reality that in the current world, a country cannot feel secure and at peace without a powerful defensive system and will have to always feel at danger. Hence it is necessary that Afghanistan builds a strong air force alongside a strong ground force in order to reassure its nation.

We must reiterate that independence is the key condition because in presence of an occupation, all this force will be used against its own people and for the goals of others. We observed in the past decade that an army built on political foundations gets used and is used against its people instead of the invasion and becomes the reason for many tragedies.

How can enduring peace be achieved in Afghanistan

The Islamic Emirate came into to being to bring peace to its people:
Peace and tranquility is the natural want of all creatures of Allah Alimighty and especially for humans, who are in need of peace more than any other being. Today humans have made much progress; for killing and destruction, it has created small, chemical and nuclear weapons therefore it is in need of peace more than ever and efforts must be made for peace.

Islamic Emirate, for peace and order, has given great sacrifices for this mutual goal whereas it actually came into being to bring peace and security. The entire world in aware that the oppressed Afghan nation faced great difficulties before the Islamic Emirate came into being; corruption and insecurity had reached its peak; the life and property of the people were in constant danger and the country was standing on the brink of disintegration. The leaders of Islamic Emirate, with the divine help of Allah Almighty and backing of its nation, and result of many sacrifices brought end to all this anarchy such that no one could have ever imagined and transformed an atmosphere of insecurity and disorder to that of security and peace.

Taking away security from the Afghan nation under guise of September incident:
The Islamic Emirate had brought security to 95% of the country and this displays the responsibility of Islamic Emirate which it had and still has regarding the world, region and specifically its own country and nation. However with great regret, the invaders deprived the Afghan nation from this great blessing. They brought insecurity for the Afghan people in this eleven year war and fighting, brought culture of injustice and corruption, stirred up market of killings and murders, over flooded pools with blood, stuffed prisons with the Afghan people, began oppression of children, women, old men and youngsters in villages and homes, created difficulties for the lives of women which is their most basic and important right and planted seeds of enmity between Afghanistan and its neighboring countries.

Some primary problems created by this illegal and peace-shattering invasion[:]
1. Occupying Afghanistan and disturbing atmosphere of peace.
2. Forcing an administration on Afghans embroiled in corruption and narcotics
3. Working to divide the Afghan nation and country on basis of regional, lingual, tribal, political and religious animosities.
4. Nurturing narcotics while the Islamic Emirate had brought it to a complete end.
5. Violating human rights, the most important issue of which is the life and destiny of women. According to well established researches, thousands of women are targets of repression every year, hundreds of whom have even died.

Invaders and their allies don’t have a clear framework for peace:
Foreigners and Kabul do not have an inclination towards peace and neither are they ready to abide by the rules and goals of peace. If the invaders truly believe in peace, they would have listened to the legitimate demands of Islamic Emirate in the initial phase. They should have tested peace before force; if it had failed to give results then war was a last resort however they chose war as the first option.

Even now, they state one thing and do another. On the one hand they say that peace must be achieved an on the other, they add new people to the black list; they say that they will leave Afghanistan but sign strategic pacts in false hopes of prolonging their occupation. They are doing this despite being well informed that the Kabul administration can never represent the Afghan people but still bargain with them on the future of the Afghan nation.

The Kabul administration does not hold any jurisdiction or power because the Afghan people, in their own land and through the medium of Kabul, are being imprisoned by the invaders! With their presence and their help, the homes of Afghans are being recklessly raided by the invaders at night against all laws and customs; children, women and old men peacefully asleep are being mercilessly killed and they are still unable to take any steps against them.

The Kabul administration is does not seem inclined towards peace due to some steps and because it does not have a clear framework for peace. On the one hand it says that it wantd peace and on the other, martyrs tens of Mujahideen everyday or imprisons them or forces them to migrate. It shouts for peace but then unjustly and brutally executes imprisoned Mujahideen against all international laws!

Sometimes it says it wants to talk with the Islamic Emirate, sometimes it says it wants to talk to Pakistan! Such ambiguous actions will never positively impact the peace process.

In reality, they want surrender of Mujahideen under the title of peace; give up arms, abide by the constitution created under the shadow of invaders and bow your heads to our orders and we won’t say anything to you! Is this peace? Do they think that the Afghan nation gave colossal sacrifices for the past eleven years to surrender to the invaders? So that someone will assure their lives? This clearly shows that they do not have sincerity and a clear framework for peace.

Malicious propaganda against peace:
Another factor damaging peace are those efforts made through poisonous propaganda deployed inside the country which tries to depict reality in another color. Different types of propaganda is used against the ongoing Jihad; sometimes it is labeled the work of neighbors, sometimes as against education and development and sometimes is accused of causing civilian casualties but never seem to possess strong evidence and only reiterates repeated charges. Such black propaganda only prolongs the war and uproots chances for peace.

Everyone is aware that members of Islamic Emirate, for their independent Islamic and national policy, have not only tasted torture and martyrdom inside their internal prisons but have also been victims of such behavior in prisons outside the country. So can men of such determination and ideology ever become slaves of others?

The esteemed Amir ul Mumineen (may Allah protect him) has given strong and clear guidelines to his Mujahideen, who are still practicing them, in all his Eid messages regarding destruction of educational facilities, protection of civilian life and bombings in places of gatherings which have also been published in the media. However we can see that some intelligence agencies are reaching for grotesque actions (blowing up bridges, throwing acid on faces of students and targeting civilian vehicles with roadside bombings) while the Kabul administration has never given thought to the guidance of Amir ul Mumineen and is blindly using these incidents as raw material for its poisonous propaganda. Similarly, they never release findings of such incidents which show that these have not been perpetrated by the Mujahideen and are works of intelligence agencies. They are either void of courage to announce the reality or believe keeping silent is in their best interest.

They believe that with such actions, they will sideline the Islamic Emirate from people and the world and extend its power a few more days. Peace is being sacrificed in the long run with such unreasonable actions and poisonous propaganda. If this keeps continuing, it will only harm peace, country and the people.

The Kabul administration and its backers must realize that such tactics did not bring security to the people but threw them into raging fire, violated their rights and prolonged the invasion and will still fail to bring peace.

How can real peace be achieved?

The situation in Afghanistan is two faceted, one of which is foreign and the other internal. The foreign facet is tied to the foreigners and the internal to the Afghans. How can they reach an understanding so that, in accordance with the aspirations of the nation, such an independent Islamic government can come into being which will guarantee justice, stability, development, economic growth and prosperity; wipes the tears of widows and treats the wounds of the people.

The Islamic Emirate, alongside all its efforts inside the country, is struggling for a true Islamic system and enduring peace and considers it vital for human life and regards the following few points important:
1. For enduring peace, importance must be placed on the aspirations of the people. The occupation must be ended as a first step which is the want of the entire nation because this is the mother of all these tragedies. Invaders and their allies must realize that no international power can subdue the power of people and neither can the quandary end with irresponsible and unlawful agreements.

2. Islam is the religion of our people and the only guarantor of the country’s economic growth, social justice and national unity. Without an independent Islamic government, no other system can solve our problems because the Muslim Afghan nation will not accept any other system contradicting a pure independent Islamic government and they have presented countless sacrifices for this goal for the past thirty years and are still sacrificing.

3. Peace needs sincerity and good intention. Common and national interests must be favored over personal interests. Peace can only be achieved under these circumstances and not through deceit and stratagems. We are seeing that every time the Islamic Emirate takes steps towards peace, Kabul administration takes reactive tactical steps which (according to their own belief) has the potential to derail the peace process while at the same time not seem counterproductive i.e when the Islamic Emirate inaugurated its political office in Doha for peace talks, the Kabul administration, with the backing and America, recalled its ambassador to damage the peace process.

4. The leader of Islamic Emirate, the esteemed Amir ul Mumineen (may Allah protect him), clearly stated in his Eid message that we only have one channel for political efforts in form of an office and have made it known to everyone. But still the Kabul administration, under the title of peace process for sabotaging peace, makes contacts with people that have not been appointed by Islamic Emirate for peace talks and then accuses the Islamic Emirate of trying to derail peace. Peace is not a game of chess where every side is laying in ambush for the other rather peace is a joint responsibility and a mean of giving right to the entitled. Peace must be looked at with this vision and ways must be paved for it.

5. The Islamic Emirate welcomes all civil societies that work for the benefit of the Afghan nation and abides by Afghan norms and humanity in the light of Islamic principles.

6. The policy of Islamic Emirate is clear regarding role of women. It will abide by all those rights given to women in the noble religion of Islam. Women in Islam have the right to choose husbands, own property, right to inheritance and right to education and work. The Islamic Emirate will safeguard the rights of women such that their legitimate rights are not violated and neither is their human dignity and Islamic requirements endangered under the guise of education and work.

7. In accordance with rules and regulations of peace, such bodies should be utilized that believe in the sanctity of peace and are famously known in the country as righteous peace brokers. They must consider establishment of peace as vital for the Afghans and must not look at it through the lens of a request made by the foreigners.

8. For peace, talks must practically be given preference over war. At this very moment, Kabul administration and its foreign allies are trying to put pressure on Mujahideen so that they make peace according to their conditions and this truly increases hurdles for peace.

9. As long as Mujahideen are imprisoned where they spend nights in torture and persecution, true peace is cannot be achieved.

10. The Islamic Emirate wants to interact with the world and region on basis of mutual respect and two-way cooperation. It did not harm anyone before neither will it today or in the future and neither will it let others use the Afghan soil against others.

To end, a few appeals to the international community regarding establishment of peace:
1. The whole impartial international community, be they countries or nations, associations or societies, especially the International Ulama Council, the Islamic Conference, Islamic governments and people, must lend all faceted help to the Afghans in putting an end to the occupation in order to remove this hurdle and pave the way for inter-Afghan understanding.

We specifically ask the member states of United Nations to stand next to the oppressed Afghan people as they stood with the Palestinian people. Just as you did not care about force and pressure from others, adopt a similar and based-on-realities policy for the Afghan nation so that on the one hand, help is rendered to a persecuted nation and on the other, the tyrants realize that their oppression and cruelty will no longer be tolerated and they end their wrong doings.

2. America and those who have allied with them under different names must answer the calls of the Afghan and their own nations, withdraw all their troops and put an end to the killing and oppression of the helpless Afghans. Instead help them with such that creates an atmosphere of peace between them.
The step taken by France in this regard is worth respecting. All the others should follow the footsteps of France and listen to the wants and interests of their people. Just as you do not desire killings, disorder, injustice, corruption and treachery for your own nations, do not desire it for others either.

3. We especially call on all those nations, whose governments have sent their sons against their approval to kill the innocent Afghan people, to take a page from the French nation and put pressure on their governments to withdraw its troops from our country.

4. The Islamic Emirate should be granted freedom of speech. It should be helped in reaching its voice to the world so they are able to themselves directly communicate their policy and demands. We also ask the international community to furnish all members of Islamic Emirate with facilities and exert efforts in removing all obstacles.

We thank the government of Japan and officials of Doshisha University for giving the Islamic Emirate an opportunity to communicate its views and policies to the world and now thank the officials of Foundation for Strategic Research and all other related sides in helping the Islamic Emirate in this regard. Other nations, in order to realize the realities, must also take similar steps.

5. We hope the international media will help properly reach the voice of the Afghan nation to the region and the world and accurately show the ground realities to the people because this is their humanitarian responsibility and from the ethics of journalism.

And this is never hard for Allah Almigthy

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Thematic Category: Pakistan, Turkmenistan, War & Peace