“[We] had suggested to the negotiating teams that war-affected and neutral people should be given chance to partake and play their role in the talks but they ignored our suggestion,” leader of the People’s Peace Movement (PPM) and a war-exhausted citizen, Iqbal Khyber, told Afghan Peace Watch (APW) in an exclusive interview.
Following decades of conflict that has left Afghanistan in ruins and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghan citizens, there are eventually some hopes emerging about the return of peace to the war-torn country.
Despite the fact that the peace process has faced many ups and downs over the paw few years, intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and Afghan government officially kicked off in the Qatari capital of Doha on September 12 amid apprehensions whether these negotiations would reach a fruitful conclusion.
Afghan Peace Watch (APW) strives to follow peace developments, as well as track the ongoing war considering the critical and decisive phase the country has arrived at.
APW wants to keep readers in the loop about what is happening in the peace process and what do various stakeholders of peace think and expect of it; for that reason, the APW team has interviewed the head of the PPM, Iqbal Khyber. We invite you to read the full text of the interview as follows:
Are negotiating teams of the warring sides representative of the grassroots of Afghan society?
We believe impartial Afghans should be part of negotiating teams but unfortunately, such people cannot be seen in the current delegations. Both the government and the Taliban have tried to appoint people in their teams who could secure their respective interests in the best manner possible and this approach has brought under question the teams because they don’t represent the public.
PPM had suggested to the negotiating teams that war-affected and neutral people should be given chance to partake and play their role in the talks but they ignored our suggestion.
So, you mean the negotiating teams of the two sides cannot represent the public?
Yes, that’s what I am getting at. The two sides aim to keep the talks secret from media and the public because they want to make closed-door deals that would benefit the two parties only and would thus ignore taking into account the public demands.
Neither the Taliban nor the government can claim that they represent the public because they brazenly overlooked the public’s role in the peace talks. However, the public has no other option but to accept the negotiations in the hope of an end to the bloodshed and a return of peace.
What suggestions did the PPM provide for a productive peace process?
Among one of our recommendations, we preferred that an unbiased third party should be solicited for brokering the negotiations. Now that we don’t see that happening in the crucial talks, we believe the process would take far too long to arrive at a fruitful conclusion.
Both negotiating parties have huge differences, something that would prolong the negotiations. However, a third party could have helped shorten the process by mediating and easing tensions between them.
Do you hope that the negotiations would bring peace to Afghanistan?
There are hopes for peace because it is better than war even if it is fraught with problems. In case we achieve a kind of peace that we didn’t expect, it would still be better than war because war is the worst. We can reduce violence and bloodshed in peace. The start of the intra-Afghan talks raised more hopes for the establishment of this vital need of humanity.
Though challenges and differences between the Taliban and the Afghan government still threaten this process, the Afghan people remain hopeful for peace.
Are the Taliban fully ready for talks; wouldn’t they return to the battlefield after negotiations?
Taliban have no other way but to be ready for talks because they cannot continue the war. It is a great opportunity for the insurgents to make peace; otherwise, if, God forbid, the talks fail, the war will recur and we would witness a resurgence of violence.
NATO and the European Union (EU) say that they have given sacrifices in the Afghan conflict and because they still hold a grudge, they are ready for another wave of war against the Taliban. In that scenario, the insurgent group would then sustain severe losses; therefore, it is a great chance for them to reach a settlement with the Afghan government.
Taliban supporters such as Pakistan, Iran, China and Russia are also tired of the insurgent group and the ongoing war in Afghanistan because they chased their own interests in the Afghan war which, in fact, turned out to be futile for them. Thus, they are compelled to end this war given the regional and international pressures and support developing for peace in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Middle East and the US are fed up with the Afghan war because the US has spent a huge amount of money in this conflict without many gains, so now the world wants a peaceful approach to the Afghanistan crisis.
The Afghan people have also grown weary of the conflict that has almost spanned for half a century and are urging the warring sides to settle the Afghan mire through dialogue in order to secure Afghanistan’s national interests and achieve long-lasting peace and stability in the country.