DOHA: The Afghan government on Monday pressed its calls for a truce with the Taliban, reiterating its desire for a long-term ceasefire at historic talks in Qatar.
The two sides are in the early stages of meetings in Doha as they try to hammer out a deal that would bring 19 years of bloodshed.
The head of the peace process for the Afghan government, Abdullah Abdullah, suggested that the Taliban could offer a ceasefire in exchange for the release of jailed fighters.
Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi tweeted on Monday that the presence of government negotiators at the talks “is aimed at achieving a ceasefire, ending the violence and ensuring lasting peace and stability in the country”. The United States struck an agreement with the Taliban in February that will see it withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
The deal, which paved the way for the Doha negotiations, did not commit the insurgents to any reduction of violence, only requiring that it be “an item on the agenda” in negotiations.
Schedules and a code of conduct for the talks were discussed in meetings on Sunday and were due to continue on Monday, according to the government side, but talks on substantive issues are yet to get under way.
Afghan government delegates warned that negotiations, which take place even as fighting continues in Afghanistan, would be arduous and messy.
Nearly two decades since the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban, fighting still kills dozens of people daily and the country’s economy has been shattered, pushing millions into poverty.
Officials said six police were killed in a Taliban attack in Kunduz at the weekend, while five officers were slain in Kapisa province.
A roadside mine blast in the capital also wounded two civilians, while another blast hit Kabul district, .
During a speech at the opening event, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar repeated the insurgents’ message that Afghanistan should be run according to Islamic law.
As Taliban and Afghan government negotiators met in Qatar, around 50 families gathered at a graveyard in Kabul on Monday imploring them not to forget the rights of victims of violence.
Demonstrating families gathered at a cemetery where many of the victims of a 2018 bomb attack at a school in west Kabul were buried.
One boy cried next to the grave of a classmate, another waved a banner reading in Dari: “Who represents the victims in peace negotiations?”
Many of those gathered at the graveyard, some by the graves of their loved ones, called for lasting peace.
Raihana Hashemi, 28, whose sister was killed in a separate 2018 incident in which protesters were shot near a school, said that around two months ago she and other families had created a “National War Victims Network” to elevate concerns they were being forgotten during the peace process.
Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2020